Donegal’s only residential unit for children remains closed

Sen. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn says questions growing over Tusla’s failure to reopen the unit

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Donegal’s only residential unit for children remains closed

Sen. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has said questions are growing over the failure of Tusla, the child and family agency, to reopen the supervised residential unit for children and young people in Donegal, the only unit of its kind in the county.

The unit has been closed for more than a year.

The Sinn Féin senator had received confirmation that Tusla had advertised for the position of manager for the unit last year and identified a successful candidate, but that this position has been placed on hold, pending further instructions from Tusla's service management in the western region.

"This is an extraordinary series of events.” Sen. Mac Lochlainn said. “Firstly the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found in 2015 that the unit was not meeting six out of the seven standards required by them. According to reports, Tusla then submitted a plan to address Hiqa's concerns but following a follow up inspection by Hiqa at the unit in 2016, Tusla decided to ‘temporarily’ close the unit. At the time, Tusla pointed to the difficulties in finding a replacement manager.”

Sen. Mac Lochlainn said he and his party colleague, Pearse Doherty, TD, have raised the issue on a number of occasions with Tusla and with Katherine Zappone, TD, minister for children and youth affairs.

The senator said Tusla confirmed that they advertised for the position of manager and a successful candidate was identified.

“However after what I understand to be nine months later, that person has not taken up their position and the unit remains closed,” Sen. Mac Lochlainn said. “This is simply unacceptable.

“This unit is an important component of the entire care offering for vulnerable children and young people in Donegal,” he said. “Sometimes, a supervised residential unit setting is in the best interests of the child or young person. For over a year this option has been unavailable here in Donegal.”

Sen. Mac Lochlainn said he will continue to challenge Tusla on the matter and will also challenge the government to give Tusla “the overall resources they need to protect and support vulnerable children, young people and their families in Donegal".