The Irish Association of Social Workers is the national organisation of professional social workers in the Republic of Ireland. The IASW is also an active member of the International Federation of Social Workers.
Throughout the country social workers encounter asylum seekers on a daily basis in their work within hospitals, mental health teams, child protection & welfare services, disabilities services, primary care teams and other settings. Recently, the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) endorsed a submission to the Working Group on the Protection Process based on research conducted by Maeve Foreman (TCD) and Muireann Ní Raghallaigh (UCD). Some of the views of social workers can be read here [insert hyperlink to HRI blog by Foreman & Ní Raghallaigh]. In this blog the IASW summarises the submission’s suggestions for change to the DP system. (It should be noted that while many of the research respondents were of the view that direct provision should be abolished, the abolition of DP is outside of the terms of reference of the working group)
- Ensure that interagency and interdepartmental collaboration between state and non state actors occurs to enable the development of onsite services that could focus on prevention and family support.
- Employ a Principal Social Worker to work in RIA’s Child and Family Services Unit in order to order to further develop their support services in collaboration with existing agencies.
- Allocate resources to target proactive and preventative work. This is in line with Goal 2 of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020 (DCYA, 2014). Promoting the child protection and welfare of all children in the asylum system is identified as a Government commitment under section 4.8 of the document (DCYA, 2014:93).
- Provide onsite supports within DP centres that could focus on family support, prevention and referral to community resources/supports. There is a need for RIA, HSE and TUSLA to work together in relation to this.
- Ensure that professional social work and multidisciplinary teams identify staff members whose responsibility it is to develop links with the local DP centre and with others working with asylum seekers. Having one or two staff members with this responsibility (along with other responsibilities of course) would ensure that sufficient expertise in this complex area of practice is developed. In addition, it will ensure that efforts can be made to develop trusting relationships both with asylum seekers themselves and with the management and personnel working in Direct Provision centres, an important consideration given the difficulties asylum seekers often have in trusting.
- Ensure both HSE and TUSLA employed social workers have access to necessary resources to enable them to work in a culturally sensitive manner (e.g. extra time, suitably qualified interpreters, transport costs). Ensure that all staff working with asylum seekers receive cultural diversity training. This should include all staff working in Direct Provision centres. When recruiting staff, the capacity of applicants to work in a fair, respectful and compassionate manner should be considered.
- Efforts could be made to ensure that asylum seekers in Direct Provision are given more choice and autonomy about their lives and the lives of their children. This could include being able to cook for themselves. Substantially increasing the Direct Provision allowance was viewed as key, as it was felt that the small allowance hindered the exercising of choice, even when, hypothetically, choice was allowed (e.g. choosing a GP). Having choice would facilitate the enhancement of self-esteem and confidence, give a sense of renewed hope, and would be particularly important in prevention of and recovery from mental ill health (Mental Health Commission, 2005).
- Ideally end the Direct Provision system and develop a more humane short-term reception system for newly arrived asylum seekers. If Direct Provision remains it should only be used for a short length of time such as six months. If it becomes necessary to use Direct Provision beyond that, permission to work should be granted pending the outcome of the asylum claim, as in other jurisdictions.
- Ensure that all agencies gather appropriate data regarding the number of asylum seeking and refugee individuals and families accessing their services in order to ensure that service development can occur in the context of up-to-date data.