Extern defends the use of knives during outdoor activities, citing ‘strict duty of care’

Further revelations emerged around issues at the Extern-operated Roscor Youth Village, with the latest involving a staff member bringing his collection of knives into the facility – a move which was defended by an Extern spokesperson as “essential for outdoor camping trips”.

Several former staff members and users of Extern services have already raised major concerns on the premises; a number of staff members have been appointed; however, we do not identify any at this stage.

Extern receives significant funding in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to provide community support services to young people who are experiencing difficulties and problems in their lives.

Previously it was revealed that a vulnerable service user referred to Extern by social services was sexually assaulted by his key worker, who was based in Roscor, although the offense did not occur at the scene.

It was successfully prosecuted and, although all relevant authorities in Northern Ireland were appropriately alerted, Extern failed to do so with its counterparts in the Republic of Ireland, despite being required to do it. Extern declined to comment on this matter.

Located between Enniskillen and Belleek in County Fermanagh, Roscor Youth Village is described as “a haven of hope for young people who need a break from the challenges of family life”.

Following the publication of the sexual abuse case, more people have come forward, including staff – former and current – ​​as well as contractors and service users.

Each exposed very specific concerns from their time with Extern, including allegations of poor protection and allegations of a culture of intimidation by management. Those who spoke are not identified at this time for fear of reprisals.

A former staff member, whom we refer to as ‘AB’, reported numerous instances of procedural breaches, inappropriate behavior, unsafe practices and the lack of training required to deal with highly vulnerable and high-risk young people. risk presenting with a range of emotional problems and psychological needs.

“Anyone who raised concerns was seen as the enemy and working against Extern’s interests,” AB said.

“We were trying to deal with young people in very difficult circumstances, and it was their safety and well-being that we were trying to protect.

“They had already been through more trauma than any child should have to endure in their entire life, and the principle of the engagement was to support them on the other side through counseling, adaptation and deflection of negative influences.

“While there have been some overwhelmingly positive results, others have failed drastically. In some cases things simply should not have been allowed to get to the level they have.

While working at Roscor, AB claimed a number of backup incidents which, although reported to management, were never properly or procedurally addressed. One occasion involved criminal behavior when service users were caught with drugs; however, despite the procedures, the PSNI was not informed.

AB said: ‘I and other staff have reported this. We were told in no uncertain terms to mind our own business – except it was our business. The young people were in our charge. Someone, somewhere, was exploiting these young people, supplying them with drugs.

“When we attempted to escalate the complaint, we were again told to back down as it was not our job to give these children criminal records.

“We didn’t want that either, but the drug is illegal and the earlier the intervention, the more likely it is to turn young people away from it.

“It was also very unlikely that there would be a criminal charge, but at least these children would be on the radar as being at risk of being [being influenced by] murderous drug lords, and more attention could have been given. This was a major problem for child protection.

Another former staff member, whom we refer to as “CD,” described arriving at Roscor to find a collection of knives on display, which were later photographed and shared on social media.

The cache of knives – including a machete – were brought in by a senior member of staff, who then stored them in a locker which he said had often been forced open in the past.

While the owner no doubt had the knives for legitimate purposes, such as fishing, their presence prompted CD to say, “You wouldn’t bring things like that into a school, store, or anywhere else where. they could pose a significant risk, so why bring them to Roscor?

Extern was asked when it first became aware of the problem; how it was handled; and when all relevant agencies – including the PSNI – have been notified.

A spokesperson for Extern responded, “Extern provides experiential learning opportunities for young people who access our services, including outdoor activities like camping and fishing.

“The external staff running these activities brought camping and fishing gear, and this often included pocket knives for cutting lines and gutting fish, as well as a larger knife for cutting gorse to allow for the setting up camp, as well as logs for firewood.

“Included in the outdoor experience, the staff teams would also educate young people on how to fish and camp, and part of that includes the safe use of equipment that is essential to outdoor camping trips. air.

“Extern operates a double lock system for all potentially hazardous equipment, whether on site or when hosting outdoor events.”

The spokesperson continued: “Extern can confirm that all incident logs have been reviewed and that there is no record of any such incident of storage cabinets being forced into service users. Extern has a strict health and safety policy, and all equipment is handled responsibly and locked up when not in use, using the double lock system.

“Every activity carried out by Extern is always subject to a full risk assessment before it is launched, and strict due diligence is observed in all our events.”

When contacted about the incident, the PSNI said, “No matching report was found.”