Children & Direct Provision

By Edgar Debel

In this research I wanted to look at Direct Provision in Ireland and its consequences on children and their lives.

What is direct provision?
Direct Provision is a system in place in Ireland which handles people who seek asylum and refugee in the country. In this system people are accommodated in what are known as Direct Provision Centres across the country. It was started in 2000 and was meant as a short term solution, to provide for the basic needs of those seeking security and international protection in Ireland. Most of these centres are not owned by the state, but rather are run by private contractors, who run these centres for profit.

Usually people have to stay in these centres for about 24 Months but often it takes much longer for a person or family to be allowed to leave direct provision, which is detrimental to their life, psyche and future, for various reasons, as unfortunately this system has many problems which can have a lasting negative aspect on the people who have to go through the asylum process in Ireland. But what are these problems, what specific effects do they have on people and what is Ireland doing to fix these problems?

(Direct Provision, Doras.Web)

What Problems do children face in direct provision. How does this impact their life and their future.
As mentioned before, the first problem people in direct provision face, is that they do not know when they are able to leave the centres, as while times of 24 months is regular in these centres,
often times people also have to stay longer periods of times, some even up to 10-12 years

(Direct Provision, Doras.Web)

This prolonged period brings many problems with itself, the first of which being that until 2018 people in Direct Provision were not allowed to work in Ireland, cutting them off from many
opportunities to become self sufficient and having more income to spend on different needs, which in turn directly influences the lives of children leaving in these centres with their families, as the
allowance the centres grant to the asylum seeking families usually is not enough to cover additional expenses like school materials, school trips or extracurricular activities. Due to this, children of
Families in Direct Provision are cut off from integral parts of social life, which has negative effects on their psyche, their social skills as well as on their integration of Irish Society. These problems are
made worse by the fact that the due to the impact these conditions have on the parents, their ability to provide quality care for children is also impacted, which could also lead to problems inside the

( Key Findings; Direct Provision‘s Impact on Children: A human crisis analysis)

However, unfortunately money is not the only thing that separates children in direct provision from society, as they are often not allowed to go to school with children who are not in Direct provision,
thus robbing the children from forming friendships and bonds which are integral to their development and their integration process in a country that is foreign to them. National Standards also fail to provide children in asylum seeking families with access to third level education, thus robbing them of possibilities for their future.

( Key Findings; Direct Provision‘s Impact on Children: A human crisis analysis)

As centres often are in rural areas of the country, it becomes even harder for children or teenagers to connect with other people their own age, which is amplified by the fact that the families and their
children have designated times when they are allowed to leave the centres and when they have to be back again, thus robbing them of their agency as individuals.

( Key Findings; Direct Provision‘s Impact on Children: A human crisis analysis)

As mentioned earlier, the lack of money families in Direct Provision possess due to the former ban on working also manifests in other problems, such as nutrition. Studies conducted by the Irish
Centre for Human Rights have found out that in many Direct Provision centres the quality of food has alarming problems. It was reported that the food that was served in these centres lacked nutritional
value. These problems have direct consequences on people who are still in a developmental period and need healthy and nutritional food, namely children and teenagers. Due to the shortage of money
families often are not able to buy extra food, thus they are dependent on this subpar food, which hinders children and teenagers in their bodily development. Thus children and teenagers are not
only hindered in their social but also in their bodily development in Direct Provision. Direct Provision Centres also often lack sufficient access to cooking, which is detrimental to the child’s
cultural development and heritage, as cooking is often times a big part of the culture of people coming to Ireland. As the study has shown often times the living conditions in Direct Provision
Centres are lacking in other areas as well, such as maternal and infant care, as sometimes mothers are not even able to heat baby solution enough or are not provided with specific places for breast
feeding, which hampers a child’s development from the very start and can have negative consequences on the bond of mothers and their babies, as breast feeding is also part of the bonding process of mothers and their children.

( Key Findings; Direct Provision‘s Impact on Children: A human crisis analysis)

Direct provision centres themselves are also often lacking in sufficient recreational areas, such as playgrounds/play spaces/gardens, which are vital to a child’s physical and social development. Often times the
designated child areas in Direct Provision are used by Adults or older children, which hinder the children from having meaningful recreational activities.

( Key Findings; Direct Provision‘s Impact on Children: A human crisis analysis)

Lastly, unfortunately sexual exploitation is also a problem children face in these centres, as they can become subject of power and authority dynamics in these centres. Children are at risk of Adult non
Family members, who are cohabiting or play an active part in the child’s life. Risks also arise at communal places which are frequently used, where children are not supervised while in the vicinity of adults or older children. This neglect of the child’s needs is a big risk factor which can lead to organised sexual exploitation of children.

