A number of things come to mind. One is the issue of complaints received and complaints raised. Our exposure, certainly in my own case and that of Senator Black and it probably applies to others, is not confined to the committee's visits. Many residents do not raise issues. Such issues can be referenced and what other yardstick can be measured, other than complaints received and complaints raised? Many do not raise complaints because they are vulnerable people and such vulnerability is acting as a brake on their coming forward. Some of the big issues, like the dignity of work, are so important. I totally concur with Mr. Tyndall's remarks that this has made a significant difference in the lives of so many. Without putting a tooth in it, the nine-month restriction is unnecessary and very restrictive. Whatever about having any such timeframe applied, nine months is wholly inappropriate.
The length of time is the big issue. I know of people who have been resident for many years in direct provision centres including, as the Ombudsman's office have indicated, 900 people who already have status but who remain there. I recently made representations on the housing need one of such family with Irish-born children. The local authority responded, however, that their application would be progressed as soon as they took up private rented accommodation in the wider community and that their application did not come directly from the direct provision address. This is a very serious matter. This may not be within their gift. Economic and financial restrictions may not make that a live option for that family.
As for emergency accommodation, I come from a part of the country where there has been a significant cluster of such accommodation provision.
In the course of our visit to that neck of the woods - Senator Black kept referring to it as "up there" but it is where I come from - we met good people, who one might call "friends of" and who are keen to be of support and assistance. I concur with Mr Tyndall, who made two specific requests of us in his opening remarks.
The emergency accommodation situation is wholly and absolutely inappropriate and unacceptable. The resourcing responsibility for RIA rests with the Government in the first instance. RIA must, however, be responsible for taking the initiative and identifying the means by which we are in a position to meet our international obligations for people who present on our shores, many of whom are in fear of their lives. It is a very pressing and continuing need. It may in time ease with the resolution of conflicts in different global locations. As matters stand, there is no indication that any of these crisis points in different parts of the globe are anywhere near a resolution.
In picking up on some of the responses given, are no vulnerability assessments being carried out independently, which is the key word here? Can I have some elaboration on that point, please? During my exposure, and that of colleagues, to a direct provision centre, one young person presented documentary evidence, which I can only accept in good faith, to the effect that that person was a child. However, on foot of representations with which I followed up - some colleagues will recall the case in question - RIA absolutely rejected, even with the documentary evidence presented, that the young person was 16 years of age. It held rigidly to this view and refused to provide for the needs of that very young person. I have to accept the evidence provided as to the birth certificate, which appeared to be a valid legal document. This is the only case that comes to mind as to vulnerability but there is nobody more vulnerable than an unaccompanied child, even one of 16 years of age who may be physically developed. Could the Ombudsman's office address that issue for me, not necessarily the particular case in question or its type, but the issue of the vulnerability assessments? Can the office clarify the area of responsibility where this should be done and whose role this is in the first instance?