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Protection Accommodation Service Centers in Ireland: HIQA Report Highlights Governance and Compliance Issues

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The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has released eight inspection reports on International Protection Accommodation Service centers in Ireland. These centers, formerly known as direct provision centers, provide housing for individuals seeking international protection. HIQA evaluates the quality and safety of these services against the National Standards for accommodation offered to people in the protection process (2019).

The centers inspected include Atlantic House (Waterford), Emmet Lodge (Dublin), Glenvera Hotel (Cork), Globe House (Sligo), Hibernian Hotel (Laois), Johnston Marina (Kerry), Millstreet Accommodation Centre (Cork), and Slaney Court (Wicklow). Non-compliance was noted in each center, although the degree varied. Issues included contingency planning, emergency preparedness, workforce responsiveness, and the identification and assessment of special needs.

HIQA’s inspections revealed other significant issues in governance, accountability, leadership, safeguarding, and protection. Despite these challenges, some centers demonstrated good practices, especially in person-centered care and support. However, common problems were observed in governance and risk management, necessitating improvement plans from providers to meet national standards.

Providers Must Submit Compliance Plans for International Protection Accommodation Service Centers

To address non-compliance, providers must submit plans demonstrating how they will achieve and maintain the national standards. This requirement ensures that improvements are made and standards are met consistently across all centers. Providers are given a set timeframe to implement these plans and must provide evidence of compliance with HIQA. Failure to do so may result in further inspections and potential enforcement actions.

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) system, established in 2000, has faced national and international criticism. The Irish Government initiated reforms, including the McMahon Report in 2015, which led to the development of the National Standards in 2019. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth’s 2021 White Paper aimed to end direct provision by 2024, but increased asylum applications and the Ukraine crisis have delayed this timeline.

HIQA began monitoring permanent IPAS centers against these standards, recognizing the system’s inadequacies and the pressing need for reform amidst a national housing crisis and overcrowded services. Atlantic Lodge in Tramore, Co. Waterford, accommodates up to 82 single male residents across three buildings. It features en-suite and communal bathrooms, leisure spaces, a shop, cooking stations, and laundry facilities. During the inspection, the center housed 78 residents.

Inspectors found deficits in staff training, resident consultation, and record-keeping, which affected the quality and consistency of support. Residents reported satisfaction with basic accommodation but highlighted issues such as noise, lack of storage, and high prices in the on-site shop. The center’s management was advised to address these concerns to enhance residents’ living conditions.

Protection Accommodation Service

HIQA Reports Urge Improved Governance and Management in Protection Accommodation Service Centers

HIQA’s reports highlight the critical need for improved governance and management in International Protection Accommodation Service centers. Addressing non-compliance and implementing best practices are vital steps towards ensuring the safety, well-being, and dignity of residents. Continuous oversight and commitment to quality improvement will help create a more supportive and humane environment for individuals seeking international protection in Ireland.

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The reports emphasize that robust governance structures are essential for the effective management of these centers. Clear leadership roles and accountability mechanisms need to be established to ensure that all staff members understand their responsibilities and are equipped to provide high-quality care. This includes implementing comprehensive training programs for staff, particularly in areas such as adult safeguarding, risk management, and cultural competency. Proper training ensures that staff can adequately support the diverse needs of residents, many of whom may have experienced significant trauma.

The reports suggest that a more systematic approach to risk management is crucial. Developing detailed risk registers and implementing regular risk assessments can help identify potential hazards before they become serious issues. By proactively managing risks, centers can create safer living environments for residents. This also involves improving record-keeping practices to ensure that all incidents and complaints are documented and addressed promptly. Transparent and thorough record-keeping not only aids in accountability but also provides valuable data that can inform future improvements.

HIQA Urges Better Resident Engagement and Living Conditions in Protection Accommodation Service Centers

Resident engagement is another critical area highlighted in the reports. Establishing regular consultation processes where residents can voice their concerns and suggestions is essential. This feedback loop can help tailor services to better meet the needs of the residents and foster a sense of community and ownership. Implementing a clear residents’ charter that outlines available services and support mechanisms can also enhance transparency and trust between residents and management.

Additionally, addressing the physical conditions of the accommodation centers is necessary. Ensuring that all facilities are well-maintained and meet the required standards of hygiene and safety is fundamental to providing a dignified living environment. This includes regular maintenance of communal areas, prompt repair of any damages, and ensuring that living spaces are adequately ventilated and free from issues such as dampness or mold.

HIQA’s recommendations also stress the importance of integrating residents into the broader community. Facilitating access to local services, such as healthcare, education, and employment opportunities, can significantly improve the quality of life for residents. Providing adequate support for residents to navigate these services is crucial, particularly for those who may face language barriers or other challenges.

HIQA’s reports serve as a crucial reminder of the ongoing challenges within the International Protection Accommodation Service centers in Ireland. By addressing these issues through improved governance, better risk management, enhanced resident engagement, and ensuring high standards of physical conditions, these centers can provide a safe, supportive, and dignified environment for individuals seeking international protection. The commitment to continuous improvement and adherence to national standards is essential in achieving this goal.

 

Resource: Health Information and Quality Authority, May 17, 2024

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