I am aware of the incident in the accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy which I understand has now ended.
The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department worked closely with the accommodation centre staff, relevant state agencies and other service providers with regard to the resident’s needs and situation for the duration of the incident. Such engagement will continue to ensure that the required health needs are met through the onsite medical services at the centre which includes a full primary care service and nursing staff.
I can assure the Deputies that the health and wellbeing of all people who avail of accommodation provided by my Department is of the highest priority to my Department.
Where a protection applicant chooses to accept an offer of accommodation from my Department, they will, in normal circumstances, be first brought to the National Reception Centre in Balseskin, Dublin. At Balseskin, they will be offered a health assessment by the on-site HSE team, which comprises a nurse, nurse specialist, area medical officer, general practitioners, social worker and psychologist. This ensures that applicants can be assessed for any special reception needs that they may have before they are designated an accommodation centre. The IPAS work closely with the HSE screening team to ensure that Protection applicants are moved to locations where their medical needs can be met.
It is important to note that services for all International Protection applicants (including health services) are mainstreamed. Protection applicants are linked with primary care services (GPs). They are entitled to a medical card while residing in International Protection accommodation and have a waiver of prescription charges. Applicants access health services through the same referral pathways as Irish citizens including referral to disability and mental health services. Every effort is made to ensure that residents' specific needs are met.
The Deputy will be aware that 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 and I expect that it will be submitted to Government later this month.