The Ombudsman for Children has published The Safety and Wellbeing of Children in Direct Provision report.
The report outlines the findings of an ‘own volition’ investigation initiated by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office in February 2018 into the quality of oversight of direct provision centres by the State, with a specific focus on the protection and welfare of children.
The report finds that the Direct Provision (DP) model of State provided accommodation to families seeking international protection does not have the best interests of children, or the protection and promotion of the human rights of child refugees at its core. Among its findings the report states that the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) failed to establish or identify an independent inspectorate, as recommended by the 2015 McMahon report, and did not take into account the supports needed to meet children’s development needs in the current inspection regime. Inspections were found to be too infrequent and pre-Covid-19 IPAS failed to meet its own benchmark of three inspections per centre per year. Emergency Accommodation Centres (EACs) where children were residing were not inspected at all.
In relation to Tusla, the report finds that the agency did not recognise the inherent vulnerability of minors in the international protection process and has no effective mechanism to gather data about children living in DP accommodation. Together, IPAS and Tusla have failed to establish effective interagency protocols to ensure that all decisions concerning children residing in State provided accommodation have the children’s best interests as their primary consideration.
The report contains several recommendations, including that both IPAS and Tusla make unequivocal statements declaring that children within the international protection process are vulnerable and regard must be had to their vulnerability in the planning and provision of their accommodation needs. The use of non-designated commercial hotels for emergency provision should end. An adequately resourced quality assurance mechanism to monitor complaints, child protection and welfare concerns should be put in place. A procedure to identify children with special reception needs, including a vulnerability assessment should be established and divergences in IPAS/Tusla data should be addressed.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has said that it will request a six month and 12-month update from both IPAS and Tusla on the progress in implementing the report’s recommendations.
For more information, see:
Ombudsman for Children report The Safety and Wellbeing of Children in Direct Provision
Ombudsman for Children report Direct Division: Children’s views and experiences of living in direct provision
Ombudsman for Children report Life in Lockdown: Children’s views and experiences of living in Direct Provision during the Covid-19 pandemic