Calling the closure of a young people’s residential care unit in Donegal “extremely concerning”, Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin TD, has called on authorities responsible for explanations.
Deputy Doherty (pictured) said children at the centre were moved to accommodation 200 miles away, with less than 24 hours' notice.
The supervised residential unit in the Letterkenny area was closed on Friday. Tusla, the child and family agency, said the closure was temporary.
However, Deputy Doherty said it was extremely concerning to think that vulnerable children and young people who had come to settle into life at the residence, “can be ordered to pick up sticks and leave and remove to a unit several counties away” with so little notice.
In a statement released to the Democrat, Tusla confirmed there were three children involved, but would not release details of their new placement to prevent them being identified.
Tusla said they decided to suspend the service in Donegal due to difficulties finding a suitable replacement following the departure of a centre manager.
“Tusla will continue in its efforts to identify a suitably qualified manager to re-establish the service as soon as possible,” the statement said.
“This decision was taken in the best interests of the children who lived there, as it was felt that the quality of the service provided to the children could not be guaranteed in the continued absence of a centre manager,” Tusla said.
Tusla said arrangements for alternative accommodation are being made and children are being supported through the transition by their social workers.
The closure followed a Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) follow-up inspection of the centre in March of this year.
In a statement to the Democrat, Hiqa said, “The inspection identified a number of issues that Tusla were required to address in relation to the delivery and management of care in the centre.”
“Tusla’s decision to close the centre was communicated to Hiqa on 12th May 2016,” Hiqa said. The follow-up inspection in March followed a previous Hiqa inspection in May 2015.
Deputy Doherty said he contacted Tusla at the start of this week and was given assurances he would be provided with a comprehensive update on Tuesday, but was still waiting for answers yesterday.
He said it appeared no consideration was given to the impact of not giving the children any information, “up until the final moments” before they were moved.
Deputy Doherty said he understood issues were identified at the residence in the March inspection, and yet there was no sitting down with children and their families, with social workers, to discuss the possibility of the centre closing and what would happen then.
“Kids were told on Thursday night, pack your bags, you’re going,” Deputy Doherty said. “It’s just not acceptable, and that’s what Tusla need to answer.”
Service management are also working to identify temporary reassignments for the nine staff members at the centre, Tusla said.
Tusla said findings from a recent Hiqa inspection were considered in the decision to suspend services, and said those findings will be incorporated into steps to be taken before the service re-opens.
Deputy Doherty has also submitted questions to the minister for children and youth affairs regarding the closure; issues of accommodation and care for the young people involved; and whether the centre would re-open.