Words: Dylan Murphy
In a report published today, the Ombudsman revealed concerns about child protection in Direct Provision centres.
The Children’s Ombudsman has raised concerns about a number of child protection shortcomings in the Direct Provision system in Ireland. An investigation found that despite assurances otherwise, staff members in one centre had not been vetted to work with children or received child protection training. Additionally, in the same centre, a serious child protection concern was not reported.
It comes as the report from the Ombudsman noted a “culture of fear”, highlighting that parents were told incorrectly if their children were left unsupervised that they could be removed from their care.
Compounding these issues were the concerns raised by a parent at the same centre. They are said to have voiced their concern about the opaqueness of the complaint system. The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman noted there were no interpretive services on-site, increasing the difficulty in making complaints, saying it effectively “gagged” parents from making complaints. The same parent also raised concerns about the nutritional content of the food served in the Direct Provision centre and the lack of safe recreational areas for children.
However, they did not take their complaint further due to “fear of reprisals”.
The concerns over the practices in the centre led the ombudsman to make an inquiry into child protection standards across the whole direct provision system. This investigation found “no evidence” that they were all complying with Children First, key child protection legislation and he called for immediate improvements whilst the transition to ending the Direct Provision system was still ongoing.
“There are still children and families living in unsuitable accommodation and that will not change for at least three years,” the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said.