Tuesday, 3 December 2019
Department of Justice and Equality
Direct Provision System
279. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the supports available to persons in Mosney direct provision centre who have been granted leave to remain and are seeking alternative accommodation; and the external agencies that are part of the process of support. [50107/19]
As the Deputy will be aware, the State has a legal obligation to offer accommodation, food and a range of other services (including utilities and healthcare etc.) to any person who claims a right to international protection in Ireland while their legal claim is being examined.
Residents who have been granted an international protection status (refugee status or subsidiary protection status) or a permission to remain are no longer in the international protection process. They have the same access to housing supports and services as Irish and EEA nationals. Currently, there are 222 residents with some form of status in Mosney.
Considerable work is being undertaken to support these residents to move out of our accommodation centres and into permanent accommodation. My Department has a specific team in the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) unit working on this. Their work is enhanced through the funded transitional support work provided by DePaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Peter McVerry Trust. In the case of the Mosney accommodation centre, DePaul Ireland provides targeted assistance to the residents with status or permission to remain regarding their housing options. I can inform the Deputy, since the start of the year, DePaul has assisted 110 residents in Mosney to move into the wider community.
Additionally, my Department is liaising with officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the City and County Managers' Association to support all residents with permission to remain in accessing housing options.
280. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the health services available to persons resident in Mosney direct provision centre; the specialist services available; the mental health services available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50108/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 to 282, inclusive, together.
I can inform the Deputy that all international protection applicants including those who are resident in the Mosney Accommodation Centre access health services and supports including mental health services on the same basis as nationals. The services are mainstreamed and are therefore provided through the Department of Health and the HSE. Residents access GP services through the GMS scheme and are exempt from prescription charges. A fully staffed Medical Centre is located within Mosney. A doctor and a nurse attend each weekday. At weekends, an out of hours Doctor-On-Call Service is available for any urgent medical needs.
With regard to transport, all residents in the centre can avail of a shuttle bus that operates Monday to Saturday (including bank holidays) from Mosney to Drogheda. A church service to Julianstown is also provided every Sunday at 10.30am. A taxi service is available to management to cater for urgent and emergency situations, which may arise for residents. A courtesy car is also available at all times to cater for any other urgent needs for example, taking a parent to collect a sick child from school, etc.
Children living in Mosney attend nine local primary schools and four secondary schools. Bus Eireann School Transport provides transport for all children to and from school each day to schools in Julianstown, Drogheda, Duleek, Tullyallen, Donore, Bettystown and Drumcar.
Regarding more general services and supports for residents, I wish to inform the Deputy that substantial improvements have been made to the reception system in recent years in particular since our voluntary opt-in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive. Residents have access to the services of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children and over 3,400 labour market access permissions have been granted to eligible applicants including over 2,500 permissions to residents in accommodation centres.
In August, Minister Flanagan and I published new National Standards for accommodation centres. These Standards were developed by an Advisory Group including representatives from UNHCR Ireland and the NGO sector. They provide a framework for the continued development of person-centred, high-quality, safe and effective services and supports for residents living in our accommodation centres. Their purpose is to improve the quality of care and ensure consistency across all accommodation centres.
All accommodation centres including Mosney have 'Friends of the Centre' groups in place, which promote integration by facilitating links between the residents and local community, voluntary and sporting groups.
The provision of services and supports for residents is kept under review. In that regard, a high level interdepartmental Group, established in my Department, is currently reviewing the implementation of the State's legal obligations under the EU Directive (2013/33/EU) including access to work and the services offered to applicants while their applications are being considered. In addition, an Advisory group, chaired by the former Secretary General of the European Commission, Dr. Catherine Day will advise on the development of a long-term approach to the provision of support including accommodation for people in the international protection process.
283. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of recommendations of the McMahon report that have and have not been implemented, respectively in each direct provision setting and service nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50111/19]
The Report of the Working Group to Report to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers, also known as the Justice McMahon Report, was published in June 2015. Its 173 recommendations have implications for a number of Government Departments and services.
My Department has published three progress reports on the implementation of the recommendations; the first in June 2016, the second in February 2017 and a third and final report in July of 2017. All three reports are available to view on my Department's website www.justice.ie. The final progress report shows that 133 recommendations have been reported as fully implemented and a further 36 are in progress or partially implemented. This represents a 98% full or partial implementation rate.
While I do not propose to go through the recommendations in detail, I would like to note some important developments in some areas relevant to my Department:
The key recommendation underpinning the Justice McMahon Report was to address the length of time taken to process applications, which can lead to long stays in State provided accommodation. With the commencement of the International Protection Act 2015 on 31 December 2016, we now have a single application procedure. This is the biggest reform to our protection process in two decades. It means that an applicant has all aspects of their claim (refugee status, subsidiary protection status, and permission to remain), examined and determined in one process. The aim is to provide first instance decisions in the shortest possible timeframe.
It has also been noted by a number of commentators, including Justice McMahon himself, that substantial improvements have been made to the Direct Provision system in recent years. Over half of all residents now having access to cooking facilities. It remains my Department’s target that all centres will be capable of providing independent living facilities by the end of next year. Since the publication of the Report, we have more than doubled the weekly allowance for children. Since 25 March 2019, the weekly payments for applicants living in accommodation centres rose to €38.80 per week for adults and €29.80 per week for children.
Residents of accommodation centres may now directly access the services of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children and information on this right is made available to all residents.
In August, Minister Flanagan and I published new National Standards for accommodation centres. These Standards were developed through an Advisory Group including representatives from UNHCR Ireland and the NGO sector. The Standards will come into force in January 2021 and will address a range of themes including accommodation; food and catering; individual, community and family life; health and well-being; governance; and meeting the special reception needs of applicants. These reforms build on the work done in the McMahon Report and meet the requirements of the EU Recast Reception Conditions Directive (Directive 2013/33/EU) which we voluntarily opted into last year.
Access to the labour market has been introduced for eligible applicants. Since its introduction, over 3,400 labour market access permissions have been granted including over 2,500 permissions to residents living in accommodation centres.
Improvements continue to be implemented across the facilities and services provided to those in the protection process and this work will continue. A High Level Interdepartmental Group chaired by my Department has been established, tasked with ensuring better coordination of the provision of services and with meeting the needs of applicants in the short to medium term. In addition, an Advisory Group chaired by the former Secretary General of the European Commission, Dr. Catherine Day has also been established. This Group will advise on the development of a long-term approach to the provision of supports including accommodation to people in the international protection process.
284. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if additional information will be provided further to his officials noting at the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts the establishment of a unit to support persons leaving direct provision centres dedicated to working with direct provision centre managers, local authorities and non-governmental organisations; and the status of plans for the unit. [50112/19]
As the Deputy may be aware, residents who have been granted an international protection status (refugee status or subsidiary protection status) or a permission to remain have the same access to housing supports and services as Irish and EEA nationals. Currently, there are approximately 819 residents with status or permission to remain.
Considerable work is being undertaken to support these residents to move out of accommodation centres and into secure permanent accommodation. My Department has a specific team working in the International Protection Accommodation Service unit who work in collaboration with DePaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Peter McVerry Trust, officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the City and County Managers Association to collectively support residents with permission to remain to access housing options.
Since the beginning of the year, a total of 732 people have transitioned out of accommodation centres. Approximately 500 of these people moved with the assistance of the services and supports outlined above.