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OCO’s report on direct provision a first
Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon Pic: RollingNews.ie

19 Oct 2023 / ireland Print

OCO’s report on direct provision a first

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) has taken the unprecedented step of publishing a special report on the safety and welfare of children in direct provision.

The office said that this was the first time that such a report had been laid before the Oireachtas since the OCO was set up in 2004.

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon (pictured) said that he had taken the step because he was not satisfied with the response to his 2021 investigation on direct provision.

The OCO is calling on the Government to move away from “emergency responses” for children seeking international protection.


The Special Report on the Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision highlights three specific recommendations from 2021.

Firstly, it calls on the State to stop using commercial hotels and to plan for pressures on accommodation capacity, stating that hotels and B&Bs are “not suitable places for children to grow up”.

“This is what is happening and there are no immediate plans for this to change. There is now an acceptance from Government that this is the way it has to be,” the OCO said.


Secondly, the report calls for a “robust” quality-assurance mechanism, adding that the ombudsman “cannot be satisfied” that such a mechanism is in place, or will be put in place, for the majority of children seeking international protection.

While the Government has agreed that HIQA should monitor ‘permanent’ centres, the report points out that most children are now being accommodated in non-permanent centres such as hotels and B&Bs.

It describes as “inadequate” the monitoring of complaints, child-protection and welfare concerns, and any other adverse incidents.

Vulnerability assessments

Finally, the report expresses concerns about the lack of assessments of the vulnerability of children in the international-protection process.

“The Ombudsman for Children cannot be satisfied that IPAS [International Protection Accommodation Services] has sufficient regard to the vulnerability of children within the international-protection process in the planning and provision of their accommodation needs,” it says.

The OCO says that only 10% of children seeking international protection have received a statutory vulnerability assessment, despite a 2021 commitment from Government that such assessments would be carried out within 30 days of a child applying for protection.

“How we treat children coming to this country will be a defining issue of our generation, and as things stand, history will not judge us well,” said Dr Muldoon.

He said that, while the outbreak of war in Ukraine had changed the landscape, “inadequate standards in 2021 are still inadequate standards in 2023”.

The ombudsman stressed that the report’s aim was not to shame Government, but rather to ”spur them on” to meet the commitments agreed in 2021.

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