Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
153. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the extent to which his Department has noted various experiences of women and children who may be under threat from possible trafficking or other forms of coercion; his plans to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59746/21]
My Department is addressing the issue of women and children who may be under threat from possible trafficking or other forms of coercion as follows:
- The Children First Act 2015, which was fully commenced in December 2017, provides for a number of key child protection measures, including raising awareness of child abuse and neglect, providing for reporting and management of child protection concerns and improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children.
The Act operates side-by-side with the non-statutory obligations provided for in Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children. The guidance, which was fully revised in October 2017 to include reference to the provisions of the Act, is intended to assist members of the public, professionals, employees or volunteers in identifying and reporting concerns about child abuse and neglect to Tusla.
- Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, assesses all child welfare and protection concerns that are reported to it and takes appropriate action. If Tusla suspects that a crime has been committed and a child has been wilfully neglected or physically or sexually abused, it will formally notify An Garda Síochána without delay.
Tusla also has a dedicated social work team for Separated Children Seeking International Protection (SCSIP). Over the past 20 years the SCSIP Team has developed expertise through Ireland’s participation in International Refugee Protection Programmes and by caring for the greater number of separated children seeking international protection who arrive unannounced at Irish ports and airports. The majority of unaccompanied children arriving in Ireland are over 15 years old and need significant educational, language and, in many instances, therapeutic supports. The on-going social work assessment is multi-disciplinary in nature and involves a medical examination, an educational assessment and a child protection risk assessment. A statutory care plan is developed and, if appropriate, an application for asylum is made on behalf of the child. After assessment, children are placed in the most appropriate placement option depending on their assessed needs. In 2020, Tusla received 80 referrals for Separated Children Seeking International Protection and of that number 51 children were received into the statutory care of Tusla.
- In February 2021, my Department published A White Paper to End Direct Provision and to Establish a New International Protection Support Service. This White Paper outlines the proposed new system of accommodation and supports that will be offered to applicants for International Protection and is the result of an extensive consultation process with Civil Society Organisations, residents of Direct Provision centres, and other Government Departments and Bodies.
The new system is based on a series of principles which is centred on a Human Rights approach with a focus on dignity, respect and privacy for all. There will be a particular focus on vulnerable applicants including victims of trafficking. This focus includes providing specific accommodation for both female and male victims of trafficking and ensuring all appropriate health and social care supports are available.