A New Start For Community Care Has To Be a Post-Pandemic Priority
Ivana Bacik, the Labour Party candidate in the Dublin Bay South bye-election, today spoke of her vision for radical reform of community care as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Setting out a bold agenda for maternity care, childcare, and elder care, Ivana Bacik said,
“As we emerge from the pandemic returning to the way things were isn’t good enough. During the pandemic communities pulled together, looked out for each, and helped their neighbours get through a frightening and worrying time.
“We learnt the real value of caring about each other and especially those most vulnerable. That sense of solidarity must now shape how we build post-pandemic Ireland.
“I believe in a State that provides quality, accessible services to citizens at all stages in life. Today, I am setting out my vision for the future of maternity, childcare and elder care. These are issues that are of huge concern to people in Dublin Bay South. The lack of good quality public supports impacts on families across this constituency. It creates concern and worry about the future. There is a better way.
“Like many I am deeply concerned at the treatment of partners of pregnant women during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unacceptable that public health officials have said for weeks that there is no valid case to exclude partners from important pre-natal appointments, yet the practice is still going on. It is causing unnecessary stress and grief to women and their birthing partners. The inability of the Government to set a clear policy and see it implemented is unacceptable. It also speaks volumes about its ability to achieve progress on other vital maternity care issues.
“None is more important than the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital. This must be a publicly owned hospital, providing all aspects of maternity care to women. Any undermining or diluting of the public ethos of the hospital or its ownership is unacceptable. There needs to be immediately clarity from the Minister Health on this issue. The fact that this week a united opposition had to place a motion before the Dáil to get answers from the Minister for Health is a sign of how badly this issue has been handled. The obfuscation and delay has to come to an end; the National Maternity Hospital has to be wholly publicly owned, and dedicated to the best health interests of women.
“Together with colleagues in Labour Women, I am also arguing for a system of publicly funded universal childcare. Ireland has one of the highest childcare costs in Europe. For many families it’s a huge drain on resources and it’s a struggle to make ends meet.
“I am proposing a new approach that would, over time, result in publicly funded, universal childcare provision. It would be accessible to all and affordable. Importantly it would also guarantee workers in the sector are paid a living wage.
“In recent weeks I’ve been told of significant hikes in childcare costs as providers opened up. Also, there is increase concern about the availability of places in the future as some providers closed for good during the pandemic. Against this growing crisis the Government is silent. It has no plan, and I regret to say it appears to have no interest. Yet again families are expected to make do and sort it out themselves.
“This has to change. We need a public childcare option, with high standards and decent wages. Having an affordable system of childcare, available to all, is a hallmark of many European countries. Why can’t we aspire for the same in Ireland? The time has come to invest in a public childcare model and I am proud to put it at the centre of my campaign in Dublin Bay South.
Ivana Bacik also put forward her calls for a major reform of the Fair Deal scheme, so that it can support older people who opt to stay in their homes, among their neighbours, and who need some additional care or supports in order to do so.
“There are hundreds of older people in this community who want to remain in their homes and can do so with some additional care support. However, as we know, HSE home care supports are always under significant strain, waiting lists can be long and the funding is not on a statutory basis, which means the budget has to be fought for each year. It’s a ramshackle way of delivering a vital service.
“The Fair Deal provides more certain and security for older people, and ultimately a modest return to the State. However, at present the support under the Fair Deal scheme is solely designed for residential or institutional care in nursing homes.
“Older people should be provided with more options and greater choice. Many, with appropriate support, could remain in their homes or trade down to smaller, more appropriate accommodation and remain near their family and friends.
“The Fair Deal scheme should facilitate this. We need to rationalise the current array of home care schemes offered to older people, many of which are dependant on a means test; and instead provide access to home care alternatives under the Fair Deal scheme.”