White Paper marks the beginning of the end for the direct provision system
Priority must be implementation to ensure this changes the reality for children and families
The Children’s Rights Alliance today (12.02.2021) welcomes the publication of the Government White Paper on Ending Direct Provision and to Establish a New International Protection Support Service. Speaking in response to the publication this morning, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said, “The publication of the White Paper today marks a watershed moment in terms of our treatment of people seeking protection in Ireland. We pride ourselves on being the island of a thousand welcomes and yet for the past two decades, the State has failed to address the serious issues that prevailed in the direct provision system which have left many children and young people isolated from our communities and left in limbo for much of their childhoods. Now is the time to end the direct provision system as we know it. The publication of the White Paper today is the start of this work and now the priority must be implementation to ensure this is not just a change on paper but one that truly changes the lives of children and families seeking protection in our country.”
“With over 1,000 children living in direct provision, any plans to transform their lives must start with the system built around them. It is welcome to see a conscious effort to reduce the length of time spent in initial reception accommodation (Phase One) with a desire to move to own-door, family-appropriate accommodation in the community (Phase 2). We know the delays in the international protection processes have a profound impact on the mental health of children and families. Dignity, respect and integration must be the values to sense-check changes as they are implemented to ensure the new centres work to alleviate the anxiety and instability that many children experience both before and when they first arrive here,” said Tanya Ward. “The provision of own-door accommodation is one way to ensure that children and young people are growing up in an environment conducive to their needs physically, mentally and socially. It has been a key recommendation of the Alliance for years and we believe access to this type of accommodation will have a hugely positive impact on the lives of these families.”
Focus on Children and Young People
“We commend the Government on the clear focus on children and their needs in this White Paper which will play a crucial role in their future. In both Phase One and Phase Two, the White Paper includes an ‘emphasis on child welfare and child protection’. We note the important role that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency will play with a focus on ‘parenting supports and child development services’ and the recognition that some families who have experienced conflict or trauma may need additional support. The dedicated funding for Tusla in the White Paper 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. Tusla will also play an important role in supporting children to access school places although the White Paper falls short of proposing individual assessments for children in terms of their level of education and any particular educational needs they might have,” Tanya Ward added.
"We also warmly welcome the specific role the Children and Young People’s Services committees (CYPSCs) will play to ensure children’s needs remain a priority and to address any disconnect that children and young people feel from the community that they live in.
The White Paper commits to prioritise the protection applications of unaccompanied minors. The aim to have a decision before they turn 18 will make a huge difference to them in terms of the current situation where they transfer into direct provision at that age. The White Paper clearly accepts that direct provision is not an acceptable system for any child to live in but transferring to it overnight from foster care or dedicated residential accommodation is particularly unfair on young people who are here alone. We hope that this commitment will be implemented as a matter of urgency,” continued Tanya Ward.
“Another important and welcome aspect of the new system is the fact that for the first time in more than 20 years, children in the protection process will be treated equally to other children living in Ireland who get a Child Benefit payment every month. Their parents will be given a payment for them at the same rate as Child Benefit as well as their own social welfare payment in line with other adults who receive Supplementary Welfare Allowance. We hope that this will prevent them falling into poverty during this already anxious time in their lives while they await a decision on their application for protection.
For many years, along with other human rights organisations, we have called for HIQA (the Health Information and Quality Authority) to take on inspection of the system. With new standards in place for existing direct provision centres from last month, we are pleased to see the clear commitment that HIQA will conduct inspections. However, we do question the White Paper’s position that HIQA will continue to monitor existing Centres against the agreed standards as the system transitions, but its expertise will be sought to develop a new and robust inspections system for the new model. Why not simply allocate the funding to HIQA to continue this work given its trusted reputation and continued expertise in this area?”
“The focus on a human rights and children’s rights approach to our treatment of families seeking internal protection is long overdue and one very much welcomed by the Alliance. It will ensure that the new reception centres respect the rights of the children, young people and families who pass through their doors. Ensuring that families with children can create homes in our communities around the country will be a significant departure from the current system. Maintaining this focus will be crucial to the implementation of this White Paper and determining whether it will have the transformative effect it promises. We commend the ambitious nature of the White Paper and we know change of this scale will take significant time and resources to achieve. But in the meantime, we must ensure that all actions that can be delivered sooner, will be delivered sooner as 2024 is a long way off for children who are in the system today,” Tanya Ward concluded.
Contact: Emma Archbold, Children’s Rights Alliance, Tel: 0879971410, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editor:
• Saoirse Brady, Head of Legal, Policy and Public Affairs of the Children’s Rights Alliance is available for interview
• The Government White Paper is available here.
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About the Children’s Rights Alliance
• Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL.