Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
Question 98: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress made to date on addressing concerns relating to the care of unaccompanied minors claiming asylum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7851/12]
Question 105: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has met with the Department of Justice and Equality to discuss the issue of the transfer of minors seeking asylum to adult services and the impact it has on the continuity of their education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8073/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 105 together.
Under the Child Care Act, 1991, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for the care and protection of separated children seeking asylum until they reach 18 years of age. The immediate and ongoing needs of separated children seeking asylum (SCSA) as well as their application for refugee status are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with the Child Care Act, 1991 and the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended). Where children are identified by An Garda Síochána, at the point of entry, the circumstances are investigated and if there are any concerns about the welfare of the child, they are placed into the care of the HSE.
The Implementation Plan on the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009, contained a commitment that the HSE would end the use of separately run hostels for separated children seeking asylum and accommodate children in mainstream care, on a par with other children in the care system. In accordance with this commitment, the HSE phased out hostel type care for separated children seeking asylum and since January 2011, hostels have not been used to accommodate unaccompanied minors. Instead each child is cared for either in a foster care placement or a children's residential centre.
The HSE has developed a national policy on the standards and services to be provided to separated children seeking asylum. The policy seeks to achieve equity and equality of services to separated children seeking asylum vis a vis all children at risk and to ensure that there is no differentiation of care provision, care practices, care priorities, standards or protocols until the young person reaches 18 years. The number of separated children seeking asylum has steadily declined since its peak of 1085 in 2001 to just 105 in 2010.
My Department along with the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Department of Justice and Law Reform and the HSE work closely together to plan for the transition to adult service for young asylum seekers who reach 18 years of age. I am meeting Minister Shatter to discuss a number of issues, including this matter, later this week.