Government failing to implement changes to safeguard children in Direct Provision, Ombudsman finds

The Direct Provision (DP) model does not have the best interests of children at its core, and the Government has failed to implement previous recommendations to safeguard children in the system, the Ombudsman for Children has found.

n a report released today, Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon reveals the unit of the Department of Children responsible for DP told his office it does not have any concerns regarding the impact of children growing up in the system.

In light of the “extensive evidence” showing the “detrimental impact of lengthy institutionalised living on the welfare of children”, Dr Muldoon says the findings by the Department are “contrary to fair and sound administration”.

Dr Muldoon also stated the International Protection Accomodation service (IPAS) failed to implement an independent inspectorate to the system despite recommendations on this dating back to 2015.

This is also contrary to fair and sound administration, Dr Muldoon concluded.

The current inspection regime within the system also failed to ensure the substantive needs of children – such as their mental, physical and social development – are being met. This is “undesirable administrative practice”, the report states.

There has also been a failure to identify inherently vulnerable children entering the system, another area in which change was recommended years ago.

The Ombudsman also accused Tusla of engaging in “discriminatory” policy by failing to recognise the inherent vulnerability of minors in DP, and for failing to make “reasonable adjustments” from standard procedures, which would “give the children in DP an equal opportunity to reach their full potential”.

IPAS also failed to meet its own benchmark of holding two clinics per year for residents in which they can communicate their experience within the system. No consistent provision of translators for residents were provided for clinics that did take place.

The Ombudsman found IPAS failed to meet “a minimum level of engagement with residents in accommodation centres”.

“IPAS has failed to put in place the necessary safeguards to ensure that children residing in DP..are safe from harm,” Dr Muldoon said.

The Ombudsman also found no evidence that IPAS effectively monitors compliance with the Children First Act 2015.

The Department of Children said it “accepts the recommendations” of the Children’s Ombudsman’s report, and said the International Protection Accommodation Service has committed to implementing those recommendations in full.

“The safety and security of all residents of Accommodation Centres is the Department’s foremost priority,” the spokesperson said.

The Department said it has already implemented measures following the Ombudsman’s report, such as pilot vulnerability assessments and the creation of a new Resident Welfare Team.

“Minister O’Gorman recognises that the Direct Provision model is not fit for purpose. The Government has committed to ending Direct Provision, and moving to a new model of international protection accommodation and support by 2024,” the Department spokesperson said.

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