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Press Release: The Ombudsman for Children investigates the Safety and Welfare of children in Direct Provision

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) has published its investigation Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision.

This was an own volition investigation which means that we do not need a complaint to begin examining an issue. This is significant as we have found, since we began accepting complaints on behalf of children in Direct Provision in 2017, that people are reluctant to complain or to draw attention to themselves.

On a visit to one centre a parent raised concerns about overcrowding, the nutritional content of the food, the lack of safe play areas for children, and poor communication by centre management about facilities and on how to make a complaint.They were reluctant to take their complaint any further for fear of reprisals.

When we started examining we became aware of other child protection and welfare concerns in the Direct Provision centre concerned. We found that staff members working in the centre had not been vetted to work with children, nor had they been trained in child protection despite assurance that this was the case. There was a failure to report a serious child protection concern and all the parents were erroneously told that their children may be removed by child protection and welfare services if they did not supervise them properly in the centre.

There was no interpretive services in the centre which effectively gagged parents who may have wished to make a complaint on behalf of their children. We were worried there may be a culture of fear within the centre and that this had gone undetected by IPAS, who contracted these services and had oversight of same.

We were deeply concerned that IPAS did not have sufficiently robust oversight mechanisms in place to be assured about the quality of services being provided to children and decided to expand the investigation to include all accommodation centres where refugees and asylum seekers were residing as we could not be sure that these issues were isolated to one place.

Tusla did not recognise the inherent vulnerability of children in the international protection process and did not make adjustments to help them to reach their full potential.


We called for IPAS to immediately end the use of commercial emergency hotels and put in place a well-resourced quality assurance mechanism to monitor complaints, child protection and welfare concerns and any other incidents in order to be assured about the quality of services provided to families in all centres.

Extensive cultural sensitivity training, as well as training in gender, equality, human and children’s rights training is needed for staff working in Direct Provision centres

We asked Tusla to recognise the vulnerability of children within the international protection process and to develop an intercultural strategy.

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said: “The investigation we are publishing today is an own volition investigation which is significant as we do not regularly use our power to investigate without a complaint. This underlines the very difficult and vulnerable position that children and families in Direct Provision find themselves in.”

“I am aware that we are publishing our investigation, Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision against the backdrop of the White Paper on Ending Direct Provision. While the White Paper published in February was a welcome step, it should not prevent immediate improvements in the Direct Provision system. There are still children and families living in unsuitable accommodation and that will not change for at least three years.”

“I welcome the response of IPAS and Tusla to our recommendations. I look forward to seeing immediate action and progress. We will request a six and 12 month update from both agencies.”

The report will be launched by the Ombudsman at an online webinar at 11am on Tuesday morning.


Notes to Editors

It is the latest in a series of publications from the OCO on Direct Provision. Today’s investigation joins our Direct Division and Life in Lockdown reports which were published last year.

White Paper – The White Paper on Ending Direct Provision published in February 2021 outlines the State’s plans to end Direct Provision by 2024 and replace the system with not-for-profit accommodation.

IPAS – The International Protection Accommodation Service