The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes the comprehensive report published today by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children (OCO)
In response, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance stated, “It’s clear from this report that the continued use of hotels and congregated settings for refugees and people seeking protection is just not workable and leads to institutionalisation. It’s also clear that the failure to get an independent inspection regime up and running like the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has meant that child protection failings have not been picked up. The Government urgently needs to get HIQA up and running as the inspection body for refugee accommodation."
This report also highlights how important it was to extend the Ombudman’s remit to investigate issues related to Direct Provision as before 2017, children living in Direct Provision were the only children in Ireland denied the right to make a complaint to the OCO. However, the fact that parents of children in Direct Provision still do not feel comfortable in taking forward complaints points to a real and pressing need for greater transparency and accountability in the international protection accommodation system," continued Tanya Ward.
The Alliance notes that Dr Muldoon, in no uncertain terms, echoes the findings of other human rights bodies when he states that Direct Provision “is not conducive to family life, is not in the best interests of children, and is detrimental to the welfare and development of children exposed to this institutionalised living”. The report shines a light on many of the issues in relation to emergency accommodation and the Children's Rights Alliance wholeheartedly welcome the recommendation that the use of commercial hotels for emergency provision should cease.
The Children's Rights Alliance are particularly concerned about the findings in relation to child protection and welfare, namely that the International Protection Accommodation System (IPAS) failed to follow its own policies and that it has not put in place the necessary safeguards to ensure that children are safe from harm. There needs to be greater collaboration between IPAS and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
“We know the Government’s White Paper will play a crucial role in addressing these concerns as it includes an ‘emphasis on child welfare and child protection’ and outlines dedicated funding for Tusla which is a positive sign that previous concerns about a lack of parenting supports, and the disproportionate number of child protection and welfare referrals, have been heard," Tanya Ward commented.
The report also highlights that Tusla ‘did not recognise the inherent vulnerability of minors in the protection process and failed to make reasonable adjustments’ even though the EU Recast Reception Conditions Directive is clear that children are regarded as vulnerable and that the authorities should carry out assessments to take account of their specific situation and identify any special needs. Tanya Ward noted, “Despite a commitment to undertake vulnerability assessments when we transposed the Receptions Directive into Irish law back in 2018, it appears that a system is not in place beyond child welfare and protection referrals (which has a very high bar) to respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families. We know that some families seeking international protection often need additional support to deal with trauma or tailored parenting and family supports but these supports are not available”.