Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Direct Provision System
119. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the progress regarding implementation of the White Paper to End Direct Provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59464/21]
Earlier this year, I published A White Paper to End Direct Provision and to Establish a New International Protection Support Service. Since then my Department has taken a series of steps to implement these reforms, with a view to completing them by the end of 2024.
A staff team has been established in my Department to lead the transition to the new model. Ending Direct Provision and putting in place the new system with its focus on human rights, on not-for-profit delivery, and on integration from day one, requires a whole-of-Government approach. My Department is therefore working closely with key stakeholders across Government to plan, design, and implement the changes described in the White Paper.
I have appointed a Programme Board, including officials from relevant Government Departments and agencies, and independent members, to oversee the transition. So far, the Board has met four times since its establishment, and its next meeting is scheduled for 16 December.
I have appointed a three-person External Advisory Group whose role is that of independent observer of the implementation of the new policy. Through its work, this Group will help to build confidence in the reform programme among all stakeholders. This Group has already met twice, most recently on 19 November.
As stated in the White Paper, my intention is to have the new system of supports and accommodation for international protection applicants operational by December 2024. We have made good progress on this objective to date. Working with the Housing Agency, my Department has begun to acquire the accommodation needed to implement the White Paper reforms. We are currently prioritising the acquisition of accommodation for Phase Two - that is, after people have completed their initial four months in a Reception and Integration Centre and move into the community.
We anticipate that the process of moving the first applicants into this accommodation will begin in 2022 and that it will accelerate over the following years as more properties come on stream.
Working with the housing experts on the Programme Board, my Department is developing an ownership model for the accommodation, as well as a funding model to enable Approved Housing Bodies and other not-for-profit organisations to act as our delivery partners. An allocation key to determine the spread of this accommodation across all counties has been agreed by Local Authorities.
With respect to integration, the House will be aware that the White Paper commits to the principle of 'integration from day one' for all international protection applicants. My Department is currently developing the detailed policy required to meet this commitment. This integration policy will enable applicants to live independently in Ireland and will help them to feel at home in their new communities. Integration supports will be delivered during both Phase One and Phase Two of the new model.
During Phase One, applicants will live in a Reception and Integration Centre, where they will participate in an Integration Programme including language tuition and orientation to living in Ireland. In Phase Two, after four months, applicants will move to independent living in the community.
Here they will have access to integration supports delivered by service providers at a local level through Interagency Working Groups co-ordinated by the relevant Local Authority. Applicants will also be assisted by a network of Integration Support Workers, who will help to link them in with the supports they need.
When living in the community, applicants will receive an International Protection Support Payment to enable them to meet their needs. A child payment will also be provided. As applicants now have access to the labour market after six months, support to access employment will also be provided. Detailed policy on the International Protection Support Payments is being developed by my Department.
It will take time to end Direct Provision and replace it with a new and very different system of accommodation and supports - grounded in human rights and delivered on a not-for-profit basis. However, I am fully committed to implementing the model by December 2024.