Ballydowd Special Care Unit, a Tusla operated facility, has received a prestigious Investing in Children Membership Award™. The award recognises and celebrates the participatory and inclusive practices within Ballydowd, and its demonstrated commitment to engaging in dialogue with young people, leading to real change. Ballydowd is a special care unit that provides stability in a secured therapeutic environment for young people aged 12-17 years. The care provided in Ballydowd assists the young person to enhance their self-esteem and focus on their strengths. This is achieved by promoting their abilities through a range of different activities, and by providing opportunities to engage in areas that they may never have had a chance to experience before. The care also provides the young person with capacity for constructive choice, resilience and individual responsibility.

Speaking about the award, William O’Rourke, Director of Special Care, Ballydowd, said “The Investing in Children Award acknowledges the importance we place on listening to the young people and involving them in decision-making in relation to all aspects of their care. We must continue to be innovative and we will continue to seek ways to involve the young people in relation to each of their individual journeys with us. We are in a unique position to empower the young people, build their confidence in adults and gain their trust in us as care-givers through the process of participation and actively listening to their views, and importantly, acting on them.  I look forward to being presented with new opportunities from both the young people and the staff team in Ballydowd relation to how we can continue to improve on this over the next year.” Investing in Children (IiC) is a UK initiative that promotes the human rights of children and young people. Over the last 21 years, IiC has developed a range of different ways in which children and young people are supported to say what they want to say, and help to improve services used by them, by discussing their ideas with the adults who run the services.

Donal McCormack, National Service Director, Children’s Residential Services, Tusla, commented “It is such a pleasure to see this great work being celebrated and for our dedicated staff to be honoured with this award.  This is the second award for Children’s residential services in as many years and we will continue to grow and develop our services to be the best of their kind. We take great pride in delivering top quality care to our young people and will ensure that everything is done to create the most positive care experience for them. I would like to pay tribute to the director of Ballydowd and his team for their commitment, attention to detail and foresight in changing the face of Special care. This could not have been made possible but for the willingness of the young people, who generously gave their time and opinions to make Ballydowd the great centre it is today.”

To achieve the Investing in Children Membership Award™, Ballydowd was required to demonstrate an inclusive approach to dialogue, and that young people are invited to contribute. Dialogue can only occur when young people are seen as partners with a valid contribution to make to the design and delivery of services. Ballydowd focuses on building positive relationships, showing respect and compassion, being attentive to the young people and providing recognition and praise for their efforts. Dialogue should not be seen as an end in itself and must lead to change. Some of the changes that have taken place in Ballydowd included increasing freedoms within the facility for the young people, changes to how pocket money was handled, access to kitchen areas, a large number of new activities and entertainment choices, participation in menu creation, and freedom to individualise and decorate bedrooms to the young person’s taste. All Investing in Children Membership Reports are read and fully endorsed by the children and young people involved in the process.