Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Committee on Public Petitions

Direct Provision Policy and Related Matters: Discussion

Dr. John Lannon:

I thank Mr. Henderson. I will come in again on the question about the reforms. One comment I would make is that we have moved now with the White Paper from discussions about reforming direct provision to a clearly-stated recognition that it is not fit for purpose. That is really positive and welcome. Reform has not worked nor can it work, given the fundamental nature of direct provision. A few things need to be done now. We need HIQA inspections to provide proper oversight of direct provision centres. That is something on which I would be happy to come back to speak further, if the committee wishes. We also need vulnerability assessments across the board.

The Ombudsman for Children's recommendations are a good starting point. It said the International Protection Accommodation Service, IPAS, should put in place a procedure to identify children with special reception needs, which is really positive. This should include a vulnerability assessment. Recognising the vulnerability is crucial, as it has pointed out. This is something that goes across the board as well. Recognising the vulnerabilities needs to be considered in the planning and provision of accommodation needs because accommodation needs will vary. As Mr. Henderson said already, with the right approach, many people - the vast majority of people - who come to Ireland seeking international protection can live independently and can live in the communities with proper access to social welfare, education, employment, etc. Some will have special needs, however.

One of the things we have seen that is particularly problematic is the lack of on-site collaboration between agencies when it comes to preventive supports or early interventions. We have seen situations where parents are struggling. When these situations are allowed to fester and develop, things become more and more difficult.

Even with regard to how IPAS operates at the moment, sometimes we will intervene and request a transfer because we feel it is in the best interests of the individuals but that is not done or we are told that it cannot happen for a variety of reasons. Much more, therefore, needs to be done with regard or in response to residents' plights and situations. The first thing is that they need to be listened to and this comes back to HIQA inspections. At the moment, inspections, such as they are in direct provision centres, do not take into consideration or even listen to the people who are most affected, that is, the residents. If I may, I will hand back to Mr. Henderson on the deaths if he wishes to speak on that.