The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has told the Dáil that he is working to ensure that "disjointed actions" that led to asylum seekers having to give up jobs they held in nursing homes throughout the pandemic "don't happen again".
Minister Roderic O'Gorman was responding to concerns raised by Labour TD Seán Sherlock and Irish Solidarity/People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, following a report by RTÉ News that two healthcare workers had to leave their jobs as they were told they could no longer avail of an HSE temporary accommodation scheme.
They were then moved to Direct Provision centres between 90km and 200km from their places of work.
This is despite the fact that the HSE maintains that the temporary accommodation scheme is still operating.
The Minister told the Dáil that there were "hundreds of persons" in the Direct Provision system "who are currently acting in our health services or acting in our in our social care services" and that the HSE had set up a system to accommodate them "so they wouldn't be in the congregation settings of direct provision".
Mr O'Gorman said that he thought "about 1,500 places have been provided across the country".
"I know in a number of situations that have come to note recently where those placements have ended. I am engaging with the HSE on what exactly happened there," Mr O'Gorman said.
"I think in a small number of situations, the person whose HSE housing placement had ended, their original direct provision center had closed, certainly in one of those situations it's one we all welcomed the closure of" Mr O'Gorman said.
"In that situation they were accommodated in somewhere far from their work." Mr O'Gorman said.
"We will continue to work to better engage with the HSE as regards when these [situations] occur, when the HSE provided accommodation is ending," Mr O'Gorman said. "So we can ensure that the kind of disjointed actions that happened in the situations that have been brought to the attention of the media recently don't happen again."
During statements in the Dáil on Direct Provision, both Deputy Sherlock and Deputy Smith highlighted an issue raised in the RTÉ report, that the reason healthcare workers were being told they could no longer access accommodation provided by the HSE fell outside the scheme's eligibility criteria.
This was that there were no cases of Covid-19 in their workplace.
"My understanding Minister is nowhere does it say in the documentation... that the eligibility criteria depends on there being a Covid-19 presence, or not, in the workplace," Deputy Sherlock said. "And the context of the HSE kicking, kicking, these two workers out of temporary accommodation remains to be examined further."
Deputy Smith asked Minister O'Gorman: "What are we doing about workers who are being pushed out of special accommodation back into direct provision, because there's no Covid in the care homes in which they work?
"Minister, you need to talk to Stephen Donnelly, and make sure that that contradiction is ended," Deputy Smith said.