I can confirm that my officials in the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) have not received such complaints from the residents in the accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy or through other verifiable sources.
IPAS has a complaints procedure which is set out in the House Rules & Procedures Booklet for International Protection applicants. Complaints are made initially to the centre manager with a view to informal resolution. If the person concerned is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint, he or she may make a complaint to IPAS who will investigate the matter and take action as appropriate. In the event that a resident is not satisfied with how his or her complaint is dealt with, he or she has full access to the services of the Office of the Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children’s Office.
A confidential Freephone telephone support service, funded by but independent of my Department, was also established in May 2020 to provide further support to residents in both permanent and temporary accommodation centres. This Freephone confidential support helpline is operated by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
All the Department’s accommodation centres are subject to regular unannounced inspections by both staff from IPAS and an independent inspectorate company. Part of the inspection process deals directly with the provision of food services. Meals are assessed during inspection for quality, cultural appropriateness and variety of menu options. Menus must include a vegetarian option and all food products provided must have a traceability system that complies with food safety requirements. Any issues identified are notified to the contractor to be addressed immediately. It should also be noted that our accommodation centres are subject to inspections by Environmental Health Officers.
Three inspections by IPAS took place in the accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy in 2020. The reports will be published on IPAS's website www.ria.gov.ie in due course as are all such inspection reports. Some apartments have been refurbished at this centre in 2020. New kitchens, a new play area and a shop have also been recently installed. Residents may speak directly with inspectors during these visits and it has been reported that during the last inspection, in December 2020, many residents stated that they were very happy staying at this accommodation location.
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. We have 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 I expect to publish this month.
I am committed to improving standards in International Protection accommodation as the Government works to end Direct Provision. As such my Department has also engaged with HIQA with regard to monitoring the implementation of national standards for IPAS Accommodation Centres that were published in 2019. It is expected that this process will begin in the coming months.