By Cian Molloy - 04 September, 2017
The government needs to build 90,000 social housing units or accept that its housing policy is a failure, says Social Justice Ireland in its annual National Social Monitor for 2017.
“The current approach to housing policy in Ireland is not working,” says Fr Seán Healy, director of the organisation which sprang from the social justice desk of the Conference of Religious of Ireland.
“The private sector will never build social housing units on the scale required. Government must commit to building sufficient social housing units to eliminate the current housing waiting list. This is the only way to address Ireland’s ongoing housing and homelessness crisis.
“More than half of the 91,600 households on the waiting list for social housing are families, and there are 1,330 children under the age of ten in Ireland who are homeless. This is simply unacceptable and a clear indication of how government’s approach to housing policy is failing.”
The solution, says Fr Healy, is that the government must expand the ability of local authorities to build social housing units, that is, council houses and apartments.
“By doing this, the government could eliminate the current social housing waiting list and significantly reduce the pressure on the private rental market. Social Justice Ireland has identified a number of options that would secure the necessary financing.”
Essential public services and infrastructure are also suffering because of demographic changes and a lack of government investment, says the National Social Monitor 2017.
“We are seriously concerned that adequate funding is not being provided to address the ageing of the population that will result in a steady increase in older people and people with disabilities accessing services.”
The organisation’s research and policy analyst Michelle Murphy spelled out the reality: “Our growing and ageing population means that the resources for home care and social care will have to increase. We have to plan how home help services and home care will be delivered and funded now and into the future. This is particularly pertinent in light of the increasing age dependency in rural Ireland and the increasing numbers of older people living alone.
“The number of people in receipt of home care packages has grown, but funding has remained largely static. This has left families struggling to cover the gaps in care for their elderly relatives.”
The plight of unpaid carers is also highlighted in the report – at present, unpaid carers account for more than 4 per cent of the population, with 114,883 people providing up to 28 hours of unpaid care every week. Ms Murphy said: “Increased resources must be allocated to reduce the financial and emotional pressures on carers, including increasing the provision of respite opportunities.”
Other issues included in the annual report include: a need to fully resource the National Skills Strategy, a need to set ambitious carbon emissions targets for 2030 so that Ireland can meet its international commitments to curb global warming, and a need to increase Ireland’s overall tax take in order to provide the necessary services and infrastructure that our growing and ageing population requires.