As the Deputy will be aware, while a claim for International Protection is being examined, the State is legally obliged to offer accommodation and related services to anyone without means - which includes all meals, medical care and utilities. A weekly personal allowance is paid to each person in a centre and exceptional needs are covered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
My Department requires additional accommodation centres as the number of people arriving to seek our protection continues to rise (figures are up 36% in the first half of this year). There are also now more than 1,300 people placed in emergency accommodation in hotels and guesthouses. This is a highly unsatisfactory situation and can only be regarded as a short-term solution. The procurement of new accommodation centres has been approached in two ways.
Firstly, the Department has advertised in the national media for expressions of interest from property owners for a short-term contract (usually one year) to meet demand while the regional tender process is rolled out nationally. Centres in Kenmare, Lisdoonvarna, Mallow, Moate and Wicklow were opened in 2018 through this process. Further centres may also be opened through this process.
Secondly, my Department is running procurement competitions on a regional basis throughout the country to procure accommodation through the government’s procurement portal, Etenders. These contracts will be longer term than the expressions of interest with a minimum contract duration of 2 years on offer and a maximum contract duration of 4 years.
Accommodation providers can offer premises both through the expressions of interest process or the tender process.
The following regional competitions have progressed through the evaluation stage and are in the mobilisation phase; the South East, Midlands and the MidWest Regions. Evaluation is underway for the South West and Western Regions. The closing date for bids for the Mid East Region was the 16 September and evaluation will commence shortly. Advertisements for bids for the Dublin Region was published on 18 September and advertisements for the Borders Region are scheduled to be published by the end of this month.
The Deputy will be aware, that until the procurement process, which is commercially sensitive, is complete, it is not possible to confirm any specific locations or premises.
Tenders received are evaluated on the most economically advantageous tender method which assesses bids on the quality of service as well as price. The level, expertise and qualifications of staff are assessed as part of this process.
I recently published agreed National Standards for accommodation centres. The Standards will apply to all service providers contracted by the Department to operate and manage accommodation and reception centres. They provide a framework for the continued development of supports and services for residents by improving the quality of care and ensuring consistency across the centres. A copy of the Standards can be found on my Department's website www.justice.ie.