A pandemic and those on the margins

 

Sir, – The implications of the Covid-19 public health emergency are already far-reaching and impact all corners of our society. As well as the tragic loss of life, it also affects the livelihoods and living standards of thousands of people. For organisations working with those most at risk and on the margins, the crisis has laid bare the depth of existing inequalities and weaknesses in the current system of supports.

The Government has rightly committed to short-term measures that will offer security to individuals and families in this time of instability. The decision to introduce a wage subsidy, an enhanced unemployment payment, a temporary prohibition on evictions, a rent freeze, a temporary end to our two-tier health system and supports for our childcare providers are welcome, and the rapid response by Government departments is to be commended. However, more is urgently required, particularly for the most vulnerable, such as isolated older people.

Every household in Ireland is affected by this crisis but the impacts are most acute for those experiencing poverty, people who are struggling to live on inadequate social welfare payments, individuals and families without a home living in hotels, hostels and hubs, members of the Traveller community in unsuitable accommodation, older people, those parenting alone, migrants in precarious housing and employment, and asylum seekers living in cramped direct provision centres. With the increased reliance on women to provide care, the predominance of women in low-paid work and at the frontline of delivering healthcare and other vital services, we know the crisis will have highly gendered impacts.

People experiencing marginalisation are more likely to be in poor health, have a disability or to be caring for others. Therefore, now more than ever their needs must be a priority as we navigate this crisis together.

Across the country, State bodies, community and voluntary organisations, schools, and our postal service are working together with frontline services to bring supports to those in need. Thousands of community and voluntary groups are delivering vital supplies locally, providing self-isolation units for people who are homeless, dedicated helplines for older people, online family-carer support, and a range of mental-health initiatives to address the huge emotional impact that will result. If we are to be successful in minimising the impact of the virus on our communities, community based and voluntary organisations need to be properly resourced so that they can continue this critical work.

In the midst of the greatest challenge in modern history, and in the context of significant future economic uncertainty, the need for social dialogue is more urgent than ever. A new structure for social partnership/social dialogue must include the community and voluntary pillar, as well as employers, trade unions, the farming and environmental pillars. During this crisis we have already seen what it is possible to achieve. In the spirit of national solidarity, we must continue to work together to give priority to the well-being of all citizens and the common good. – Yours, etc,

PADDY CONNOLLY,

Chief Executive,

Age Action;

Tanya Ward,

Chief Executive,

Children’s Rights Alliance;

PAUL GINNELL,

Co-ordinator,

Community Platform;

CLARE DUFFY,

Policy and Public

Affairs Manager,

Family Carers Ireland;

Dr DONAL McMANUS,

Chief Executive,

Irish Council for

Social Housing;

JOHN STEWART,

Co-ordinator,

Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed;

MAIREAD HAYES,

Chief Executive,

Irish Senior Citizens’

Parliament;

SEAMUS BOLAND,

Chief Executive,

Irish Rural Link;

ORLA O’CONNOR,

Director,

National Women’s

Council of Ireland;

MARY CUNNINGHAM,

Director,

National Youth

Council of Ireland;

DAVID WEBB,

Chief Executive,

Protestant Aid;

Dr SEAN HEALY,

Chief Executive,

Social Justice Ireland;

DEIRDRE GARVEY,

Chief Executive,

The Wheel,

KIERAN STAFFORD,

National President,

Society of St Vincent de Paul.