313. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons since 1 July 2018 found to have special reception needs according to section 8 of SI No. 230 of 2018 - European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27559/19]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): The EU Directive 2013/333/EU was transposed in to Irish Law in June 2018 as the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018, which provides for an assessment in relation to special reception needs within 30 days of presentation or application. Once assessed as having special reception needs, there are a number of ways in which those needs are responded to. For example, Tusla provides the required supports to meet the needs of unaccompanied minors once identified as such.
Vulnerable persons include minors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents, victims of human trafficking, persons with serious illnesses, persons with mental disorders and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, such as victims of female genital mutilation.
The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is not privy to all information held by other agencies or Departments in relation to applicants of international protection. The individual professionals communicate with RIA (within the bounds of patient confidentiality) if a particular need is identified that will affect the person’s accommodation requirements. As a result, it is not possible to provide data on the number of persons found to have special reception needs.
An initial interview is conducted with all applicants when they first attend the International Protection Office in Dublin. If the applicant indicates at that point that he or she requires accommodation, he or she will then be assessed for any specific accommodation needs. The information provided is taken into account when assigning accommodation to the particular individual.
As detailed in the Regulations, the Minister for Health and the HSE has a lead responsibility in relation to health including mental health assessments. Applicants are invited for an initial health assessment on a voluntary basis. Every effort is made to ensure that residents' specific needs are met. Where more intensive care needs are required, such cases are referred to the HSE.
There is a specific Health Screening Team funded and managed by the HSE located on the site of the Balseskin Reception facility for the purpose of assessing those who have just arrived in the State. The team comprises of GPs, a Medical Officer, a Clinical Nurse Specialist and two nurses, a primary care social worker, two primary care psychologists and clerical/administration support. This team offers a range of individual services and screening for medical and psychosocial needs with onward referral as necessary.
In addition, arrangements are in place with Safetynet, who carry out health screening in various parts of the country on behalf of the HSE, to offer this screening service to those who do not, for whatever reason, avail of it in Dublin. Safetynet staff liaise with RIA if the person is deemed vulnerable on medical or related grounds. This can include a request that particular steps be taken as regards that person’s accommodation.
There is on-going engagement between RIA and the HSE in relation to how best to meet the health and related needs of protection applicants. The HSE National Office for Social Inclusion has commissioned research to explore the concept of vulnerability with a view to further improving on the processes which are already in place.
It is important to emphasise that all sectors within the Direct Protection system share a role in identifying and supporting applicants who present as vulnerable. This is particularly the case where vulnerabilities may become evident beyond the initial stage of the protection process.
The Department continues to work hard to improve services to persons claiming international protection and seek our assistance, and to meet the requirements of the 2018 regulations, despite significant pressures with regard to the provision of accommodation.