THE Children’s Rights Alliance has broadly welcomed the Report of the Advisory Group on the provision of support, including accommodation, to persons in the internal protection process.
The Alliance congratulates Dr Catherine Day and the Advisory Group on their work reviewing the whole process from start to finish for a person applying for international protection and wishes to acknowledge the work of former Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton, in commissioning this important piece of work.
On Children and Young People
Speaking in response to the publication, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said: “This Report brings us one step closer to ending the system of direct provision as we know it. For children and young people, the Report is a tale for two halves.
“Upon arrival in the country it recommends that there should be a comprehensive orientation programme that includes medical screening and vulnerability assessments and then if needed, special supports for children and those with special needs. Importantly, the programme would also provide for a social worker to work with families during their time in a centre, helping them to prepare for life in Ireland and to make referrals to follow-on services.
“It is welcome that during the orientation period, the Report recommends that children are provided with an educational assessment and induction programme including language supports to prepare them for attending school.
“We support the recommendations that children should have access to developmental toys, materials and play spaces that focus on their creativity. It is also important that the recommendation to provide green spaces that will enable children and young people to play socialise and ‘hang out’ with their peers is realised in any reforms undertaken by Government.
“However, the Report falls short in some key areas for children. The recommendations that children should be entitled to Child Benefit and that there should be linkages with Tusla are welcome, but the Report does not make any specific recommendations that will meaningfully change children’s experience in schools. It also does not make any recommendations for youth services who play a vital role for support children seeking protection.
“The new Minister Roderic O’Gorman is well-placed to make children front and centre in the Government’s forthcoming White Paper on Ending Direct Provision.”
On Unaccompanied Minors
“The young people whose lives are on hold as they wait for a decision in this process often carry worries far beyond their years. This is particularly true for unaccompanied minors,” said Tanya Ward.
“The Report recommends that unaccompanied minors remain in the care of Tusla while their application is being processed. This is welcome as it can be very difficult being transferred into Direct Provision particularly when a young person is vulnerable.”
“The Report makes key recommendations aimed at eliminating institutionalisation and life in congregated settings. The current system sees too many families spending too long in inappropriate accommodation.
“It is very positive to see the call for the provision for own-door accommodation within three months of an application process. The recommendations here will mean that after three months, families will move to their own space while awaiting a decision which creates a far more child-friendly system,” Tanya Ward continued.
“At the same time, the Report recommends that families be supported to access rental accommodation through a HAP type payment. In reality, this might be difficult for families given that we are in the midst of a housing crisis with not enough social and public housing being built. The reliance on the private market for housing provision will only work in some parts of the country.”
On National Standards and Independent Inspections
“One of the most important recommendations in this Report points to the steps we can take now to make sure the National Standards are followed through as we create a new and better system for people seeking international protection.
“It is essential that as we build a new system, adequate oversight and accountability of the current reception centres is not overlooked.
“The Alliance had pushed for HIQA to inspect and ensure that the new national standards are implemented. It is great to see this echoed in this Report with the recommendation that HIQA be given this responsibility.
“We are delighted to see that the new Minister Roderic O’Gorman has already approached HIQA to become the inspection body for reception accommodation for people seeking protection. This is a game changer,” said Tanya Ward.
On the Protection Process
“With approximately 2,000 children living in direct provision this time last year, any step that makes their journey a little easier for them is one in the right direction,” continued Tanya Ward.
“The emphasis on reducing the length of times for internal protection processes is also warmly welcomed as we know the prolonged delays have a negative effect on the mental health of children and families.
“A system with a purpose of welcoming families should be one that decreases anxiety and instability for these children, not one that contributes to it.
“However, the Report does not make any specific recommendations for children in the protection process such as fast tracking of applications, specialist training for decision-makers and legal representatives (these recommendations are included in the McMahon Report).
“This Report is the product of significant work by the Advisory Group to consider every step along the process for families seeking international protection here in Ireland. We must now look to the new White Paper on Ending Direct Provision to implement the key recommendations.
“It is now up to the Minister of Children, Equality, Integration, Disability and Youth to ensure that children and young people are to the fore of the Government’s plans for the reform of the direct provision system,” concluded Tanya Ward.