Troubled children at a special care unit were forced to urinate on the floor while being isolated in a “safe room” for long periods of time, according to health watchdogs.
One youngster was locked in a room for five days.
A report of an inspection by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) into Ballydowd Special Care Unit in Lucan, Co. Dublin, raised a number of concerns.
The center provides secure accommodation for boys and girls aged between 11 and 17 years of age with emotional and behavioral difficulties.
A snap audit of the center in July following complaints revealed the single separation -- intended as a short term response to behavior issues -- was used 149 times involving nine children in the previous six months.
The Hiqa report, published on Monday, found that in the use of single separation some children were locked in rooms for unnecessary prolonged periods, some had no access to toilet facilities or showers, and some remained overnight in secure rooms without mattresses and blankets. Children did not have access to fresh air or exercise while in single separation.
Some items of clothing were not permitted such as tops due to concerns about self-harming behavior by children creating ligatures to tie around their neck.
Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said children should not be subjected to inhuman or degrading circumstances at any time.
“The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture is very clear that in the area of juvenile detention, a rigorous selection and training program must be put in place for staff,” she said.
Fred McBride, chief operating officer of Tusla, the child and family agency which provides and maintains special care units, said his organization accepted that use of single separation was not adequate on occasions when faced with “intense and sustained pressure from challenging and violent behavior.”
“Tusla regrets this and is currently taking steps to strengthen its decision making procedures and facilities,” McBride said.
He said Tusla was developing a specially designed single occupancy facility at Ballydowd which will be better equipped to deal with “extreme challenging behavior” and which is likely to reduce the need for single separation.