Direct Provision fails vulnerable population – Ó Caoláin
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has commented on the publication today by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) of their report into the child protection and welfare services provided to children living in direct provision.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
“HIQA has raised “grave concerns” about the high number of children living in direct provision centres who have been referred to Túsla (The Child and Family Agency). While the general population has an annual referral rate to Túsla of 1.6%, approximately 14% of the population of children living in direct provision were referred to the Child and Family Agency in one year. This goes to show how inappropriate the system is for caring for a vulnerable population.
“Sinn Féin has long said that the direct provision system for asylum seekers is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced. We have been highlighting this for many years now and I commend my colleagues in the Oireachtas Pádraig Mac Lochlainn T.D. and Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh for their important work on this more recently. The Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, of which Pádraig Mac Lochlainn is chairman, has called for a series of changes to the existing regime, but ultimately wants it to be scrapped. This is a position that I have urged over many years, having in the last Dáil proposed and participated in a visit to both Mosney and St. Patrick’s (Monaghan) Direct Provision Centres by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.
“Some common themes were identified in the HIQA report on the referrals relating to child welfare and protection issues. These included mental health issues for children and parents, the effect of same on children, physical abuse, proximity to unknown adults and inappropriate contact by adults with children. We must remember that there are roughly 1,600 children in direct provision accommodation at present, a system now 15 years old.
“We also know that these centres are overcrowded, that they hamper normal family life and do not allow residents to work. I understand that in Louth/Meath, there were significant delays in social work interventions. In 27 cases children were not seen by social workers despite concerns about their safety and welfare. This is most concerning.
“One case related to serious concerns about alleged physical abuse. However, this case ended up closed without the children being seen. It appears there were no standardised protocols on how Túsla and the providers of direct provision accommodation should work together and communicate. This led to the bizarre situation where families involved with child protection and welfare services were moved without their social workers being informed.
“HIQA has made four recommendations to Túsla including the completion of an audit to ensure there are no children at risk of harm because of outstanding or incomplete assessments due to the movement of families between accommodation centres. I call on the Minister for Health to ensure that adequate mental health services are available for this particularly at-risk population and I also call on Government to ensure that this system of Direct Provision is soon a thing of the past” concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.