Ombudsman calls for remit to be extended to direct provision

‘It’s entirely inappropriate. It reflects badly on us. It needs to be brought to an end’

The Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has called on the Government to immediately extend his remit to provide independent oversight of direct provision centres for asylum seekers. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has called on the Government to immediately extend his remit to provide independent oversight of direct provision centres for asylum seekers. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has called on the Government to immediately extend his remit to provide independent oversight of direct provision centres for asylum seekers.

At present, more than 3,000 people who have been living for years in these centres do not have access to an independent complaints system.

Mr Tyndall said: “Individuals are spending much longer in the system than was ever envisaged. You have children being brought up who have never seen their parents cook a meal. It’s entirely inappropriate.

He added: “It reflects badly on us. It needs to be brought to and end. All of that said, while it’s there, people are in a vulnerable position and they have no one to turn to access independent redress.”

The Ombudsman was speaking at the launch of his office’s annual report which shows complaints to public services rose by 11 per cent to over 3,500 last year.

This was due mainly to an additional 200 public bodies which came under its jurisdiction for the first time last year, including the State Examinations Commission and Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), the grant-awarding body.

Mr Tyndall said he was working closely with both bodies to resolve difficulties faced by parents of school-leavers and third-level students seeking urgent assistance.

His annual report also documents a number of significant cases which had implications for wider public services.

In one, a woman came within minutes of undergoing the wrong medical procedure – a lumbar puncture – after it emerged the hospital had contacted the incorrect patient.

After persistent questions from the woman prior to the operation, Beaumont Hospital checked its files and realised the procedure was due to be carried out on another patient with the same name and year of birth.

Following the complaint, the hospital took steps to ensure the same mistake would not reoccur.

In another case, the Department of Social Protection paid disability arrears of almost €80,000 after wrongly refusing the payment on the grounds of not being “habitually resident”.

The same Department agreed to drop a separate demand of €105,000 from the daughter of a dead woman who received welfare overpayments over a number of years.

The overpayments came to light when the woman informed the Department of her mother’s death in 2012.

An internal review indicated she was ineligible for some of these payments. However, the Ombudsman found the deceased woman had not sought to shield her circumstances from the Department and officials had failed to review her eligibility for welfare over a 12-year period.

On foot of a successful appeal to the chief appeals officer – who is independent of the Department – the Department agreed to drop the demand.