Secure Unit for Two Teens Costs €2m to Run
Irish Times, Tue, Dec 15, 2009 by Gordon Deegan
THE RECRUITMENT embargo in the Health Service Executive (HSE) is resulting in a €5 million secure unit for disruptive teenagers with estimated running costs of €2 million this year being unable to care for more than two teenagers at any one time.
In information provided by the HSE through the Freedom of Information Act on Coovagh House in Limerick, it has also confirmed that to the end of September, it has spent €185,689 or €680 per day on providing round-the-clock security at the centre.
Coovagh House was built along with Ballydowd in Dublin and Gleann Alainn in Cork on foot of a 2000 High Court order compelling the State to provide adequate accommodation for disruptive children.
The centre in Limerick was built to accommodate five disruptive teenagers and a HSE spokesman confirmed yesterday that at no time since it opened in 2003 has the centre catered for five teenagers.
After its opening in 2003, the centre operated for only a brief period and staff recruitment difficulties prevented the centre coming into full operation until June 2007.
On the centre’s current inability to look after no more than two residents, a HSE spokesman said: “The lack of a derogation for social care staff (from the moratorium on staff recruitment) has meant that currently Coovagh House is only able to provide care for two young people.” He added: “The HSE acknowledges that the recent moratorium presents challenges and frustrations for many people, including their staff.”
The centre lies in the constituency of Limerick East TD and Labour’s health spokeswoman, Jan O’Sullivan. She yesterday described the €2 million operating costs as “extraordinary on a centre that can only cater for two children and there is no prospect in the near future of the centre being able to cater for any more children than that, so it raises fundamental questions about the viability of the centre in its current form”.
Ms O’Sullivan said the HSE needs to carry out a thorough re-evaluation of the entire project.
Last month, the HSE announced a review of all of its secure centres following its decision to close Ballydowd, though stressed there are no plans to close Coovagh House.
The HSE employs 25 full-time staff to run the centre and the executive states that to the end of September 2009, staff costs came to €1.2m with running costs coming to an additional €349,468 resulting in total costs of €1.54m. By end year, total running costs will be €2m.