According to a 1960 organisation and management survey of the RISB, carried out in 1959, by P Ó Maitiú, a principal in the Department, during the period 1943-59, 85 percent of the RISB’s time was spent on five main routine clerical tasks: Collecting and accounting for parental monies 25% Filing and registration 20% Applications for release of children 20% Check of county council accounts 10% Preparation of annual report 10%
An Inter-Departmental Working Party, along the lines suggested by Education, was established, but difficulties were evident within the Department of Education in making progress in implementing the recommendations of the Report and on maintaining their day-to-day obligations in relation to Residential Homes, in particular, their inspectorial work. On 29th November 1973, Mr Ó Maitiú highlighted that the post of Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools had in effect been downgraded from an assistant principal officer to that of a higher executive officer (HEO). However, ‘because of the work involved in implementing the Kennedy Report these arrangements have proved entirely inadequate. The Report has involved the recasting of the system from top to bottom and involves work of very high quality. The HEO has not found it possible to carry out his executive duties as officer in charge of the section and, at the same time perform his statutory duties as Inspector. The inspectorial work has suffered.’ Mr Ó Maitiú noted that the Kennedy Report had recommended that ‘approximately five or six Inspectors would be required to operate a proper inspectorate’. Mr Ó Maitiú stated: This is a formidable indictment of the official attitude to the inspection of the homes and of the indifferent approach to the staffing of the Inspector post. Three years later the position, if anything, has worsened. Far from five or six Inspectors being appointed, there is now not even one Inspector fully on the job. Furthermore, the H.E.O. can only carry out an administrative inspection – he has no qualifications otherwise. He has not even the help of a Medical Inspector as this post has not been filled for some years. The situation is now arising where the personnel of the Schools is obtaining child-care qualifications (as a result of courses conducted on behalf of the Department), whereas the Department itself has no inspector qualified in this field. There is an urgent need now for an Inspector with suitable qualifications who will supervise the implementation of the Kennedy Report in the Schools and homes and advise and council staff, co-ordinate arrangements with Health boards and Courts, ensure that medical services etc. are provided, that children are securing the education best suited to their needs and aptitudes, that after-care is receiving proper attention.214
In addition to the reservations expressed by the Department of Finance, the Department of Education had a number of reservations about the recommendations. In relation to the issue of juvenile justice, Mr Ó Maitiú in a detailed memo on 15th December 1975 noted that the Department of Education had in front of it, three different reports on the provision of facilities for young offenders, the first and second interim reports of the Interdepartmental Committee on Mentally Ill and Maladjusted Persons (The Henchy Reports) and the interim report of the Task Force on Child Care Services. Mr Ó Maitiú observed that: The Henchy Committee was a committee of experts with particularly strong representation from the legal and medical professions. The Task Force is a committee with a somewhat more limited range of expertise than Henchy (It does not, for instance, include any psychiatrist). A difference of approach therefore is to be expected in the reports, apart altogether from the fact that each committee had different terms of reference. Henchy is concerned mainly with offenders and potential offenders, whereas the Task Force deals with deprived children in a wider sense. Nevertheless both reports adopt a compassionate, non-punitive, stance. Both concentrate on the needs of children rather than on the nature of any offence committed and both concede that a whole range of facilities is necessary to satisfy these needs.
In relation to St Joseph’s Industrial School in Clonmel, Mr Ó Maitiú noted that: plans for a new school with 100 places were at an advanced stage when the scheme had to be postponed until the Task Force reported. The Task Force recommends that the accommodation be reduced to 60. This reflects the views of the CARE lobby which succeeded in reducing the accommodation in Lusk to 60 pupils also. As a result it is now a completely uneconomic unit to administer.261
More generally in relation to the recommendations of the Interim Report, Mr Ó Maitiú observed: the staffing situation will not permit us to handle any projects beyond those we are dealing with already. If there is a serious prospect that money will be made available, then we can assess the staff requirements more exactly. In particular we will need (a) a least one Assistant Principal Officer full-time. The present arrangement under which we nominally have Mr. Gillen’s Services on a half-time basis is ludicrous. It is now over a year since he was loaned to the Task Force for a job that was supposed to last three months; (b) Full-time architectural assistance will also be required (at present we have an Architect on a part-time basis for two days a week); (c) professional child care advisor. Recruitment of this officer is in hands but it is understood that the man selected will not be available before 2 February, 1976. (d) the existing law with all its illogicalities will still have to be contended with. As a result of the recent High Court case it now appears that a child guilty of many offences cannot be detained for more than a year unless convicted by a judge and jury. How could a secure centre be effective in their case? Obviously the legal position in such cases will now have to be clarified.
1970s, a range of implementation difficulties were emerging at a local level. One issue highlighted, but not fully resolved in earlier discussions, was the realisation that the relationship between Central Government and Residential Homes was altering. The regional health boards were developing childcare services and recruiting social work staff, and the number of trained lay childcare staff in residential care was growing following the establishment of a training course in Kilkenny in 1971. In addition, shorter in-service courses were established in Dublin, Cork and Waterford and later in a number of Institutes of Technology.269 The professionalisation of social work and childcare staff was placing a strain on the Religious Managers of the Homes and many of the structures for recruitment, staffing levels and pay had not always fully reflected these changes or as Mr Ó Maitiú had put it ‘naturally enough, these people are demanding the rate for the job’. A further issue was the provision of secure accommodation for children deemed to be ‘uncontrollable’ in open institutions, which although highlighted by both the Henchy Committee and the Interim Report of the Task Force, remained unresolved.
