Special Care is intended to be short-term, stabilising and safe care in a secure therapeutic environment, which aims to enable a child to return to a less secure placement as soon as possible based on need. A placement in Special Care requires an order from the High Court.
Special Care Units differ from general residential care in a number of ways: the Units are secure, the child is detained, they offer higher staff to young person ratios, education is on-site and there is specialised input such as psychology services. The child is not detained as a result of criminal offences, but for their own safety and welfare.
There are four Special Care Units and all are being operated by Tusla. They are:
- Ballydowd, Dublin – a mixed gender Unit
- Crannóg Nua – a mixed gender Unit
- Coovagh House, Limerick – a mixed gender Unit
- Gleann Alainn, Cork – a female Unit
Tusla indicated to HIQA that it is intended to cease using Gleann Alainn as a Special Care Unit in the near future.
At the end of September 2018, Tusla reported that 13 children were resident in Special Care Units, representing 0.2% of the 6,072 children in care. All children in Special Care Units had an allocated social worker and all had a written care plan.
Special Care Units are currently inspected by HIQA under Section 69 of the Child Care Act, 1991 and inspection reports are published on their website. HIQA published new National Standards for Special Care Units in March 2015.
New Regulations for Special Care Units came into effect at the start of 2018.