Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Direct Provision System
493. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention or that of his Department has been drawn to reports of worms found in food served in Kinsale direct provision centre in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37485/21]
I have been made aware of a social media post which I understand may be the incident report to which the Deputy refers. Having consulted with my officials in the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS), they have advised me that a resident at the centre in question had reported to centre staff that a lettuce slug had been found on their plate on 26 June 2021.
I can assure the Deputy that this was an isolated incident which regrettably occurred despite the lettuce going through a sanitisation process in line with HACCP procedures prior to being served. Any remaining lettuce products on service were removed and replaced immediately. At the time the issue was raised, centre staff responded immediately and apologised in person to the resident. The resident was offered an alternative meal.
Centre management followed up with resident the next morning to reiterate their apology and ensure the resident was not adversely affected by the unfortunate incident the previous day. To date IPAS has not received any formal complaint regarding this matter.
494. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention or that of his Department has been drawn to reports of the deaths of persons in the Mosney direct provision centre in recent months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37486/21]
500. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth further to correspondence he received from this Deputy (details supplied), if he will consider introducing a system whereby the number of deaths within the direct provision system is recorded and published on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37492/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 494 and 500 together.
Under established protocols governing such matters I am made aware by officials in the International Protection Accommodation Service within my Department whenever a resident within the IPAS accommodation network sadly passes away.
I am also aware of reports that circulate on media and social media regarding the deaths of residents. I would however caution that great care and compassion should always be taken in reporting on such events, particularly on social media platforms, to avoid adding to the distress of family and friends of the deceased and to afford them the necessary privacy to come to terms with their sad loss.
It is also important to point out that it is an offence under Section 26 of the International Protection Act, 2015 to publish any information that may be lead to the identification of a person as a protection applicant without their consent. This provision does not exclude former applicants including applicants who pass away while their application is under consideration. This is particularly important to note given that a deceased applicant’s family could potentially be in danger in their home country were such information to be published.
In keeping with relevant provisions in the International Protection Act 2015 safeguarding the identity of protection applicants, and, out of respect for the deceased's next of kin, I can not comment further on the specific details of any such cases.
In the event of the death of a resident at a centre, a critical incident policy is in place to provide guidelines for staff in the International Protection Accommodation Service of my Department (IPAS) and accommodation centre managers and staff. IPAS officials work closely with the centre manager to assist the person’s next of kin, if known, in accessing the supports provided by the State, and to offer supports to any residents affected by the death. Where children are involved, the family is linked with Tusla to provide relevant supports.
Under the Critical Incident Policy, any death or very serious incident that occurs within accommodation centres provided by the Department is referred to the Gardaí as a matter of course and, where appropriate, the Gardaí will in turn refer those deaths to the local Coroner’s office. Where cause of death has not already been certified by a qualified medical practitioner, investigations and inquests into the cause of a death are matters for those authorities.?
Responsibility for the formal registration and recording of all deaths in the State, including information on cause of death where known, rests with the General Register Office in the Department of Social Protection.
I can also confirm that since my response to the Deputy's correspondence on 3 March 2021 that the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department has developed a new policy on the collation and provision of statistics on deaths that occur at any of IPAS accommodation centres.
The policy, which came into effect on 1 June 2021, will be published on a new IPAS website due to launch in coming days. The policy covers procedures to be followed with regard to notification of a death of a resident to IPAS and other relevant authorities, collation of statistics, and publication of information. Alongside the policy, my Department will also be publishing statistical information on the deaths of residents going back to the earliest recorded death of a resident. These statistics, which will include a breakdown by cause of death, where known, have been collated with the assistance of the General Register Office.
My Department is in discussion with the Department of Health and HIQA to formulate the agreement for HIQA to start monitoring the application of the Standards in International Protection Accommodation Services accommodation and to identify the legislative basis under which HIQA will operate that monitoring role.
496. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his Department currently has contracts with a company (details supplied); if so, the purpose and nature of these contracts; the number of contracts with the company; the costs associated with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37488/21]
My Department currently has three contracts with the company to which the Deputy refers to provide management and related services at three of the seven State-owned direct provision accommodation centres. The three accommodation centres the company manages are: Athlone Accommodation Centre, Co. Westmeath; Knockalisheen Accommodation Centre, Co. Clare; and Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre, Co. Cork. The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate to provide current individual values for contracts entered into by my Department. However, it may assist him to note that the total value of the three contracts in question comes to approximately €5 million per annum.
497. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention or that of his Department has been drawn to reports of cockroach infestations in direct provision centres since he took office; and if so, if he will provide detail on these incidents. [37489/21]
498. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention or that of his Department has been drawn to reports or instances of mice or rat infestations in direct provision centres since he took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37490/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 497 and 498 together.
I am aware of reports that circulate on media and social media regarding the presence of vermin in some accommodation centres for International Protection applicants. My Department officials are also made aware of occasional incidences by the centre management.
The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any premises whether residential or otherwise, there is always the possibility of intrusion by vermin.
The requirement for inspection of dedicated accommodation centres is a contractual obligation for all service operators contracted by my Department. Accommodation centres are subject to regular unannounced inspections by both my officials in the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) and an independent inspectorate company (QTS Ltd). These inspections are generally undertaken, twice yearly by my officials in IPAS and once yearly by QTS Ltd.
Inspectors examine all communal areas, bedrooms, kitchens and dining areas. Inspectors also examine occupancy registers, staffing records, health and safety documentation (including fire safety records), food preparation systems , menu cycles (in centres that provide full catering), facilities available to residents, information provision to residents and the condition of external grounds.
Evidence of any vermin infestation is also noted during the routine inspections by the centre management and by my officials or by QTS Ltd. Where there is evidence of any vermin activity, this is dealt with appropriately by the centre management and further inspections may follow. For example, where a cockroach infestation is found, a pest control company will be engaged to fog any affected rooms. More than one intervention may be required to fully address the issue if evidence is found of eggs on cloting etc. Residents of any affected room will be moved to another room until the situation is brought under control and the room is suitable for re-occupation.
Completed inspection reports are published on once the contractor has been given the opportunity to comment on the findings and, if necessary, indicate how and when any required remedial work has or will be undertaken.
499. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention or that of his Department has been drawn to reports or instances of hunger strikes in direct provision centres since he took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37491/21]
On any occasion where a resident refuses food for any significant period of time, such matters are brought to my attention by officials in the International Protection Accommodation Service within my Department.
I am informed that, while such instances are rare, some residents have in the past, refused food in order to draw attention to a particular issue that may, or may not, relate to their accommodation.It is important to note that often the issues that give rise to such incidents may relate to matters outside the remit of my Department.
IPAS officials also advise that as soon as they become aware of such instances, they work closely with the resident, accommodation centre staff, and other relevant state agencies and service providers to resolve the matter with compassion and sensitivity for the individual concerned. The health, both physical and psychological, of residents is paramount in doing so.
On a more general note, I can assure the Deputy that the health and wellbeing of all people who avail of accommodation provided by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department is of the highest priority to myself and my officials.
A confidential Freephone telephone support service, funded by, but independent of, this Department, was also established in May 2020 to provide further support to residents that are being accommodated by my Department. This Freephone confidential support helpline is operated by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). Any isue raised through this service may be passed in confidence to IPAS for investigation and resolution.
Residents also have full access to the Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children should they wish to lodge a complaint regarding any services provided by my Department or other State Agencies and Departments.
501. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of persons who are currently resident in direct provision by nationality, age and gender in tabular form. [37514/21]
As of Wednesday 7 July 2021 there were 6,445 persons staying in accommodation offered by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department.
The table below shows the number of persons residing in accommodation as of 7 July 2021, by nationality. No breakdown is provided for nationalities with less than 10 people due to the increased risk of their identification, which is prohibited under Section 26 of the International Protection Act 2015. This figure is included as a total which made up of persons from 55 countries. In total there are people from 105 nationalities being provided with IPAS accommodation.
|Congo, The Democratic Republic Of The||216|
|Iran (Islamic Republic Of)||29|
|Libyan Arab Jamahiriya||15|
|Palestinian Territory, Occupied||33|
|Syrian Arab Republic||48|
|Tanzania, United Republic Of||14|
|United States Of America||17|
|Others including unknown countries||198|
Gender Breakdown of residents
|Age (Years)||Number of Residents||Percentage of Residents|