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Ombudsman for Children’s Office publishes first ever Special Report on Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision

Crisis driven response to international protection is damaging children

Ombudsman for Children’s Office publishes first ever Special Report on Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) has today (Thursday, 19th Oct) published a Special Report on the Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision. This is the first time that a report of this kind has been laid before the Oireachtas since the OCO was established in 2004.

The Ombudsman for Children has published this report because he is not satisfied with the response to his 2021 investigation on Direct Provision and he feels that the crisis-driven response currently being executed by Government has made the situation worse for children living in State-provided accommodation. He also feels that since the OCO published its first investigation into Direct Provision in 2021, progress on the White Paper on Direct Provision has stalled or regressed.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is calling on the Government to move away from emergency responses for children seeking international protection and to plan to ensure that children are growing up in safe, secure environments.

The Special Report on the Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision highlights three specific recommendations from 2021:

  1. Cease the use of commercial hotels and plan for accommodation capacity pressures

Hotels and B&Bs are not suitable places for children to grow up. This is what is happening and there are no immediate plans for this to change. There is now an acceptance from Government that this is the way it has to be. This is affecting children in Direct Provision, as well as thousands who are arriving from Ukraine. Recent figures show that the State is spending more than €42.1m each month on rental, management and the maintenance of accommodation for asylum seekers. The Advisory Group on Direct Provision led by Dr Catherine Day has called for the use of exceptional measures to deliver State-owned centres. The OCO supports this call.

  1. Put in place a robust quality assurance mechanism

The Ombudsman for Children cannot be satisfied that a robust quality assurance mechanism is in place, or will be put in place, for the majority of children seeking international protection. The National Standards came into effect at the beginning of 2021 and the Government agreed that HIQA should monitor the centres for adherence to the standards. However, HIQA’s role applies to all ‘permanent’ centres contracted by IPAS. As we know the majority of children are being accommodated in, non permanent centres such as hotels and B&Bs, meaning that there is inadequate monitoring of complaints, child protection and welfare concerns, and any other adverse incidents.

  1. Assess vulnerability of children in the international protection process

The Ombudsman for Children cannot be satisfied that IPAS has sufficient regard to the vulnerability of children within the international protection process in the planning and provision of their accommodation needs. When we published our Direct Provision investigation in 2021 the Department made a commitment that a vulnerability assessment would be carried out within 30 days of a child applying for international protection. However, only 10% of children seeking international protections have received a statutory vulnerability assessment.

Commenting on the publication of the Special Report on Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision, the Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said:

“The OCO was established almost 20 years ago and never before have we laid a Special Report before the Oireachtas. How we treat children coming to this country will be a defining issue of our generation, and as things stand, history will not judge us well.

“In 2021 I published an investigation into the safety and welfare of children in Direct Provision. We all know that the landscape has changed significantly since then with the outbreak of war in Ukraine. However, inadequate standards in 2021 are still inadequate standards in 2023. We cannot allow, what everyone agreed was not good enough, to become acceptable simply because it is better than tents, or better than nothing. We owe these children much more respect than that and as a nation we need to guard against lowering standards during this crisis.

“The purpose of this report is not to shame Government but rather it is to spur them on to not lose site of the commitments they themselves agreed in 2021. In fact, I hope that by publishing, we will not only be supporting the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth but urging the whole of Government to step up, and commit to working together, to improve this situation.

“I hope that this report, alongside strong advice from the Advisory Committee on the White Paper and others, will encourage the Government to take action and to consider a medium and long-term plan that will work.”


Notes to Editor:

Find the full Special Report here

Read our 2021 investigation into the Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision here.

Media contact

Aoife Carragher
Head of Communications
087 148 4173/