National policy planning needs to take a 'life course' perspective

 

NATIONAL policy planning should take a “life course” perspective from birth to old age, an NUI Galway (NUIG) report has found.

The research by NUIG’s Irish Centre for Social Gerontology and School of Business and Economics says that planning should extend as far as the maturity and old age of “babies born today” if it is to be successful.

It also recommends engagement of community organisations in drawing up policy, to ensure greater emphasis on a “people-centred” approach.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who marked the study’s recent publication at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, has described it as “extremely relevant to Government because it provides a clear picture of the realities of policy-making in challenging times”.

Based on 18 months of research and consultation, the report argues that successful social policy planning requires a greater focus on the future, taking a life course perspective.

Achieving a “person-centred approach” which extends across individuals’ respective lifetimes is “challenging but achievable”, it says. “The key is to put the citizen at the centre.”

Dr Gemma Carney, a lead author of the study, said: “The idea that ‘people matter’ in policy planning is recognised by international organisations such as the United Nations.

“In Ireland, we are fortunate to have an engaged and resourceful community sector that is willing to speak up for less fortunate groups. The test now is how we use that resource in challenging economic circumstances.”

Best practice for one vulnerable group should be used to inform development of policy for others, said Dr Carney.

“A life course perspective is about being both strategic and practical,” she explained. “Recommendations of the National Positive Ageing Strategy, when that is published, should be mindful of what is already published in the National Women’s Strategy.

“This hasn’t been done in the past and, as a result, lack of educational opportunities, combined with caring responsibilities, leave many women without an old age pension. If we were planning for the whole life course, our system of social protection would help women avoid these sorts of later life traps.”

A “broad range” of strategies used by community activists, both “inside and outside social partnership”, is an “asset for good governance”, the researchers found.

This requires “embracing diversity and engaging in social dialogue”, Dr Tony Dundon, a report co-author, noted.

“Our research shows that the vitality of the community and voluntary pillar in Ireland is an exemplar of equity, voice and governance in policy-making,” he said.

The research accepts the “developmental welfare state” concept, initiated by the National Economic and Social Council as a blueprint for social policy development. It says that this approach embraces “diversity and inclusion in both social and economic policy-making”.

The Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (ICSG) is a multidisciplinary research centre on ageing at NUIG, established in 2006 with the support of Atlantic Philanthropies. It focuses on research, education and training in the field of social gerontology in Ireland and internationally.