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To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reasons for the delay in opening the National Children Detention Facility in Oberstown; if her attention has been drawn to recent comments by the Ombudsman for Children regarding resources and staff at Oberstown; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

-Mick Wallace T.D

For ORAL answer on Thursday, July 4th 2013

REPLY

The Oberstown capital project is required in order to give effect to the Programme for Government commitment to end the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities.  I have outlined my commitment to this project on many different occasions and it remains at the top of my agenda. The Deputy will be aware that shortly after taking responsibility for the children's detention schools last year I introduced the legislative changes to transfer responsibility for 16 year old boys from St. Patrick's Institution to Oberstown. I also put in place the required funding package for the major capital development of the Oberstown facilities. My officials have, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, completed the design process and secured planning permission for the capital development.  The tender process is ongoing at present and this is being overseen by a steering group of officials from my Department and the Office of Public Works.  A further announcement on the outcome of the tendering process will be made shortly.  The introduction of expanded detention facilities in Oberstown will also be accompanied by a proportionate increase in staffing resources.  While the full extent of these additional resources has yet to be finalised pending the award of the Oberstown project, the aim is to begin the recruitment process in 2013 with a view for staff to be on campus in 2014 and ready to open the first of the new units by mid 2014.

I am conscious that staff working in this area must have the necessary training and supports in order to fully implement the child care model of detention.  A very substantial change programme is underway on the Oberstown campus and the expanded remit of the children detention service will see it accommodate all children detained in the State in a child specific environment from the middle of next year. This implies significant operational change for staff and management in Oberstown.  A new campus staffing roster was implemented on 25 February 2013 following protracted negotiation and agreement between staff and management at the Labour Relations Commission.  This is the first time all care staff on the campus are operating flexibly according to one campus wide roster with a set of harmonised conditions for hours worked. I wish to acknowledge the cooperation of staff with the implementation of this change to date. A number of issues have been the subject of consideration in conjunction with implementation of the campus wide roster, including training needs and the need to achieve greater harmonisation of care procedures between the three children detention schools.  These issues are being progressed at present as part of the ongoing industrial relations process in Oberstown.

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