The Child Care Act, 1991 applies to all children resident in the State, regardless of their immigration status. Under the Child Care Act, 1991 and the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, Tusla has a duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care or protection.
The Agency is obliged to provide care for these children for as long as their welfare requires it. It should be noted that children living in direct provision are in the care of their parent(s).
My colleague, the Minister of Justice and Equality has responsibility for the direct provision service, which is provided through a dedicated Reception and Integration Agency. Senior officials from my Department are currently engaged with the Department of Justice and Equality on the development of Standards for Direct Provision Centres, and I look forward to the results of this work.
A senior social worker from Tusla is seconded to the Reception and Integration Agency, providing social work advice to the Agency, and working directly with Direct Provision Centres to develop their child safeguarding practices and links to community supports.
Concerns about the welfare, safety or well-being of a child in direct provision are reported to Tusla, in line with Children First Legislation.
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 where there are welfare or safety issues.
The Children First Act, 2015 places a statutory obligation on key professionals, such as those I have named, to report concerns of harm above a defined threshold, to Tusla without delay.
Direct Provision Centre managers are categorised as Designated Persons under Children First, and so are required to make mandatory reports of concerns relating to children resident in their centres.
Direct Provision Centres are also required to have child safeguarding statements and practices in place.
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 a social worker from a specialist team who work exclusively with unaccompanied minors. They receive appropriate educational, social, medical and counselling support.