Roderic O’Gorman: Refugee bed shortage could rise to 19,000 by the end of March

He said the State needs to step-up “rest centres” for refugees coming to Ireland where they can stay temporarily before being moved to alternative accommodation
Roderic O’Gorman: Refugee bed shortage could rise to 19,000 by the end of March

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman TD at the Department of Health, Dublin.

Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman has said the shortfall of beds for refugees in the State could rise to 19,000 by the end of March in a worst-case scenario.

He said the State needs to step-up “rest centres” for refugees coming to Ireland where they can stay temporarily before being moved to alternative accommodation.

He said Government departments are on the lookout for premises that could be used to provide shelter to international protection (IP) applicants.

He confirmed Kilbride army barracks in Wicklow is being used since the weekend to house people who were not offered shelter on their initial arrival into the country due to capacity issues at Citywest.

He said he told the Cabinet subcommittee on Ukraine on Tuesday that no hotels have yet refused the bed-only contract by the State but some hotels will leave the system in the summer.

He said there are “real challenges” over the next number of weeks to continue hotel and guesthouse accommodation.

The Cabinet subcommittee on Ukraine heard there could be 137,000 people from Ukraine in the State by the end of the year and a further 4,000 people from other countries could be seeking protection here by the end of April. This is on top of the almost 20,000 currently accommodated by International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS).

Mr O’Gorman said the number of Ukrainians coming to Ireland has been about 90 per day since Christmas but he anticipates this will increase again with further attacks from Russia.

He said rest centres would provide a bed and meals for refugees but it would be “quite basic.” Despite a protest by the local community in Lismore, Co Waterford over IP applicants moving into a local hotel, he said refugees will be placed there in the coming days.

He said the hotel has not been used for seven years and it is not being taken out of the system for tourism.

He added that there is a “real need” to accommodate refugees at speed due to the pressure on the system and therefore there can’t be a major consultation process.

Mr O’Gorman said there is no policy not to consult local communities and that his officials brief local representatives and local authorities.

Nursing homes

Separately, Mr O’Gorman has said legal action taken by the State should be influenced by its obligation it has to its most vulnerable citizens.

He was reacting to revelations about the State's nursing home charges legal strategy and a separate report which claims up to 12,000 vulnerable people have been denied their disability allowance payments by the State.

“What I would say I suppose is that when the State is subject to legal actions, when it adopts legal positions, I think it's really important that those positions are influenced by the obligation that the state has to some of its most vulnerable citizens,” Mr O’Gorman told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“And I think in this example, from what we've heard, and indeed from the example of the nursing homes, I think, perhaps that you know, that central obligation of the vulnerability of the people we're dealing with here has maybe been obscured by, you know, kind of saving state resources kind of approach and I think we can't have that,” he said.

Regulations introduced in the 1980s to stop the payment of maintenance allowances to those in residential care were deemed unconstitutional following legal advice to the State.

A secret memo prepared for Cabinet ministers in 2009 reveals that the State was told it could be facing up to €700m in claims for maintenance payments from people with disabilities, according to RTÉ Investigates.

The report comes following the controversy over the Government’s legal strategy to contest cases taken by people who feel they were wrongly charged for nursing home care over a period from the 1970s to 2004.

Meanwhile, Mr O'Gorman said new regulations that will impact childminders in the home are being introduced so parents can benefit from the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).

Tusla will be able to immediately close an unregistered childcare service under proposals agreed by Cabinet yesterday.

Childminders who take care of children in their own home have expressed concerns over the new regulations.

Mr O’Gorman said consultation is continuing with representative groups and regulations have yet to be completed.

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