State to treble payments to children in direct provision

Government moves on child rights ahead of UN committee hearing in January

Payments to children in direct provision will be more than trebled next month, the Minister of State for Equality and New Communities has said.

Aodhán O Ríordáin said welfare payments in respect of the estimated 1,700 children in the asylum system would rise from €9.60 per week to €29.80 per week “in coming weeks”.

“I am confident it will happen very shortly and I hope it will happen by mid-January,” he said.

The rise is a key recommendation in the report on the asylum system, from a working group chaired by Judge Bryan McMahon, published in June.

The report also recommends payments to adults be increased from €19.10 to €38.74 per week. This would not happen in the short term, said Mr Ó Ríordáin.

‘In poverty’

“We are prioritising the welfare of children right now. For too long children in direct provision have been effectively in poverty, going back after school to remain behind closed doors, unable to participate in things like school friends’ birthday parties or go on school trips because their parents couldn’t afford it. This will change that.”

The working group report found children’s ability to participate in education, to access healthcare, food and clothing were impaired by the inadequacy of the allowance.

The increase will bring payments to children of asylum seekers into line with supplementary welfare allowance rates, given that those living in direct provision are provided with food and accommodation.

The Minister said he had secured agreement from the Tánaiste, Joan Burton and from Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald that "this needs to be done".

“The working group report is the only document we are working from. The most important part is reform of the protection process, the single application process and ensuring people do not spend years and years in the system.

“We have the single procedure now and the next priority is improving life while in the system.”

Rights of the child

The announcement comes as the Government prepares to appear before the

United Nations

Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva next month.

The situation of children in direct provision will feature during the day-long examination on January 14th.

It can be seen in the context of a number of Government announcements in advance of the appearance by Minister for Children James Reilly before the committee.

In addition there have been the announcement by Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan that she would repeal “Rule 68” which privileges religious instruction in national schools, the ban on smacking or corporal punishment and the enactment of the Children First Act, all in recent weeks.

All these steps will garner praise from the UN committee.

Mr Reilly may face harsher questioning on discrimination against ethnic minority, particularly Traveller and Roma, children; the welfare of children in State care; protections for children when their mother is fleeing domestic violence; children’s mental health services; the rights of children with disabilities and Ireland’s high child poverty rates.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times