[Sinn Fein]

22nd May 2003

Crowe - Things Have Not Improved For Disadvantaged

Speaking in Leinster House last night in a debate on disadvantaged communities, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Social and Community Affairs highlighted many of the Government's broken promises in the area of care for the elderly, healthcare and homelessness. Deputy Crowe pointed out that the Government promised an extra 200,000 medical cards, but have already taken 30,000 medical cards off holders. He argued that for people living in disadvantaged communities, life has not improved under this Government which is contonuing its all-out assault on the working class.

The Dublin South-West TD said: ``I have listened carefully to the debate and the rguments that have been going back and forth.  While the Government maintains there have been improvements, the question is whether these have been sufficient given the expectation of the public or whether services have declined for disadvantaged communities and people who live in poverty.  Ireland experienced a boom period and a great deal of money was available.  There was an opportunity then to harness economic prosperity, eliminate structural inequality and share the wealth, particularly among the less well off.

``The Government made a choice which resulted in money following money and the gap between rich and poor widened under this Administration and its predecessor. There are more millionaires in Ireland but there are more people sleeping rough on the streets.  Is that an improvement?  It has never been easier to get into debt.  There is more credit available but more poor people forced to take advantage of that.  Is that an improvement?  There are 50,000 people on housing waiting lists.  Is it easier to buy a house?  Have house prices reduced?  People are making profits from housing developments but they are not from poorback ground and the Government continues to reward them.

``I was at the launch of a report by Simon recently.  The Government states the number of homeless persons is reducing but those who work in this area say there are more people sleeping on the streets and the anecdotal evidence is that more people are living on the streets.

``Child care was mentioned.  It was believed that the economic boom presented anopportunity for people to break out of the poverty cycle.  However, the cost of child care places increased and it is also much more difficult to get a place because no extra places are coming on stream.  A total of 90,000 children live in consistent poverty while 250,000 live in relative poverty.

``I refer to the elderly.  Almost 38% of pensioners live in the poorest 20% of households.  Is that an improvement?  One quarter of the social services budget is spent on pensions compared to 50% in other European countries, according to EUROSTAT.  The Minister of State dealt with the health service.  I do not know hat world he is living in when he mentions improvements in the service.  Everyday constituents tell Members about what is happening in accident and emergency departments and elsewhere in hospitals.  The Mater Hospital announced 180 joblosses recently.  It is more and more difficult for poor people to get intohospitals.  There has been a 22% increase in cost of monthly drug payments and a26% increase in casualty fees.  The Government promised 200,000 medical cardsbut, instead, 30,000 people have lost theirs.''Unemployment has increased.  A total of 2,194 jobs have been lost in Dublinover the past two months, including 200 in my constituency yesterday.  The trendis worsening but the Government is not waking up to it.  CE schemes have beencut back with the loss of 5,000 places and that will have a significant impacton disadvantaged communities where they had more than just a training role.What will replace them?''It is more difficult to make it to third level if one is from a disadvantagedarea.  More school buildings need to be refurbished and so on in these areas.Many of them do not have fully qualified teachers.  With regard to transport, itis not easier to get a bus in Dublin or around the country these days and it ismore difficult to get to places of employment as a result.  ESB charges haveincreased.  Policing also impacts negatively on marginalised communities.Things have not improved.'' ENDS

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