Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald TD has today officially launched the construction project for new child detention facilities, to increase capacity and improve services on the Oberstown campus, Lusk, Co. Dublin.
Minister Fitzgerald said the start of construction on the Oberstown project further demonstrated the Government commitment’s to implementing long-awaited reforms. The main objective of this project is to implement the Programme for Government commitment to end the detention of children in adult prison facilities.
The Minister stated: “I am delighted to announce that a contract has been awarded for the construction of these facilities and development of the Oberstown campus. Since my appointment as Minister, I have prioritised the resourcing of this project. The objective of ending the detention of children in adult prison facilities has been recognised by successive administrations since at least the 1980s. There have been numerous attempts over the years to progress this project but this Government has, at a time of major constraint for the public finances, committed the resources needed to resolve this issue once and for all”.
The Minister outlined that following an open procurement competition, the Office of Public Works (OPW), on behalf of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, had awarded the main construction contract to BAM Building Ltd. A number of specialist contractors, providing services such as electrical, mechanical engineering and security doors and gates have also been appointed to be managed by the main contractor. The total contract is valued at €56.4 million (including VAT).
Minister Fitzgerald said “this is the culmination of a long process to design, fund and procure this project which, by increasing capacity on the Oberstown campus, will deliver on the Government’s commitment to end the use of St. Patrick’s Institution for children detained by the courts. Following on from my decision as an interim measure to assign responsibility for 16 year old boys to the Oberstown campus during 2012, this project will ensure the extension of the child care model of detention to all children under the age of 18 years”.
The timeline for the project will see the first 3 new residential units available in third quarter of 2014. These units will be used to facilitate the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from adult prison facilities (currently St Patrick’s Institution) to the Oberstown campus.
The remaining 3 residential units, to be delivered in 2015, will be used to replace existing accommodation that has reached the end of its useful life on the existing Oberstown campus. The development will also provide associated education, recreation, security and other ancillary facilities and will result in all detention services for children being delivered in a single location, maximising the scope for ensuring best practice standards using the children detention school model and for operational efficiency.
Minister for State for Public Sector Reform and the Office of Public Works, Brian Hayes TD also attended the launch of the project and welcomed the role played by the OPW in bringing the Oberstown project to this stage of development. “I very much welcome the approval of funds for this project and I very much share the view of Minister Fitzgerald on the need to end the detention of children in adult prison facilities. I am delighted to note the key role played in the design, planning and delivery of the project to date by the OPW, which is committed to ensuring that this project is delivered on time and on budget at the earliest possible date. The OPW will continue to work with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in ensuring the successful and safe delivery of the project to the highest design standards”.
The Minister also announced that in order to complement the expansion in the Oberstown campus, work was ongoing on a recruitment programme to be implemented on a phased basis during 2014 for additional care staff needed to manage the new facilities that are being brought into operation on the Oberstown campus. The Minister stated: “I wish to thank the Oberstown staff for their commitment to delivering the child care model of detention and wish to assure them of my Department’s commitment to provide all required training and other supports into the future”.
The Minister also outlined further reforms and development aimed at enhancing management and service provision on the National Children Detention School campus in Oberstown. These include:
· Establishment of a new integrated clinical team for therapeutic services for children in detention and residential care;
· Introduction of an integrated care staff rostering system and a Central Staff Allocations Office for the Oberstown campus;
· Completed of recruitment process for a single Oberstown Campus Manager, who is expected to be appointed shortly;
· Work is ongoing on an amendment to the Children Act 2001 to provide for the full amalgamation of the existing 3 children detention schools into a single legal entity.
Finally, the Minister noted the ongoing need to ensure that in line with the principles of the Children Act 2001, detention had to be seen as a last resort for children getting into difficulties with the law. The Minister noted that there were a range of community sanctions available to the courts under the Children Act and supports were also available in the form of the community diversion schemes managed by the Irish Youth Justice Service. The Minister commented: “It is important to ensure that detention is always used as a last resort for any child. I will continue to work with Minister Shatter on promoting the use of non custodial sanctions for children wherever possible”.