10 October 2013
Question (Deputy Jerry Buttimer)
To ask the Minister for a report on the developments at the Oberstown campus?
In line with the Programme for Government commitment, I am working with Government colleagues to end the detention of children in St. Patrick’s Institution. To achieve this objective, my Department is providing €55m in capital fudning for the development of National Child Detention Facilities at Oberstown.
Following extensive work involving my Department and the Office of Public Works since early 2012, the design process is now complete, planning permission has been secured and the tendering process has been completed. BAM Building Ltd has been appointed as the main contractor for the project. A number of sub-contractors have also been appointed and I am happy to report to the Committee that construction started on-site on 23 September 2013. I am advised that the timescale for completion of the first three detention units which will provide a total additional capacity of 30 spaces will be third quarter of 2014. The remaining three detention units, required to replace existing buildings on the site, will be delivered in 2015. My officials will continue to work with OPW to ensure the successful delivery of this project.
Integration of Services
In addition to the capital project, my Department and I are overseeing a programme of reforms aimed at enhancing the effective management and capacity of services on the Oberstown campus.
A recruitment process has recently been carried out for the appointment of a Campus Manager for the Oberstown site, who will report to the Board of Management. A candidate has been offered the position and I expect that this position will be filled in the near future. I see this appointment as a crucial element of the reform of the children detention service, which will complement the development of new services on the campus for all children under 18 years of age. One of the key tasks for the Campus Manager will be to lead preparations for the effective deployment of the enhanced detention facilities which will come on stream for all young people up to the age of 18 years as a result of the Government approved major capital project for Oberstown.
In addition, work is underway in conjunction with Parliamentary Counsel a set of amendments of the Children Act 2001 to the Oireachtas which will provide a mechanism for the merging of the three existing Children Detention Schools into a single legal entity. This change will complement the introduction of a campus single management structure for Oberstown. These governance reforms will complement the on-going work over recent years to develop integrated care policies and share services across the Oberstown campus.
I wish to further advise that a care staff recruitment programme has been sanctioned by Government and my officials, in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service, will commence the recruitment process shortly, with the aim of deploying the new staff in Oberstown for orientation and training on a staged basis from early 2014. The recruitment programme is needed to facilitate the expansion in the capacity of the Oberstown campus for all children under 18 years of age.
In addition, a business review process is to be carried out on the Oberstown campus to ensure that when the new facilities are commissioned during 2014, all services for young people up to the age of 18 years can be delivered in a manner that ensures safe and secure custody. This review will include an evaluation of current arrangements for staff training and development. My officials will also shortly be meeting with the Irish Prison Service to establish a Steering Group charged with overseeing the transition of responsibility for 17 year old males from the prison system to the Oberstown campus over the coming months.
In line with an agreement made at the Labour Relations Commission earlier this year, agreement has been reached with staff representatives on the appointment of a third party arbitrator to oversee a joint staff / management review of the operation of the campus staffing roster in Oberstown. Ms Janet Hughes, former Rights Commissioner in the Labour Relations Commission, has agreed to take on this role and had her first meeting with management and staff representatives in the last week. It is my intention that this review will be completed as soon as possible.
I also wish to update the Committee on the issue of the shortage of male detention places in Oberstown in recent months.
I recently authorised a reorganisation of staffing and services on the campus which was aimed at the provision of 4 additional male bed places in Oberstown Boys School. To date, 2 of these bed places were made available from 1 October 2013 and I wish to acknowledge the staff flexibility which has made this possible. The 2 other bed spaces require a relocation of services involving both Oberstown Boys School and Oberstown Girls School and are to be delivered in the near future, following consideration of an independent risk assessment report which was recently carried out on the safety and security issues involved.
In addition other opportunities to increase bed capacity will continue to be purued with the first batch of new care staff due to arrive in early 2014 as part of the expansion of the campus for 17 year old males are to be assigned in the first instance to the existing children detention schools in order to ensure maximum operational availability of all facilities on the Oberstown campus.
In conclusion, a major programme of change and reform to the children detention service is currently underway and my Department will continue to work the Board of Management, staff representatives and other agencies to expand the range and quality of services on the Oberstown campus.