Irish Penal Reform Trust

Irish Times: Poverty, Education, Mental Health and Homelessness

7th September 2010

Four articles in today’s Irish Times and four issues of relevance to our ‘Shifting Focus’ campaign – education, poverty, mental health, homelessness. The plethora of articles reporting on these issues highlights the vulnerability of many families and individuals, especially at a time of reduced financial resources in Ireland.

The ESRI reports that even in a booming economy, a sixth of households were still trapped in poverty. Typically, it was lone parent families which were most at risk. Despite a fall in poverty, and increased employment, many children still teetered on the brink of poverty, or lived in the state completely and persistently. With rising joblessness since these figures, and the financial turmoil in Ireland, the position of these families must become a concern.

The number of homeless persons seeking urgent help has risen for the first time in a number of year by 20%, reports another article.  Representatives from Dublin's Simon Community blamed the impact of the recession, and called for the Government to see through its pledge to reduce long-term homelessness, using the multitude of empty houses to provide accommodation.

In response to yesterday’s news that four in ten Irish adults could not answer the simple maths questions set by the Irish Times, today sees the announcement that literacy targets are being set too low as well. Social Justice Ireland were critical of the low numeracy and literacy standards, claiming Government targets for improvement were too modest. Labour education spokesman Ruairí Quinn criticised the lack of ambition and spoke of the link between educational levels and ingrained social inequality, and its perpetuation, linking illiteracy to social exclusion and poverty.

The final articles tries to redress the lack of coverage afforded to three reports on mental health, released over the summer. The reports dealt with a regression in services, the inaction on the Government’s ‘A Vision for Change’ programme, and the less than perfect conditions in secure institutions where inadequate facilities and staffing are jeopardising recovery.

At the forthcoming ‘Shifting Focus’ conference, various speakers will elucidate such themes in turn, showing how social inequality is entrenched through the neglect and continuation of issues such as these.

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Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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