The Programme for Government contains a commitment to ending the Direct Provision system and replacing it with a new International Protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach. The Government has also committed to the development of a White Paper which will set out how this new system will be structured and the steps to achieving it.
My Department is currently developing the White Paper, which will set out options, together with the recommended direction, for the new model of accommodation and services for International Protection applicants and the transitional processes needed to implement the model. Options for developing a not-for-profit approach are currently being examined in this regard.
Good progress has been made on drafting the White Paper and I now expect it will be submitted to Government later this month.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic presented challenges to maintaining the health and safety of residents living within International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) as it did for many aspects of Irish society at the time and still does to the present day.
In order to safeguard our residents many measures have been put in place by IPAS in conjunction with the HSE. These measures were first implemented from the time that country-wide restrictions were imposed in March and April 2020 and they continue to be implemented and added to for all our accommodation centres.
- Provision for self-isolation facilities Centres and offsite self-isolation?
- Provision of a free, confidential and independent support line for residents operated by the Jesuit Refugee Service?
- Increased capacity to support physical and social distancing ensuring no more than 3 non-related persons share a bedroom?
- Enhanced cleaning regimes and provision of PPE to all accommodation centres?
- Regular communications and information on public health advice to residents and centre managers?
- Cocooning of all medically vulnerable and over 65 residents?
- Accommodation scheme for healthcare workers?
- IPAS Living with COVID Plan which clearly explains how each of the five levels of restrictions in the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 affects residents and visitors to centres?
My officials in IPAS have at all times cooperated fully with the HSE in respect of any testing that Public Health may decide to undertake. Any resident who tests positive is moved offsite for self-isolation, along with their close contacts in the centre, until such time as the HSE considers that they can safely return to their centre. The HSE operates two off-site facilities and IPAS has also provided one isolation centre.
The second quarantine facility is used to accommodate people who had been residing in IPAS accommodation and left their accommodation of their own volition. Where such persons seek to return to IPAS accommodation, they are requested to quarantine for 14 days in the quarantine facility as an additional precaution before being re-accommodated.
PPE also continues to be distributed to the centres.