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Government policy failing to tackle causes - National Social Monitor Winter Edition
Government policy is addressing the symptoms of problems not the causes of problems. This has led to a situation where we have 700,000 people on waiting lists for healthcare, over 500,000 homes without broadband, over 11,000 people homeless, close to 110,000 households in need of social housing and a quarter of a million children 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.
Government needs to dramatically increase the construction of social and low cost homes. Family homelessness increased by over 350 per cent between September 2014 and September 2018. There is a real risk that current Government policy of promoting Family Hubs will normalise family homelessness. 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.
A further issue highlighted in the Winter 2018 edition of the National Social Monitor is the increasing waiting lists for treatment in Ireland’s hospitals and care centres.
There are over 700,000 people on healthcare waiting lists. Ireland has a hospital bed occupancy rate of almost 95%, almost 20 percentage points above the OECD average. Such high occupancy rates are associated with an increased risk of healthcare-associated infections (e.g.MRSA) increased mortality and no capacity within the hospital system to cope with unforeseen events. Government must rollout the 96 primary care networks as a matter of urgency and fully resource the implementation of the SláinteCare strategy.
The Monitor also highlights Ireland’s lack of broadband. There are more than 500,000 homes still without broadband. The lack of movement in respect of the National Broadband Plan is impacting on existing businesses, delaying rural development and putting rural communities at a disadvantage at a time of increased digitalisation of basic services.
The mistaken belief that economic growth will trickle down to benefit everyone in a fair and just manner has led to successive Governments implementing policies that give priority to economic growth over all other areas. While many of those policies have been very successful at generating economic growth, they have not succeeded in having those resources transformed into the levels of service and infrastructure, of equality and inclusion, that most Irish people would support or desire. 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.