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I got so much out of this evening's @IE_socialpolicy event on #InstitutionalIreland that I'm going to try threading my personal summary of the night. This isn't a report: it's the story I personally wove out of 3 excellent inputs. Lots left out - apologies!
Eoin O'Sullivan of @tcd kicked off (I missed the start). Ireland has a splendid history of institutionalising people. Workhouses, laundries, reformatories, asylums. Not unusual for the 19th & 20th centuries, though we were notably fervent.
By 1951, 1% of the Irish population was housed in an institution of one sort or another.
But around the world, people began to understand that piling people in a big building together was a bad response to social need.
The institutions began to close down over time. They're all gone now, with notable exceptions: prisons, and homeless shelters.
But look at what we're doing: creating new institutions. Family hubs for homelessness. Direct Provision centres.
Here's the first family hub opened under the new policy: in the old High Park reformatory. High Park closed as a commercial laundry in 1991. jfmresearch.com/home/preservin…
Note that the State didn't run the old institutions, and it doesn't run these ones either. That job is outsourced to NGOs. Last year, one such provider tweeter that they were "proud to have 1,000 shelter beds up and running".
Eoin cites Kim Hopper, the US anthropologist, who argues that homeless services are "independent agencies shaping the course of homelessness". The response is not just a response. It's also part of the problem.
He concludes with an observation about the path we have taken. The default response to social need is no longer the construction of an institution. Except when it comes to homelessness.
This is where @LTlaw_ takes up the story. It's not just family hubs and homeless shelters. A massive new infrastructure has grown from nothing in 1999: the institutions of Direct Provision. (DP)
Just as with homeless services, DP is outsourced to private actors; in this case not NGOs but for profit actors.
In DP, people are kept in a state of dependency, mostly unable to work (this has improved but remains limited), unable to choose their food, required to sign in and out of their accommodation, sometimes for years on end. Infantilised.
Liam demonstrates how the DP system was created casually, far outside of the legislative process and oireachtas scrutiny, by email and ministerial dictat. exploringdirectprovision.ie
He argues that systems of administration were used to dodge scrutiny. Direct Provision was only put on a formal legislative basis on July 23rd 2018.
Gah! My thread got munched!
I'll try again - only in a hurry this time - so no pictures soz :-(
Liam Thornton summed up by reminding us that Direct Provision as we now know it emerged in 1999, in the midst of a homelessness crisis in Dublin. Then minister John O'Donoghue wanted to keep asylum seekers out of the over-subscribed housing system. So he created an institution.
DP was supposed to house people for, at most, 6 months. 20 years on, the longest stay Liam knows of is around 12 years. 12 years of a life spent subject to management decisions of the DoJ and a private catering firm.
The story is taken up by @MuireannNiR , tasked with bringing us hope. She introduces separated children, migrant children who arrive in Ireland without adults. In the early 2000s, they were disastrously institutionalised - now we have an excellent system of care.
From 1996-2001, there was a rapid increase in kids coming to Ireland unaccompanied. They were housed in hostels, with minimal supervision, given full welfare allowance (children who in some cases had never handled money for themselves before).
This created the bizarre scenario where migrant children were treated as adults - dumped in a large institution; and migrant adults were treated as children - their meals dictated, their movements monitored, no cash for themselves.
There was widespread agreement that the system was a failure for unaccompanied minors. Following the Ryan Report, there was a political urgency to improve it. Foster care was prioritised over residential homes; and where residential homes were used, the standards were lifted.
Today, 92% of migrant children in care are in foster families. Ireland is recognised as having among the best systems in Europe for unaccompanied minors.
Some common threads through these stories - mine, not necessarily shared by the speakers.
How easy it is to put politically unimportant people in institutional care.
How, regardless of intentions, institutions seem to be dehumanising.
How at root it all comes down to housing, Housing First.
If homeless people were given homes rather than beds; if asylum seekers were housed and dealt with rather than institutionalised; just as migrant children have been.
The spectre of Owen Keegan loomed large.
Services don't create demand - but they can create dependency. Most "clients" don't want or need to be co-dependent on Victorian style service provision.
Gonna leave it at that - it was a brilliant, thought-provoking evening. Sorry for no pictures for latter thread
Sorry - this is incorrect.
48% of unaccompanied children are in foster care, compared to 92% of general pop, and v low rates in other countries. This is considered appropriate and progressive.
Thanks @MuireannNiR for setting me straight!
There's a correction above to the tweet about unaccompanied children in foster care: I want to highlight it bc it's quite different, though the point stands.
48% of unaccompanied minors (not 92%) are in foster care today. This is appropriate to their needs, + considered positive
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