( Key Findings; Direct Provision‘s Impact on Children: A human crisis analysis)

As centres are often privately owned, there can also be problems not only with the living conditions but also with standards for children, for example the lack of involvement of tusla means that data-collection on at- risk children can not take place. Furthermore the fact that the vetting processes for these centres is often not transparent enough, is also a big problem, as it is hard to guarantee that the children are in capable hands under these conditions.

( Key Findings; Direct Provision‘s Impact on Children: A human crisis analysis)

As seen, Direct Provision can not be a long term solution for people seeking asylum, as this system breeds separation, developmental and psychological problems. The question now becomes, what
can Ireland do or what has Ireland already done to change this system into something that is more humane and treats adults as well as children with the dignity they deserve? What is done to change the current system and to implement a better one? As mentioned in the beginning, there have already been made attempts to better this system in the past, like the aforementioned lift on the working ban that people in Direct Provision had before 2018. However even without the ban people have to still wait halve a year before they are allowed to search for work, as of January 18th 2021.

(Direct Provision System,

There have also been made some other efforts to change this system, especially after the last elections, when the new government promised that it would take measures into it ́s own hands to change this system. This system will be called International Protection Support System and unlike Direct provision it will be run by non- profit organisations.

(Direct Provision System, Citizens Information)

In this system after 4 months the applicant will move to not- for profit accommodations, which will be financed by AHBs. The government plans to end the current Direct Provision system by 2024. In
the new system a national settlement plan will decide how many people are accommodated for in each Irish County, based on density of population, applicant needs, the availability of services and
housing needs. The applicants will be encouraged to work after 6 months. The old direct provision contracts however will still be honoured or renewed until the transition to the new system is
completely finished.

( Sorcha Pollack, Irish Times 26.2.2021.Web.)

The government paper for the new system also lays more details about the improvements planned for people in general and children specifically. Cultural heritage will be honoured more in this new
system, as staff working in the system will receive training in cultural sensitivity, as well as training on human rights, equality and on working with people who have experienced torture or trauma.
Staff will also be required to undertake a “Children First” e- Learning programme, which will help them to recognise concerns with children and how the should be reported

(4.3.7 Training for Staff, A white paper to end Direct Provision and to establish a new international protection support service)

To better combat problems in mental health in adults, teenagers and children applicants in the new system will be forwarded to qualified professionals with relevant experiences, which will be done in
a manner that is culturally sensitive

(4.3.7 Mental Health, A white paper to end Direct Provision and to establish a new international protection support service)

There will also be health and social care supports available to adults and children who are victims of domestic, gender-based and sexual violence and the people who want to move away from such abusive relationships will have their application not be affected by this decision

What changes will be made specifically tailored to children in the new system, what obligations does the state have towards them?
Children and Young People’s Services Committees (CYPSCs), which are comprise all key statutory and voluntary sector agencies, are actively working on providing services for children in International Protection Accommodation Service. In the new system these CyPSCs will ensure that there is specific focus on children, young people and their families. In order to achieve this an action-focused plan for the coordination and provision of services and supports from CYPSC
member organisations to the system settings, which comprises in-reach and out-reach approaches, will be developed. Wider community engagement and child and youth participation will also be
supported. Tusla will also be involved in the key areas of provision, in order to include Partnership and family support and educational support services as well as prevention services. The key areas
Health, Local Authority provision and Education will be included in the plan, in order the ensure that these inputs are aligned to the best effect possible for children, young people and families

(4.5 Children and the International Protection System, A white paper to end Direct Provision and to establish a new international protection support service)

Children and other minors who come to Ireland unaccompanied will be prioritised in the new system, as to ensure a first decision will be made before the person becomes 18. If the decision made is positive, the young person will gain full rights and entitlements that are afforded to all refugees and citizens of Ireland. If a decision can’t be made before they turn 18 young people will have access the available state support. Young people who are in after care support will access
housing support in accordance to the new accommodation model of the system, while continuing to receive after care support, in the same manner they do currently. Young people who are leaving care will also be given priority access to enhanced housing supports.

(4.5.1 Unaccompanied minors, A white paper to end Direct Provision and to establish a new international protection support

As shown, there are many plans the Irish government has to better the lives of children and other people who are seeking refugee in this country, however we also have a duty within us to hold the
government accountable – that these changes really come to fruition.


  • Direct Provision. Doras . Web. URL: (Last opened 17.08.2022)
  • Sorcha Pollack: “Plan to end direct provision by 2024 would see asylum seekers housed in State

accommodation”. Irish Times, 26.2 2021. Web. URL:
accommodation-1.4495389. (Last opened 17.08.2022)

    Centre for Human Rights. September 2020. Web. Url:
    ICHR_Final-23.09.pdf. (Last opened 17.08.2022)
  • Direct Provision System. Citizens Information. Web. URL:
    %2Dprofit%20organisations. (Last opened 17.08.2022)
  • A whitepaper to end Direct Provision and to establish a new international protection support
    service). Government of Ireland. Publication. Web. URL: