Child welfare

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Children in direct provision

Jillian van Turnhout (ind, Taoiseach nominee) again raised the issue of the situation of children of asylum seekers in direct provision following the report State-sanctioned child poverty and exclusion (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 4th December 2012, 349 – 351).  It was very difficult to find out what standards should be applied to their care and she rejected the view of the Minister for Justice that they lived ‘in a family context and their parents had primary responsibility for their care and welfare’.  In her view, they fell under the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) national standards.

 

The minister of state at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Jan O’Sullivan, replied for the government.  She explained that the children were under the Reception and Integration Agency, which reflected the Children first guidelines.  The Health Service Executive (HSE) received 31,000 reports last year, of which 171 were referrals concerning children in direct provision, of which a small number were child protection concerns.  HIQA’s first inspections nationally had begun last month.  HIQA currently inspected all residential services run by the HSE, but ‘HIQA does not inspect the accommodation provided under the direct provision system…Children living in the direct provision system are not in the care of the state’.  

 

Jillian van Turnhout described her response as a fudge.  She found it difficult to distinguish between children in the care of the state and children cared for by the state.  These children were being directly cared for by the state.  If one visited any of these direct provision centres, children were not in a normal family context and there might be three or four families in one room.  Are we basically saying that HIQA standards did not apply and that no child protection standards applied?  We should have learned from the past, she concluded.

> See also Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th December 2012, 178-9.