These consultations will contribute to contribute to the ongoing improvements in services in accommodation centres
18 July 2017
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD and the Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration, and Integration, David Stanton TD, have today published the report of Consultations with Children in Direct Provision.
Although 31 children and young people had provided written submissions as part of the McMahon process, children and young people had not been directly consulted as part of McMahon report. Following the recent publication of the McMahon report into direct Provision and prior to the implementation of any of its recommendations, a consultation process with children and young people living in Direct Provision was begun. This report, which was conducted in 2016, presents the findings from that consultation process.
The aim of this innovative measure – the first consultation process with young persons in State-provided accommodation - was to hear the views of children and young people living in these centres to find out what they like, dislike and would like to change or improve about the places they live.
The report was commissioned by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on behalf of the Department of Justice and Equality and was compiled by researchers from the Child Law Clinic at the School of Law, University College Cork.
Speaking on the publication of the report, Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan stated
“As a former Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I am conscious of the importance of the voice of the child and providing young people with the opportunities to share their experiences. I want to thank the young people who participated in this research. This Report is an important contribution to our policy development in this area and the stories of children and young people living in State-provided accommodation continue to contribute to the ongoing improvements in services in accommodation centres
The Minister added, “We have introduced the International Protection Act to improve the application process and we have introduced independent living in a number of accommodation centres. We have also established links with local communities in all accommodation centres for families so that children play as full a part in local communities as possible.”
Minster Flanagan further noted the ongoing implementation of the child protection and welfare policy in all accommodation centres under the direct supervision of an officer seconded to RIA from TUSLA. In addition to this, an officer seconded from the Department of Education and Skills to RIA oversees the enrolment of children in accommodation centres across the country as they link in with local schools.
The report highlights the issues that can be faced by children and young people when they find themselves in a strange country and in a strange environment. Noting the contents of the report Minister of State for Equality, Integration and Immigration, David Stanton TD said, “In implementing the recommendations of the McMahon report we have taken the views of children as expressed in this report into account. We have extended the remit of the Offices of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children to include access for residents in State-provided accommodation. The introduction of independent living allows children to see their parents cooking meals in their own homes. Quite apart from the provision of full board accommodation, the recently announced increases in the allowance payable to persons in State-provided accommodation will also provide additional supports to parents and children alike. Furthermore, it is our intention that where possible, children should only be accommodated in family centres. Equally we are enhancing the services provided in those centres through youth clubs and other local Friends of the Centre groups.”
The report is available on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality http://bit.ly/2vyIU0u
The key messages from the report fall into like and dislikes.
Likes - Children and young people:
· They appreciate the facilities, especially the play and recreation facilities and homework clubs, that are provided where these are fit for purpose
· They respect and like the managers and some staff of their centres; where they are respectful, kind and caring
· They enjoy the sense of community and access to friends that living communally sometimes enables
Dislikes and Changes - Children and young people said that:
· They are unhappy about the length of their stays in the system with a number of children saying they have lived in the system since they were born
· They are stigmatised because of where they live, in addition to some racism
· They want their families to get their papers so that they can live normal lives
· They are unhappy with the level of financial assistance their parents receive, which impacts directly and indirectly on them
· They dislike the cramped, shared and often sub-standard accommodation they live in
· They often have nothing to do, when recreational facilities are inadequate or lacking entirely
· They say that the food they are served is not culturally appropriate; is of low nutritional value; and is often poorly cooked to the point of being dangerous to their health
· They state that menus are monotonous and packed school lunches are exactly the same every day
· They feel unsafe when families are sharing space with single men
· They experience disrespectful attitudes from staff at the centres towards them and their mothers
· They cannot enjoy a normal social life due to lack of suitable transport, clothing and money.