426. Deputy Gabrielle McFadden asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reforms that are being proposed aimed at improving conditions in direct provision accommodation, following the publication of the report of the working group on direct provision and the protection process; if timelines are in place to effect any proposed reforms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34339/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Report of the Working Group on the Protection Process was published on 30 June 2015. The Report contains 173 recommendations many of which have implications for a number of Government Departments and services.
The Government in its decision of the 30 June 2015 recommended that the Report of the Working Group on the Protection Process should in the first instance be the subject of a detailed discussion at the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform. The Committee agreed that my Department should prepare a report for the Cabinet Committee, in conjunction with relevant Departments, on the legal financial and practical implications of the Report's recommendations, including those aimed at improving conditions in Direct Provision accommodation. Each Department is currently examining the recommendations to determine timescales for implementation and any impacts and issues that may arise. My Department will be working with Departments on an overall response in the coming weeks.
The Government has decided to bring forward as a major priority the International Protection Bill which will provide for the introduction of a single applications procedure for international protection. This reform will simplify and streamline the existing arrangements and provide applicants with a final decision on their protection application in a more straightforward and timely fashion and will also, as a consequence, reduce the length of time applicants spend in the Direct Provision system.
In addition, the Minister for Health has already signed an order exempting persons in receipt of a Direct Provision allowance from prescription charges and the Minister for Education and Skills has initiated a grants scheme to support certain categories of students in the protection process to access third level studies this year.