Calls for measures to protect children living in Direct Provision following Ombudsman report 

Calls for measures to protect children living in Direct Provision following Ombudsman report 

Pictured - Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children.  Photographer - Paul Sherwood

BARNARDOS has called for immediate action to enhance measure to protect children living in Direct Provision following a report that has outlined a number of child protection issues.

Barnardos welcomed what they described as a “stark report” published by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office.

In a statement, they said that the findings provide insight into how children living in Direct Provision in Ireland are not being afforded acceptable safety and protection services.

The report, by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, outlined concerns of a “culture of fear” within a Direct Provision centre.

It revealed that staff members working in a centre had not been vetted to work with children, nor had they been trained in child protection.

It said that there was a failure to report a serious child protection concern and that all the parents were erroneously told that their children may be removed by child protection and welfare services if they did not supervise them properly.

There were also no interpretive services in the centre which the report said: “effectively gagged parents who may have wished to make a complaint on behalf of their children”.

“We were worried there may be a culture of fear within the centre and that this had gone undetected by IPAS [the International Protection Accommodation Service], who contracted these services and had oversight of same.” 

“We were deeply concerned that IPAS did not have sufficiently robust oversight mechanisms in place to be assured about the quality of services being provided to children."

The ombudsman said that they then decided to expand the investigation to include all accommodation centres where refugees and asylum seekers were residing.

Recommendations 

The report made a number of recommendations including calling for IPAS to immediately end the use of commercial emergency hotels and a well-resourced quality assurance mechanism to monitor complaints, child protection and welfare concern.

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon welcomed the publication of the White Paper on Ending Direct Provision in February but said: “it should not prevent immediate improvements in the Direct Provision system”.

“There are still children and families living in unsuitable accommodation and that will not change for at least three years.” 

He welcomed the response of IPAS and Tusla to the recommendations and said that he looks forward “to seeing immediate action and progress.” 

Suzanne Connolly, CEO Barnardos said while she looks forward to the implementation of the white paper, this report “highlights the need for immediate and effective monitoring and controlling of risks”.

Maurice McKoy Project Leader, Barnardos South Cork City echoed Ms Connolly’s comments and said that three years until recommendations in the White Paper are implemented is “a big ask” for families.

“Many of the families have experienced a lot of trauma and have to wait another three years until the services to be in place and that’s a big ask.”

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