Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (700)

John Lahart


700. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice if she has had officials examine the diet in direct provision centres with reports alleging that the quality of the food is not child friendly nor does it meet daily nutritional guideline amounts. [26455/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

It is a contractual obligation on all service providers of accommodation centres that a 28 day menu be provided and that residents are consulted on that menu. Menus must meet the reasonable dietary and cultural needs of the different ethnic groups accommodated at the centre and the reasonable prescribed dietary needs of any resident.  Menus must include a vegetarian option and all food products provided must have a traceability system that complies with food safety requirements. 

Residents may advise their accommodation centre manager of any dietary requirement that they have and this will be facilitated, where possible. Arrangements can also be made to cater for particular religious needs, for example, Muslim residents who are observing Ramadan.

In 2018, in line with a recommendation made in the McMahon Report, a nutritionist was engaged to carry out an audit of centres. The audit report formed part of my Department's ongoing work to ensure that nutritious food is provided to residents. The report also informed the preparations for the subsequent regional tender process for accommodation, which mandated independent living for all new centres procured through that process.

More than 65% of all residents now have access to independent living and cooking facilities.  The aim is to have all residents in commercial centres benefitting from independent living (cooking facilities and onsite food hall) by next year.

For those accommodation centres which have already moved to the independent living model, residents are provided with ingredients and household items at no cost and cook for themselves and their families.  These centres must provide a wide range of products which are culturally appropriate and meet the dietary needs of residents.

In relation to emergency accommodation, my Department has contracted with providers for bed and full board (three meals per day) on an emergency basis due to insufficient capacity within my Department’s current accommodation portfolio.  My officials are working to ensure that residents in emergency accommodation are there for as short a period as possible before being re-accommodated in dedicated accommodation centres.  My officials work closely with staff and residents in emergency accommodation to address any issues that may arise.  

Complaints by residents may arise from time to time in relation to dietary matters, which may be brought to the attention of the centre manager. If the resident is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she can make a complaint to the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department, which will be investigated by my officials and action taken as appropriate. If the issue is still not resolved to the satisfaction of the resident, he or she can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman or to the Ombudsman for Children, as appropriate, for their investigation.

All accommodation centres are also subject to regular unannounced inspections by staff from my Department and an independent inspector (QTS). 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. Any issues identified are notified to the contractor to be addressed immediately.

New National Standards for Accommodation Centres were published in August 2019, which will come into operation in January 2021. The Standards include commitments in relation to the provision of food, including access to a varied diet that respects cultural, religious, dietary, nutritional and medical requirements. 

Question No. 701 answered with Question No. 687.