Over 60% of lone parents live in deprivation, SD conference told

Social Democrats event also hears that the party should aim to be in government

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall attends the party’s national conference at the Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Photograph: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall attends the party’s national conference at the Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Photograph: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

 

Sixty-three per cent of lone parents are living in deprivation, the Social Democrats’ national conference heard on Saturday.

Tara Deacy, the party’s representative for Dublin South-Central, told the event in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, that the figure marked a doubling of the number of lone parents living in deprivation in a decade.

She also said that 33 per cent of students were at risk of living in poverty.

Ms Deacy said the Republic had a caring society but a careless Government, noting how grants for carers, youth workers and community groups had been cut.

“Essentially, what we have been dealing with is a careless Government that has introduced policies making it impossible for people to engage and participate.”

Ms Deacy, who was speaking during a debate on building a new Ireland, claimed there was an “individualisation’’ of social problems in the State.

She said those who were homeless, unemployed, a lone parent, or on a health waiting list found they were on their own.

Galway West representative Niall Ó Tuathail told the conference the Social Democrats should aim to be in government and make its policies a reality.

“I really would urge everyone at this conference to have that ambition,’’ he added.

He said the party should make the argument that not only was social democracy affordable, but it could also drive the economy.

Limerick City representative Sarah Jane Hennelly said the State should look at how other countries devised successful social policies and implement those policies here.

Dublin Central representative Gary Gannon said the challenges facing Irish society were not insurmountable.

“We built social housing in the past and we can do it again,’’ he said.

The conference called for a new deal for workers, including the introduction of a living wage and the ending of the gender pay gap.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said it was shocking that the party still had to call for equal pay for equal work.

“No wonder we have shortages in nursing and teaching,’’ she said.

Health gap

Earlier in the day, a Dublin GP told the conference that people living in socially-deprived areas have much poorer health than those living in affluent areas.

Dr David Gibney, who is based in Ballymun, said those living in deprived areas had lower life expectancies.

“Not only are they more likely to die prematurely, they also have higher rates of chronic conditions,’’ he said.

Dr Gibney, who is a member of the “deep-end’’ group of doctors working in deprived areas, said people would think that resources would be directed to those areas.

In fact, he said, these areas were experiencing the “inverse care law”, which meant that those most likely to die, and those most in need of healthcare, were the least likely to have access to health services.

“That is quite shocking,’’ he said.

Dr Gibney told delegates that delays in access to healthcare compounded existing problems in socially-deprived areas.

“And they add to the administrative burden of those co-ordinating care services,’’ he added.

Ms Shortall, a former minister of state for health, told the conference there were deep structural problems in the health services.

“It is a two-tier system, which is extremely unusual by European standards,’’ she said.

“Most other European countries organise a public health system that people are confident about.’’

Ms Shortall said the kinds of waiting lists that existed in the State were unknown in other countries.

“We cannot continue with a situation where almost half the population feel they have no choice but to buy very expensive private health insurance because they are so nervous about our public health system,’’ she added.