Immediate Release: 31st August 2015

Serious concerns have been identified in a HIQA report on Ballydowd Special Care Unit. The inspection solely focused on the overuse of single separation.  The report outlines the need for improvements in relation to single separation in the areas of: the overuse of restrictive interventions, learning from incidents to drive improvements and promoting the rights of children.

Speaking following publication of the report, Director of EPIC, Jennifer Gargan made the following comment:

“The practice of single separation should only be used as a last resort. It is deeply concerning that the frequency and duration of the use of single separation has increased. There is a need for earlier intervention by staff in incidents to de-escalate challenging behaviour before the need to resort to separation and in the early stages of separation.          

This report highlights poor practices in relation to the application of single separation. It is an inhumane and degrading practice that is in clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child where some young people had no access to basic toilet facilities or a mattress to sleep on despite some young people being in isolation rooms for days.

Staff must be fully supported and equipped to deliver a child-centred approach. The need for staff training in the use of single separation was particularly highlighted. These young people are exceptionally vulnerable and their care must recognise their early life experiences and be appropriate to their needs.

Furthermore, young people must be made aware of their right to make a complaint and have easy access to an effective complaints mechanism. These vulnerable young people’s voices must be heard, so that practices are continually inspected and improved.

Given the overuse of single separation, we must be concerned about the ability of special care to address the complex needs of vulnerable young people. ”

EPIC welcomes HIQA’s actions for change especially a more effective management of complaints in relation to single separation, and would call on an increase in inspection frequency in relation to this.


Note to the Editor

  1. There are currently 15 young people in special care units in Ireland. (A further breakdown of numbers of young people in special care are available on the Tusla website

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview please contact:

Jennifer Gargan, Director of EPIC                    

Telephone: 01 8727 661 Mobile: 086 607 3866

Email:  Website:


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