Limerick children’s special care unit gets the all clear

A SPECIAL care unit for children in Limerick City, which was slammed in a report just seven months ago for failing in reporting allegations of child abuse and multiple other areas, has been given a clean bill of health.

A surprise inspection by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) at Coovagh House in Mulgrave Street last June, where children are placed under court order, resulted in a damning report showing that allegations of child abuse were not correctly reported and the centre did not comply with multiple regulations.

The inspector’s report found that the “monitoring processes did not alert managers or the provider to under-reporting of child protection and welfare concerns in line with the requirements of Children’s First Act”.

“The provider had also failed to notify the Chief Inspector of several serious incidents in the special care unit relating to allegations of abuse made by children or serious injuries sustained by children.”

The unit is a residential facility for children aged 11 to 17 years. Children are placed there by the courts when their behaviour poses a risk of harm to their life, health, safety, development, or welfare, and the placement is needed for the child’s care and protection.

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The June report said that “overall, the centre was non-compliant with all of the regulations assessed”.

But on a more recent visit, inspectors said they found “significant improvements”.

Child and Family Agency Tusla welcomed the new report, which found all 12 standards inspected be either compliant or substantially compliant.

The latest inspection found “a strong child-centred approach to driving continuous improvement in the quality of the service” at the unit.

“The young people in care in the centre had built positive and respectful relationships with staff and were encouraged to express their views regarding their care plans.

“There were sufficient staffing resources in place for the effective delivery of the children’s programme of special care and to provide high levels of supervision. The governance and management arrangements had also improved with clear lines of accountability at all levels.”

Speaking about the report, Donal McCormack, National Service Director for Children’s Residential Services with Tusla said: “We are pleased this report recognises our commitment to improving the service we provide to promote and protect the welfare and safety of children in care.” 

The agency has undertaken further actions since the inspections to improve services for the young people, including additional staff training, environmental works, and planning for the opening of additional step-down facilities in 2023 to better support timely discharge from special care.