Discussions are ongoing between officials in my Department and the HSE to enable formal vulnerability assessments for applicants for international protection by the end of the year. This will ensure that a coherent process is in place for both the health and non-health aspects required in formalised assessments.
To assist in determining how best we can meet the health and related needs of applicants, the HSE National Office for Social Inclusion has recently commissioned research to explore the concept of vulnerability with a view to further improving our existing processes and I look forward to the outcome of this research.
I expect that the Advisory Group on Supports including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process, chaired by Catherine Day will report by the end of this month
In June 2018, Ireland opted into the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive. This Directive lays down the standards for the reception of international protection applicants. The Directive requires Member States to take into account the specific situation of vulnerable persons and to assess their special reception needs.
A whole-of-Government approach to the provision of services to applicants for International Protection means that several Government Departments and agencies work closely together to ensure the necessary supports and services are provided to residents accommodated by my Department.
If 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.
Safetynet, a primary care health service, carries out health screening, on behalf of the HSE, in a number of the temporary accommodation locations currently in use by the Department. The International Protection Accommodation Service work closely with the HSE screening team and with Safetynet to ensure that protection applicants are moved to locations where their medical needs can be met. We also work collaboratively to ensure that any special accommodation arrangements are in place as required.
Every effort is made to ensure that residents' specific needs are met. My Department officials routinely identify vulnerabilities and assess applicants for any special reception needs to meet their accommodation requirements. This is especially the case for families with young children and for applicants with a disability. During the COVID pandemic, assessments have also been made for our older residents to ensure that their cocooning needs are met. Where more intensive healthcare needs are required, such cases are referred directly to the HSE.