PEPPER spray and handcuffs were used to restrain children at a child care centre in Cork, a new report has revealed.
Gleann Alainn near Cork City is one of four special care centres around the country, with children placed there by High Court order. Tusla admitted difficulties in securing staff for the specialised units.
It is to cease operating as a special care unit for girls, aged 11 to 17, after a report outlined how gardaí had been called to assist staff, and children had been pepper-sprayed and handcuffed.
Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) revealed that while there was a dedicated staff team in place, at times an appropriate mix was not present.
On one such occasion, behaviours that were challenging were not managed appropriately by staff, according to HIQA, and resulted in An Garda Síochána being called to manage the situation. Children in the centre also told inspectors that from time to time, there were staff shortages that prevented them from going out on pre-arranged activities.
The HIQA report also revealed that not all staff had received mandatory training — for example training on the management of behaviours that were challenging and fire safety training.
Furthermore, the unit admitted children identified as being at risk of self-harm and suicide, yet not all staff were trained in self-harm and the use of ligature cutters.
While low-level behaviour that was challenging was well managed, according to HIQA, on some occasions triggers for these behaviours were not recognised at the earliest opportunity. On these occasions, there was a corresponding escalation that sometimes involved the use of An Garda Síochána.