[Sinn Fein]

10th September 2002

National Adult Literacy Association report

Sinn Fein's spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe TD has described the report brought out today by the National Adult Literacy Association as both an indictment of the government's failure to take adult education seriously and a frightening confirmation of the development of the state's two-tier health system.

The Dublin South-West TD said: ``Half a million Irish citizens suffer from learning difficulties and as this report proves, that impacts on their access to healthcare. We already have a two-tiered system in this state where the least well-off are left behind every day as private patients gain almost immediate access to healthcare. This report shows that even that access available to public patients can be limited by their lack of basic functional literacy.

The 1997 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) found that 25% of the population tested could not fully understand the directions on a popular headache packet, prompting this report which shows that little has changed since 1997. Health literacy is more than merely being able to read the instructions however. Lack of literacy means the patient might be unable to take part in the decision-making process or understanding his or her options.

While calling on the government to pay heed to this report and implement the recommendations it makes, I would like to take this opportunity to call again on the government to end the exclusion of low-paid workers from the Back to Education Imitative. This state has one of the highest proportions of low-paid workers in the OECD and while the Back to Education Initiative is useful, by excluding all but those who are unemployed, it bars large numbers of workers who badly need it.''

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