The Direct Provision Report: Summary of Recommendations on Accommodation Standards

DP ReportYou can find my preliminary analysis of the McMahon Report on the Protection Process and Direct Provision System here.

You can access the McMahon Report here.

The Working Group has made a number of unqualified recommendations, qualified recommendations and requests for further reviews of different aspects of direct provision accommodation.

  1. The Unqualified Recommendations

These recommendations relate to a number of core areas, including:

  1. Multi-Disciplinary Assessment:[1] Multi-disciplinary assessment of needs of protection applicants within 30 days, and for this to be taken into account in the protection determination process, with follow up on an “on-going and regular basis”. Communication between different statutory agencies and others (RIA, legal advisors, health care providers etc.). Steps should be taken to encourage protection applicants avail of this assessment.
  2. Accommodation Provision:[2] All single residents sharing rooms and all family units should be provided with an individual locker for storage of personal items. This should be acted on without delay. All requests for tenders should specify adequate indoor and outdoor recreational space for children and young people, and consultations with resident children and young people “should be built into the specifications.”[3] All requests for tenders for centres for single people should specify the requirement for communal kitchens.[4] There should be consultation with residents on 28-day menu cycles.[5]
  3. Standards and Oversight: Extending the remit of Ombudsman and OCO to cover complaints relating to services provided to persons in direct provision and transfer decisions. Residents can contact either (or both) offices after internal mechanisms are exhausted (including an independent appeal).[6] RIA must appoint an officer to ensure complaints are dealt with. Complaint mechanisms must be open to all residents, including children and young people.[7] RIA must build confidence and trust in these complaints systems and that residents will not be adversely affected by making a complaint and “ensure centre management buy into the importance of ensuring an open culture that is conducive to residents making complaints.”[8] Contracts with providers should ensure managers have experience of working with refugees and protection applicants.[9] Centre Managers should have knowledge of basic mental health issues and health services, social welfare system, medical issues, a compassionate and empathetic style.[10]
  4. Transfers:[11] RIA should continue to provide detailed reasons for involuntary transfer. Recording of statistics in relation to voluntary and involuntary transfers.
  5. Child Protection: Access to cultural diversity training for social workers, with the identification of a named social worker by the Child and Family Agency and the Health Service Executive to contact in each direct provision centre.[12] RIA is to continue to have consideration of child safety when assigning residents to direct provision centres.[13
  6. Community Outreach: By the end of 2015, all direct provision centres should enter into partnership agreements with local leisure and sports clubs.[14]

 

  1. The Qualified Recommendations

These recommendations all relate to accommodation provision. All recommendations as regards greater respect for private and family life are significantly qualified. RIA informed the Working Group that it was not clear that all centres would be “structurally in a position to effect the proposed changes…”[15] It could take “upwards of” two years, from issue of tender to get new accommodation on stream that would meet the recommendations of the McMahon Report.[16] In any event, given the “market for self-contained units”,[17] some of the recommendations below may not be possible to implement.

Two core phrases come up time and again in the McMahon Report’s recommendations on direct provision accommodation: “in so far as practicable” and “subject to any contractual obligations”. All direct provision accommodation facilities are to be in line with a proposed “Standard Setting Committee” that will “reflect government policy across all areas of service in Direct Provision”.[18] The highly qualified recommendations include:

 

  1. All centres should “in so far as is practicable” provide a secure storage facility for bulky items (e.g. suitcases).[19]
  2. In so far as practicable, all existing centres should install appropriate play, recreation and study facilities.[20]
  • “Subject to contractual obligations”, RIA should “identify spare capacity within accommodation centres, and seek to bring this on stream to alleviate cramped conditions for those sharing”.[21]
  1. 80% of single persons in direct provision accommodation currently share rooms.[22] Single persons should have a right to apply for a single room after 9 months and this should be ensured “in so far as reasonably practicable”, that they are offered a room after 15 months.[23] By the end of 2016, existing centres for single people should be reconfigured to provide communal kitchens “in so far as reasonably practicable having regard to any contractual obligations.”[24] This should run in parallel with a catering option “as not all residents may wish to cater for themselves.”[25]

As regards Families, practically all recommendations are significantly qualified. A core recommendation is that families should have access to cooking facilities and private living spaces “is so far as practicable”.[26] In order to achieve this:

  1. Within 12 months of completion of the final report of the Working Group” existing direct provision centres that have cooking facilities should allow access to these “in so far as practicable and subject to any contractual obligations”.[27] This should run parallel to a catering option “as not all residents may wish to cater for themselves.”[28]
  2. There should be consultation on the cooking supplies provided to residents;[29]
  3. Within 6 months of the final report”, direct provision centres that do not have cooking facilities and “subject to any contractual obligations” facilitate parents/young persons to make school lunches for themselves. The Report then lists the types of food that could be provided. [30]
  4. By end 2016”, “a sufficient number of centres” should be reconfigured to provide families with use of their own “private living space” “in so far as practicable having regard to contractual obligations”.[31]
  5. All requests for tenders (presumably new tenders) should “specify the requirement for self-contained units with cooking facilities and/or family quarters together with communal kitchens.[32]
  1. Further Reviews and Assessments

