Mosney direct provision residents concerned about baby food price

‘Points’ system provides asylum seekers with card to buy food products

The  restaurant in  Mosney reception centre, where a new points-based system for obtaining food has been introduced. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

The restaurant in Mosney reception centre, where a new points-based system for obtaining food has been introduced. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Residents of the direct provision centre in Mosney in Co Meath have raised concerns about the price of household goods they can “buy” under a new points-based system.

The cost of everyday items such as baby food and spinach were of particular concern to residents following the introduction of the system, under which they get a set allocation of points to obtain food.

Previously, residents had been provided with meals, toiletries and cleaning products directly by centre staff.

The Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), which has oversight of reception centres, says the independent living scheme allows residents to purchase food, toiletries, cleaning products and other items using the cashless points system. The system is managed using electronic point-of-sale software.

Correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that individual residents have raised concerns about the affordability of food under the new scheme.

This follows a separate report published by Ombudsman Peter Tyndall on Tuesday about complaints he has received from people in the direct provision system.

Under the points system, residents of direct provision centres are given a swipe card, pre-loaded with “points”. Each food product or hot meal in a centre corresponds to a number of points, which are deducted from the card at the point of purchase.

The first adult in a family is allocated 62 points weekly and other adults are given a percentage of the full allocation. Children are allocated up to 19.4 points depending on their age.

A price list for the Mosney food hall shows the points for typical daily grocery items including bread, milk, yogurt, cheese, deli items, fruit and vegetables, fish, cereals, baby food, and also hot foods such as beef curry, chicken wings, fish fingers and lasagne.

A serving of chips from the hot counter costs 1.35 points, while a coffee costs 0.45 points. One fish finger is given the price of 0.25 points. From the bakery, 780g of Afro Pride bread is 1.42 points, 780g of McCloskey’s brown sandwich pan is 1.85 points and 800g of Brennans wholemeal bread is 1.50 points.

A 500g bag of baby spinach leaves costs 3.70 points. Baby food is the most expensive of the products on the list, with 900g of Milupa Aptamil Forward formula for babies of six months old costs 12.49 points. Aptamil Comfort (900g) costs 14.49 points.

A four-pack of toilet paper is 1.30 points and 12 sanitary pads cost 2.76 points.

Points not used in the food hall in a given week may be carried over to the next week or can be saved for up to a maximum of three weeks.

One complaint sent to the RIA from a resident in the centre and redacted of a name and ID number before its release to The Irish Times reads: “We don’t receive enough points. We are 3 adults, we were registered as 2 adults and 1 child but we are 3 adults. We are (x years) in Mosney. We don’t know if the prices are high but we don’t have enough points in the weekend. We require an increase of 15 points at least.”

Correspondence later confirmed the family was registered as three adults.

Another resident wrote to the agency asking for help in relation to an allocation of points saying: “I don’t know where else to go or to do because I’m in real difficulties. I will be a lot grateful if you can help me with this.”

A letter from the RIA to director of the Mosney centre Phelim McCloskey, says that residents were “extremely positive” towards the new points system but that aspects of it needed to be kept under review.

The agency said there should continue to be a large variety of generic food products “and in particular bread, cleaning products and toiletries sections”.

It said the hot counter prices needed to be reviewed and that the baby leaf spinach and baby food prices needed to be reviewed as these were “of particular concern raised by a number of residents”.

“The continuation of the staff member advising residents on budgets and assisting where required with their shopping is very positive,” the letter noted.

“It is important to remember that the food hall at Mosney is not expected to be competing with shops and prices in the larger supermarkets in the community. However, we would be confident that the products and prices will be compared with prices in the supermarkets outside the centre facility, e.g. Lidl and Aldi,” the letter added.

The independent living scheme was introduced last December in the State’s direct provision centres.

Mosney, which accommodates about 600 asylum seekers at the Co Meath centre, received €7.4 million in 2016 for the provision of its services, the highest amount of all the providers.

The payment brings to €119.4 million the amount the firm received from the State from 2002-16 for its direct provision service.

Asylum seekers in the direct provision system get a ‘personal allowance’ of €21.60 per adult and €21.60 euro per child per week.

What an average family could “buy” with their points

A family of two with two children aged six and 10 would qualify for 124.2 points in a week. (Unused points may be carried for up to three weeks.)

With these points, they could “purchase”:

4 x McCloskey brown sliced pan @ 1.85 = 7.4 points

1 x Flora original 500g = 2.45 points

Petit Filous x 6 = 1.99 points

Avonmore Lite Milk x 3L @ 0.95 = 2.85 points

12 inch veg pizza = 3.99 points

Tuna steak x 4 @ 3.95 = 15.80 points

Broccoli 1.30 points

Baby spinach leaves 500g = 3.70 points

Okra 200g = 2.0 points

Eight red apples = 1.50 points

1 x red pepper = 0.59 points

Sweet potato = 0.90 points

All Bran 500g = 2.14 points

Bolands Bourbon Creams = 1.0 points

Coca Cola twin pack 2 x 1.75l = 3.50 points

Daily basics pasta sauce 0.84 points

Don Carlos pure olive oil 500ml = 5.90 points

Heinz Ketchup 460g = 2.50 points

Knorr vegetable stock cubes 80g = 1.99 points

Lustre pears in juice 410g = 1.59 points

Nutella 400g = 2.69 points

Roma chopped tomatoes 400g = 1.29 points

Tayto crisps cheese and onion 0.60 x 4 = 2.40 points

Four pack toilet roll = 1.30 points

Always Ultra Normal Plus x 12 = 2.76 points

Black bin bags x 25 = 2.75 points

Cif lemon cream 500ml = 2.99 points

DV Almond Shampoo 200ml = 3.25 points

DV Almond Conditioner 200ml = 3.50 points

Akash basmati rice 10kg = 16.90 points

Parazone thick bleach 750ml = 1.50 points

Lipton tea 100 bags 3.63 points

Halal chicken fillets x 5 = 7.0 points

Hot food counter:

Lamb casserole – 3.15 x 4 = 12.6 points

Total: 128.49 points