At the seventh meeting of the team held on 16th November 1977, Mr Ó Gilín reported on his trip to the secure unit at Redbanks in Lancashire and informed the team that the authorities there considered 30 children the ideal number for a secure unit. The team also discussed an item which had appeared in the Sunday Independent reported a ‘bitter row behind the scenes’ in relation to the deliberations of the team. Mr Ó Maitiú stated, ‘that such a report was inaccurate, must be treated as conjecture but it did emphasise the need for care in discussing the affairs of the Team’. At the next meeting on 30th November 1977: Reference was made to various letters and press reports concerning the Committee’s activities. The letters seem to cast doubt on the qualification of the members, and a letter was sent to the Daily Independent pointing out what their qualifications were but this had not been published. In reference to the letter from Mrs. M. Harding P.R.O, Irish Association of Social Workers, Sister Lucey said that its contents could not be regarded as I.A.S.W. policy because I.A.S.W. policy had not yet been defined.
The meeting also noted that the Department of Justice were in the process of recruiting 320 additional prison officers and that the staff of Loughan House would be drawn primarily from this group. Mr Ó Maitiú reported, that on the instruction of the Minister for Education, sanction had been sought from the Department of Finance to fund the construction of a unit for 40 boys. At the ninth meeting of the team on 10th January 1978 the members were informed that Loughan House had ceased operating for 16-21-year-olds and that staff training for the new function commenced. At the next meeting on 13th February 1978: The question of adverse publicity about the Loughan House Project was then discussed and it was agreed that various organisations who had indulged in criticism (CARE, IASW etc.) had been given a great deal of information about the project and that there was no excuse for the inaccuracies in their statements.
The Report was scrutinised in the Department of Education prior to publication and Mr Ó Maitiú drafted a lengthy response to the report dated 12th November 1980. He commented initially on the lack of agreement between the members and observed: Given the diverse composition of the Task Force, one could hardly expect unanimity of view on all aspects of the subject studied. Nevertheless, the extent of disagreement is somewhat surprising. There is one main report, one minority report (claimed by its authors, Mr. S. O Cinnéide and Miss N.O’Daly, of CARE, as a supplemental Report), and four sets of reservations from (a) Mr. K. O’Grady, Department of Justice, (b) Mr. Tomas O Gilín, Department of Education, (c) Mr. John Hurley, Department of Health and (d) Mr. M. Russell, Office of the Attorney General. It is obvious, therefore, that in reforming the Child Care system in this country, the Government will have to choose between a number of different solutions. Since the Department of Health will have the lead role in this reform, it is very likely to push the alternatives which best suit its own interests, and great vigilance will be needed to ensure that the interests of this Department do not suffer.
Mr Ó Maitiú was of the view that: certain members of the Task Force are convinced that ‘there is no such thing as a bad boy’, that very few are really delinquent, and that most of their problems with the law are the fault of their families and society rather than of the children themselves. The effect of the Task Force recommendations would be to cut down drastically on the number of residential placements for delinquents. This is the argument that the CARE people have persisted in since the early 1970’s, in spite of all the evidence of their senses. At the same time, the Courts and the Gardaí have kept up a constant agitation for more places to which children coming before them can be sent. It was because the situation had become so desperate that the Minister for Justice had to open Loughan House. The number of residential places has, in fact, been drastically reduced over the past 10 years – Daingean has been closed, together with Letterfrack and Marlboro’ House – and, in my opinion, the number of places remaining – less than 200 for the entire country – is barely adequate to cater for the needs of the Courts. Youth Encounter and Neighbourhood Youth projects are doing a lot for the less serious offenders. However, for the more serious offenders and for those who live in impossible home conditions, residential care is still necessary. Community residential centres are no answer since they are conducted in a social work milieu, the children need a great deal more than care, and anyway the children will not stay in them.
On 23rd October 1974, Mr O Maitiú wrote to Mr Hensey in the Department of Health informing him that the Department of Education was studying the question of the financing of the residential homes and that discussions had taken place with the Association of Workers in Child Care in relation to recommendation 11 of the Kennedy Report. In his letter he stated that ‘because an increasing proportion of the children in the homes are the responsibility of the health authorities and particularly in view of the recent Government decision on the role of the Minister for Health in regard to child care, we think we should not go further with the matter at this stage until we have consulted with your Department’. Ó Maitiú enclosed a detailed memorandum on the issue which reflected the Department’s thinking at that time. The memo highlighted that: One of the points basic to the Kennedy Report recommendations was that children should be placed in, and retained in, residential care only when there was no suitable alternative. In this context, it was felt that a system of financing homes by capitation grant could encourage homes to try to retain children who should suitably be returned home or placed elsewhere under supervision.