Thursday, 3 December 2020

Questions (138)

Steven Matthews

Question:

138. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the steps he will take to ensure that persons being moved from direct provision are provided sufficient notice and adequate translation services to ensure this transition is as seamless as possible (details supplied). [39271/20]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Children)

What steps will the Minister take to ensure that persons being moved from direct provision are provided with sufficient notice and adequate translation services to ensure that this transition is as seamless as possible?

Where a person or a family are in temporary emergency accommodation, the International Protection Accommodation Service, IPAS, endeavours to move them to more suitable permanent accommodation in the shortest time possible, notwithstanding pressures on the IPAS accommodation portfolio. It is IPAS's policy to prioritise the movement of family units from emergency accommodation when suitable accommodation appropriate to their needs becomes available. In addition, IPAS is working towards all families being in some form of own-door accommodation which will meet their needs more appropriately than congregated accommodation.

Residents are generally provided with at least ten days of notice before being moved to new accommodation. The letter of transfer is issued in English. However, where a person makes a request for this letter in another language, this can be arranged. A confidential freephone telephone support service funded by my Department, but operated by the Jesuit refugee service, may also assist residents in this regard. I will consider whether further measures are needed to translate this information into languages other than English.

While it is appreciated that a move to a new home is difficult for anyone, particularly where a family may have started to establish connections within a community, most moves occur as part of a wider programme aimed at ending the use of temporary accommodation as recommended by the advisory group on the provision of support, including accommodation, to persons in the international protection process. While it would be preferable to give a longer lead-in time prior to a move, the limited availability of accommodation and the need to make space available to new arrivals mean that moves to more suitable accommodation must be done quickly.

This question has arisen from what was broadly a good news story and comes from my colleague, Deputy Matthews, whose office dealt with the case. The family, who I will not name, lived in direct provision in Wicklow. They were offered own-door accommodation in Galway. The way in which this was handled was, unfortunately, problematic. I am not blaming the Minister personally. The family ended up being extremely distressed as they did not speak English and therefore did not understand why they were being moved. Eventually, after a number of days, a letter was provided to them in their own language, which eased their concerns by a small amount, but at no point was a translator provided to explain why they were moving. This family has come from a situation where people being moved by government has a much more serious connotation and they were understandably distressed. It required the intervention of a schoolteacher known to the family, a local Deputy and a local county councillor to get information to this family. As we move towards ending direct provision, which I know we both support, I encourage the Minister's Department to work on communication with people in this situation to make the transition from these centres as seamless as possible.

I am aware of the case and I am grateful to Deputy Matthews for drawing it to my attention. It was a situation where there was a good story, with a family being moved from emergency accommodation in a hotel to own-door accommodation in another location, but they did not fully understand the positive nature of the move because of the lack of translation. I am aware of that and understand that we need to improve our engagement with residents, particularly where the English language is an issue.

We have the Jesuit refugee service, representatives of which I have met recently. It does great work in supporting families and individuals in direct provision, particularly those for whom English is not their first language. I take the Deputy's point on board. We will consider how we can better support the provision of translation services to residents in the international protection process.

I thank the Minister. We have run out of time but if the Deputy wishes he can make a final comment.

No, but I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I thank the Deputy for his co-operation. That completes questions to the Minister.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.