There are a significant number of requested further reviews or assessments or recommendations for the creation of new administrative bodies:

  1. RIA should without delay “develop a set of criteria” taking into account the multipurpose nature of bedrooms in direct provision accommodation. This criteria should “take account” of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government’s criteria for quality housing.[33] This should take account of the fact that (i) each room should facilitate a range of activities; (ii) adequate floor areas and room sizes (iii) well proportioned spaces (iv) furniture and person effects should allow free circulation within the room.[34] Once this review is complete, RIA should ensure that capacity is aligned with the review, “in so far as contractual obligations permit.”[35]
  2. RIA should “without delay” complete a review as to minimum requirements in terms of furniture for multi-purpose direct provision rooms to suit sleeping as well as living e.g. chair, desk and adequate storage.[36]
  • All of the criteria identified above “should be” incorporated into tender requests for accommodation centres.[37]
  1. RIA should conduct a “nutritional audit” to ensure food meets required standards including for children, breastfeeding mothers and needs of those with medical conditions.[38]
  2. RIA should conduct a “review of security arrangements” in direct provision accommodation centres, to ensure measures are proportionate to security risk.[39]
  3. RIA “should review” its proposals in relation to guests in private quarters in terms of the proportionality of the reformed ‘House Rules’;[40]
  • Establishment of an inspectorate (or identify an existing body) to assess accommodation in light of standards set down by the ‘standard setting committee’. The Inspectorate should also make regular reports on general matters relating to welfare of residents in Direct Provision centres.[41]
  • Child and Family Agency (CFA) “should liaise” with RIA to develop a child welfare strategy and to advise on individual cases;[42]
  1. RIA, in conjunction with CFA, “should review” its House Rules as regards parents leaving children under 14 unsupervised;[43]
  2. CFA, HSE and RIA “should collaborate” to provide early intervention and onsite supports to direct provision residents.[44]

[1] McMahon Report, paras 4.210.

[2] McMahon Report, paras 4.54.

[3] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, bullet point 3.

[4] McMahon Report, paras 7.75, bullet point 1(iii).

[5] McMahon Report, para. 4.102, bullet point 2.

[6] McMahon Report, paras 4.135.

[7] McMahon Report, para. 4.135, bullet point 3 (ii).

[8] McMahon Report, para. 4.135, bullet point 3 (iii).

[9] McMahon Report, para. 4.155, bullet point 1.

[10] Ibid.

[11] McMahon Report, para. 4.139.

[12] McMahon Report, para. 4.199.

[13] Ibid.

[14] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, bullet point 3.

[15] McMahon Report, para.4.77 and 4.89.

[16] McMahon Report, para. 4.78.

[17] McMahon Report, para. 4.78.

[18] McMahon Report, para. 47 and 4.226.

[19] McMahon Report, para. 4.58, Bullet Point 6.

[20] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, Bullet Point 2.

[21] McMahon Report, para. 4.58, Bullet Point 1.

[22] McMahon Report, para. 41 and 487, Bullet Point 2.

[23] Ibid.

[24] McMahon Report, para. 40 and para. 4.75.

[25] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, Bullet Point 1(ii).

[26] McMahon Report, para. 4.75.

[27] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, bullet point 1(i).

[28] Ibid.

[29] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, bullet point 1(ii).

[30] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, bullet point 1(iii).

[31] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, bullet point 1(iv).

[32] McMahon Report, para. 4.75, bullet point 1(v).

[33] DECLG, Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities (2007).

[34] McMahon Report, para. 4.58, bullet point 2 (i)-(iv).

[35] McMahon Report, para. 4.58, bullet point 3.

[36] McMahon Report, para. 4.58, bullet point 4.

[37] McMahon Report, para. 4.58, bullet point 6.

[38] McMahon Report, para. 4.99 and para. 4.102.

[39] McMahon Report, para. 4.122, Bullet Point 1.

[40] McMahon Report, para. 659. These House Rules were found to be unlawful in CA & TA v Minister for Justice [2014] IEHC 532, see further: Thornton, L., “C.A. and T.A.: The Direct Provision Case”, (2014) 4 Irish Journal of Family Law 116.

[41] McMahon Report, para. 4.426, Bullet Points 2-3.

[42] McMahon Report, para. 4.199, Bullet Point 1.

[43] McMahon Report, para. 4.199, Bullet Point 2.

[44] McMahon Report, para. 4.199, Bullet Point 3.

The Direct Provision Report: Summary of Recommendations on Accommodation Standards

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