Written answers

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Department of Health

International Protection

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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169. To ask the Minister for Health his views on the finding in the Ombudsman for Children's report Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision that Tusla, the HSE and IPAS have failed to collaborate to provide on-site preventative and early intervention services and to gather data on national trends of referrals to services which was a recommendation of the McMahon report. [23344/21]

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Overall responsibility for the Direct Provision system rests with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, while the Department of Health and the HSE are responsible for the policy and provision of health care service for persons in the protection system.

Primary care services are currently provided to persons living in Direct Provision on the same basis as Irish nationals. A person seeking international protection can apply for and be assessed for a medical card. Services provided include access to a GP, medical prescriptions, dental care, optician care, pregnancy services and children’s health.

The Deputy will also be aware that my colleague Minister O’Gorman published A White Paper to End Direct Provision and to establish a New International Protection Support Service on 26 February 2021. The new International Protection system will respect the rights of children and will provide child-friendly services, including a child-friendly vulnerability assessment.

As part of the white paper, the Department of Health and the HSE have proposed an enhanced model of health care for international protection applicants. It responds to the main issues facing this population group, covering public health, mental health and physical health. The model is in line with the HSE intercultural health strategy and the Sláintecare reform programme.

The HSE’s approach to intercultural health as outlined in the ‘Second National Intercultural Health Strategy 2018- 2023’ is to support the diverse ethnic and cultural groups in obtaining equal access and opportunities across the Irish health care services. The HSE recognise that a coordinated approach is important in the planning of new accommodation centres and agree that health services need to be involved at an early stage to assess local capacity to meet increased demand. Existing primary care services must be supported when new centres are opened.

A new Vulnerability Assessment process is being piloted by IPAS. The purpose of these assessments is to determine if an applicant is deemed to have special reception needs, to identify those needs and to identify what actions might be required to address those needs. Assessment questions are based on the various categories of vulnerability identified within the EU Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU.

I welcome the publication of the Report of the Ombudsman for Children on the Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision and have considered its findings as they relate to the health services. I am committed to working with the HSE to meet the health needs of people seeking international protection in direct provision centres, in collaboration with IPAS and other service providers.


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