Sunday 22 September 2019

'Policies are failing thousands on health and homes'

Address the issues: Dr Seán Healy, of Social Justice Ireland. Picture: Sean Burke
Address the issues: Dr Seán Healy, of Social Justice Ireland. Picture: Sean Burke
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

Government policy is failing tens of thousands of people waiting on healthcare, homes and broadband, a damning report warns today.

Social Justice Ireland's 'National Social Monitor for Winter 2018' points out that there are 70,000 people on healthcare waiting lists.

It says with 500,000 homes without broadband and more than 10,000 people homeless, Government policies are "failing".

Dr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland (SJI), said: "Government policy is addressing the symptoms of problems, not the causes."

He said that a quarter of a million children were living in poverty.

"This is both unacceptable and unnecessary at a time when resources are available to make a real impact on addressing the causes of these problems," he said.

"Government needs to dramatically increase the construction of social and low-cost homes."

Dr Healy highlighted a "mistaken belief that economic growth will trickle down to benefit everyone in a fair and just manner".

He said this had led to "successive Governments implementing policies that give priority to economic growth over all other areas".

"Economic growth alone is not enough. More is required if we are to have a society which addresses the basic needs and promotes the basic rights of its population," Dr Healy said.

Family homelessness increased by more than 350pc between September 2014 and September 2018, according to Colette Bennett, research and policy analyst at SJI.

"There's a real risk current Government policy of promoting family hubs will normalise family homelessness," Ms Bennett said.

"Government policy should be directed at providing homes and not hubs. Government should immediately introduce legislation to limit the amount of time families and vulnerable adults spend in hubs."

The report stated the fact there are increasing waiting lists for treatment in Ireland's hospitals and care centres signals a failure in policy.

"There are over 700,000 people on healthcare waiting lists. Ireland has a hospital bed occupancy rate of almost 95pc, almost 20 percentage points above the OECD average," said Michelle Murphy, from the think tank.

"Such high occupancy rates are associated with an increased risk of healthcare-associated infections, for example MRSA, increased mortality and there's no capacity within the hospital system to cope with unforeseen events."

The group said Government "must roll out the 96 primary care networks as a matter of urgency" and "fully resource the implementation of the Sláintecare strategy".

The slow progress of the National Broadband Plan was "impacting on existing businesses, delaying rural development and putting rural communities at a disadvantage at a time of increased digitalisation of basic services".

Irish Independent

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