Thursday, 22 February 2018

Questions (210)

Bernard Durkan


210. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which support services are being made available to children who may be at risk as a result of being undocumented non-nationals; the extent to which further measures are planned to protect such children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9245/18]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

In Ireland, the administration of the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports to asylum seekers, comes under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality. However, the Child Care Act, 1991, applies to all children resident in the State irrespective of their immigration status. Under the Child Care Act, 1991 and the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has a duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care or protection. Tusla provides support for these children for as long as their welfare requires it.

Children First National Guidance (2011) gives advice for notifying Tusla of situations where abuse is suspected. A range of professionals including teachers, nurses, early years educators, Gardaí and other health professionals, who see children regularly, are in a good position to identify children at risk. Where someone has reasonable grounds for suspecting a child is being, or has been, abused, they are expected to immediately contact Tusla.

The Children First Act, 2015 places a statutory obligation on key professionals (mandated persons) to report concerns of harm above a defined threshold to Tusla without delay. These provisions were commenced on December 11th, last year.

When a child who is undocumented, and is living with his or her parent or guardian, is taken into care, their needs are given priority. A social worker is assigned to the child and prepares a care plan, in consultation with the child. The plan should be dynamic and formally reviewed regularly. Intrinsic to this process is ensuring that the voice and best interest of the child are central. When outlined in the care plan, Tusla will assist the child with the process of establishing residency.

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children who seek the assistance of the State are placed in the statutory care of Tusla. Their needs are assessed by an allocated social worker from a specialist team who work exclusively with unaccompanied minors. They receive appropriate educational, social and medical counselling support. In the course of 2017, 140 unaccompanied children were received into Tusla care. Additionally, in the course of 2017 and January 2018, 36 children were received under the Calais Special Project.

Before travelling to Ireland, the Calais children were screened by the Gardaí and Department of Justice and Equality officials, and their residency status was approved.

Children who, with their parents, live in Direct Provision, are provided with welfare supports as required. Tusla have seconded an experienced social work team leader to the Department of Justice and Equality to liaise directly between Direct Provision and Tusla services.