PRESS RELEASE: Use of 'Single Separation' Must be Last Resort for Children in Oberstown

Published date: 
3 Aug 2017


Use of ‘Single Separation’ Must be Last Resort for Children in Detention
Children’s Rights Alliance Responds to Latest HIQA Report on Oberstown Children Detention Campus

The Children’s Rights Alliance today responded to the publication of the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) report on Oberstown Children Detention Campus. The Oberstown facility is responsible for the care and education of young people committed to custody following conviction after a criminal offence.

Commenting on this latest HIQA report, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said today: "HIQA’s report shows improvement in many practices in use at the Oberstown facility and this is to be welcomed including improvements in governance and management. Children received adequate emotional, psychological and education supports. However, the report also states that: ‘There were a number of instances of children spending prolonged periods of time in single separation and there was a lack of robust management oversight in the monitoring of these incidents.’ Single separation is supposed to be used as a measure of last resort to deal with young people who are a risk to themselves and to others. Depriving a young person of social contact is a very serious action and should never be used as a form of punishment or discipline.

The report states there were 3,027 incidents of single separation during 2016. While the length of time in single separation varied, inspectors reviewed the records of three specific children who had been placed in single separation for between three and nine consecutive days. While there were examples where ‘single separation’ was used appropriately, HIQA also found situations where single separation was used for other reasons such as: ‘following admission, when the level of risk was not fully known; to manage violent or threatening behaviour; when a child was found to have prohibited substances; and when a child damaged property or when a child was in conflict with other children’.

There are also concerns around a lack of children’s access to fresh air or outdoor exercise while in single separation, and the reasons for this were not always clearly recorded. There were also cases where a review did not take place during prolonged periods of single separation, which is worrying.

A new national policy on single separation was introduced in 2017 which clear states that it should only be used on the basis of serious risk and as a final stage intervention in the management of a child’s behaviour. While this report shows that many recommendations have been taken on board, it is vital that outstanding recommendations are now acted upon.”


For further details contact:

Emma McKinley, Communications and Development Manager
Tel: 01 662 9400 / 087 655 9067

Notes to Editor:
• Tanya Ward, Chief Executive and Saoirse Brady, Legal and Policy Director are available for interview.
• You can find HIQA’s Oberstown Children Detention Campus Report here