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Praise for Changes at Centre for Troubled Girls

Irish Times, 12 February 2005 by Alison Healy

A Cork residential centre for troubled teenage girls previously criticised for a number of failures has received a positive report from the Social Services Inspectorate.

Gleann Álainn in Glanmire is a special care unit that provides residential care for up to seven girls subject to detention orders.

It was the first special care unit in the State when it was established eight years ago.

An inspection in 2000 made 35 recommendations for improvements, including an "urgent review of security".

The latest report makes just 12 recommendations and most are of a bureaucratic nature.

The earlier inspection found "unacceptably high" levels of absence among the girls at times.

In one 11½ month period, two girls had run away three times each. Two other girls had gone missing four times and two other girls had been absent on seven different occasions.

Two girls did not return to the unit at all, while the other longest absence was 79 days.

The inspectors also noted that the centre's appearance was "bleak and uninviting".

Care plans "fell short of the required standard" and the girls and staff had a lack of confidence in the complaints procedure.

The latest inspection report, just published on the internet by the Social Services Inspectorate said the staff and management were "highly commended for the quality of care provided to the young people in this unit".

It found that the girls spoke highly of the staff and interactions were "relaxed, humorous [ and] respectful".

The appearance of the unit had improved and was "bright and fresh".

Problems in accessing psychiatric services for young people had been identified in previous reports, but inspectors found that arrangements were being made to contract the private services of a psychiatrist.

A new system for recording unauthorised absences had been introduced and a good balance between security and the girls' privacy had been established.

While a previous report had criticised the provision of staff training, this report found that the provision of training, support and supervision was "commendable". On the negative side, inspectors found that, while care plans were prepared for everyone, the quality of the planning was "uneven".

The inspectors also took issue with the failure of all new staff to produce the required three references.

One staff member only produced two references. One was unsigned, was not on headed paper and it spelt the employee's name incorrectly.

Mr Barry Murray, childcare manager for the North Lee Community Care area said these recommendations were now being dealt with.

All references were now in order, and care plans were constantly under review, he said.