The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of protection applicants in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Direct provision provides for full board accommodation supports while a final decision is awaited by a person on their protection or any related leave to remain application. As at 8 June 2014 there were 4,353 persons availing of direct provision accommodation and supports in 34 accommodation centres in the State.
The sixth report of the Special Rapporteur on Children relating to 2012 was published on the website of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in July 2013. There is no specific reference to children in Direct Provision in that report. Nonetheless, I have recounted in detail in replies to previous Dáil Questions how the Government affords the highest priority to the safeguarding and protection of children in that system. In particular, I have pointed out that RIA operates a Child Protection Policy is based on the HSE's "Children First - National Guidelines for the protection and welfare of children" and that there is a specific unit in RIA called the Child and Family Services Unit, which is fully staffed and whose role is to manage, deliver, coordinate, monitor and plan all matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers residing in the direct provision system.
More generally, I acknowledge that the length of time that residents spend in Direct Provision is an issue to be addressed. My immediate priority is that the factors which lead to delays in the processing of cases are dealt with. In this regard, legislative reform aimed at establishing a single application procedure for the investigation of all grounds for protection is a key priority for this Government. Such reform would substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements by removing the current multi-layered and sequential processes and provide applicants with a final decision on their application in a more straightforward and timely fashion. In consultation with my officials, I am reviewing the work done to date in respect of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill and will then decide on how best to progress the implementation of the Government's priorities, in particular to expedite those relating to the establishment of a single application procedure.