On 15 August, the National Standards for accommodation offered to people in the protection process were published by my Department. The Standards were prepared by a Standards Advisory Group, established in 2017 and comprising officials from my Department, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the HSE National Office for Social Inclusion as well as representatives from AkiDwA, Children's Rights Alliance, the Core Group of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, the Jesuit Refugee Service, SPIRASI, and the UNHCR. The standards will come into force in January 2021.
The standards address a range of themes including accommodation provided for those people seeking the protection of the State, food and catering, individual, community and family life, health and wellbeing, governance and meeting the special reception needs of applicants. They therefore build on the work done in the 2015 McMahon Report and meet the requirements of the Recast Reception Directive.
The policy on how the new inspection process will operate, in accordance with the standards, has yet to be finalised. However, I would anticipate that this will be decided in the short term in order that the new inspection regime can be put in place prior to the introduction of the standards in January 2021. As such, the determination of who will undertake the inspection process and whether unannounced inspections will be incorporated has yet to be fully decided.
I am committed to developing a robust independent inspection process to monitor and ensure compliance with the standards following their implementation. I would note, however, that at present all accommodation centres are subject to regular unannounced inspections by both staff of my Department's Immigration Service and an independent inspector and that the current procurement process in respect of direct provision accommodation was designed with a view to ensuring that all direct provision accommodation will adhere to the National Standards.