October 29, 2008 § Leave a comment
Senator Alex White, Labour Leader in the Senate and his party’s candidate in the Dublin South by-election, has expressed dismay at the fact that primary schools in Dublin South will lose up to 14 teachers under the new pupil-teacher ratios set by the Government as a result of the Budget changes.
Speaking prior to a Labour Party motion in the Dáil on class sizes, Senator White stated that: “The Government are saying that class sizes will be increasing by only one child. In reality, it’s much more serious than that. Schools will lose teachers, every child’s education will be compromised, and class sizes in Dublin South will be as high as 32.
“The worst case is St. Colmcille’s National Schools in Knocklyon, who will lose an extraordinary 5 teachers according to initial figures from the INTO. This is the same school that, in the last election, the Government promised to redevelop, ending the plight of 500 students in prefab accommodation. Today, the Government will still not let the school apply for planning permission.
“The INTO have also reported that Taney NS, Dundrum and St Mary’s NS, Lamb’s Cross will each lose a teacher. Holy Cross NS, Dundrum will lose 3 teachers and Oatlands NS, Stillorgan will lose 4 teachers under the new rules. 14 teachers is a shocking number to be lost in one constituency, and this doesn’t include the loss of English Language Support Teachers.
“The Government has responded by insisting that these measures are required in these tight budgetary times.
“However, Minister O’Keeffe is ignoring the fact that the people who will be most affected by his cuts are children, who in many cases already have had to endure high class sizes, and low standard accommodation.
“What Labour is asking tonight is simply for the Minister to stick to his own Programme for Government – which promised to decrease class sizes, not increase them.”
More :: Labour’s Private Members’ Motion will be taken in the Dáil at 7.30 pm tonight. You can view the proceedings live by clicking here.
October 29, 2008 § Leave a comment
Today’s Irish Examiner investigation into conditions in our crèches, is a real eye-opener and is a clear indication that the enforcement regime needs to be beefed up as a matter of urgency.
The conditions in some of our crèches as outlined in the report are absolutely appalling. There was one horrific instance where a young child fell and fractured his skull, but no medical attention was sought. In another case a different child fractured an arm and the parents concerned were not even notified.
It is unthinkable that such cases could possibly arise in an area that is supposed to be regulated by the HSE. This report is a litany of negligence, ignorance and potential disasters. Currently crèches are visited by the HSE inspectorate on average just once every three years, which is quite clearly grossly inadequate. We now need a clear plan of action from Minister for Children Barry Andrews, outlining how he intends to tackle this.
Parents deserve to be able to send their children to crèches, safe in the knowledge that their children will be properly cared for in a safe, secure, and nurturing environment.
Failure to act on this report could give rise to the most serious consequences.
October 24, 2008 § Leave a comment
I was part of the panel on last night’s Nightly News with Vincent Browne on TV3. Also on the panel were Dearbhail McDonald of the the Irish Independent, economist Jim Power and Marie Louise O’Donnell of DCU. We discussed the fallout from the Budget and reviewed the weeks events.
You can view the discussion in full by clicking here.
October 23, 2008 § Leave a comment
Prior to the unprecedented events we witnessed outside Leinster House yesterday, I raised the matter of Medical Cards and the health system as a whole at the Order of Business in the Seanad. Below is an edited transcript.
We need to have a debate on the medical card for the over-70s issue today. Everyone in the country is talking about these issues while we seem to be the only body that is not, apart from the opportunity to raise it on the Order of Business. We should amend the Order of Business to allow a debate with the Minister for Health and Children on this issue today.
There is nothing short of chaos in the entire budgetary process. Yesterday I made the point that people do not believe what they are being told. That is a very serious matter for a government. It is one thing to disagree with a government but another not to believe it. There is a credibility gap with the figures behind yesterday’s reversal and many other issues. The Government needs to engage seriously with the people, giving them the information and clarity they require and deserve.
Over the summer holidays, the Supreme Court brought in a serious judgment which involved criticism of the Legislature in respect of the health insurance scheme and BUPA. I am very critical of the ideology espoused by the Minister for Health and Children regarding the health services. This is one area, however, in which I agree with her. I supported her position in the BUPA case in which she argued in the Supreme Court that the important principle of risk equalisation was a fundamental prerequisite for the effective operation of community rating. In other words, it is to spread the cost of health care across the board by charging younger and healthier people the same cost for health insurance, in order to support those who are older and more in need of services.
It is a very noble communitarian principle which I would extend. The entire community, in particular those well able to pay more for health services, should be called upon to pay their fair share for a truly universal system of health care.
The communitarian ideals the Minister argued in the Supreme Court in the BUPA case should be extended across the board. For once and for all, let us face up to the need to have a proper health service with the same minimum standard of health care for all citizens, irrespective of income.
The risk equalisation scheme was interrupted in 2005 and has not yet come into place. When will the legislation be introduced for dealing with the effects of the Supreme Court judgment in the BUPA case? Will the Leader invite the Minister for Health and Children to debate the risk equalisation issue and allow us an opportunity to consider the wider question of universal health care which arises from this case?
October 22, 2008 § Leave a comment
When at some time in the future we look back over the great achievements of the past ten to 15 years in the Irish economy and society and do the balance sheet, perhaps we will see that our greatest missed opportunity in the course of that time was not to put in place a reliable, well-funded and universally accessible system of child care.
Members of the Government and parties who support the Government bear a political responsibility for failing in that task. It is manifestly the case that the Government has failed in that regard.
The National Economic and Social Forum has made the point repeatedly, and as recently as last autumn, that the subvention scheme in our community our child care system is not considered to be workable and may leave low income families at risk of not being able to continue in employment.
In other words, they might have to abandon the fledgling child care services. There was little or no consultation with those who are affected by the scheme. The NESF make the point that provision of early education for children in this country is one of the lowest in the OECD countries but that child care costs, relative to earnings, are the highest in the OECD, at nearly 30% of net family income. That’s more than double the OECD average.
The pressures and dilemmas faced by child care centres in respect of taking in children, the rates they pay and trying to train and retain employees. In any sector, be it child care, education or the health service, there must be trained professional staff. Until we understand that we require properly trained people working in child care centres and that we must give them a stake in their own work and future, we will not hold onto excellent people in the way we must.
Of course, the background to this is that so many of these centres grew from voluntary activity, where people, often young parents, got together to organise a centre. This voluntary effort at the start evolved into a more long-term proposition. They obtained a grant and then became employers. They must now proceed as a business.
However, they are incredibly frustrated by the administrative requirements in running a child care centre and they have to engage in lengthy form filling and are obliged to inquire into the means of parents proposing to send their children to the centre. They are being diverted from the job they should be doing, that is, running and developing excellent child care centres. The frustration is palpable.
The Minister for Children, Barry Andrews (FF) said in his speech to the Seanad that the eight major child care organisations that are supported by the Government and how they have contributed greatly to the development of quality child care. He was correct but proceeded to state, “I hope to strengthen those links in the coming months with the location of expertise from the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education, the CECDE, into the early years policy unit of the Department of Education and Science”.
This should read that the Government has abolished the centre in recent weeks. When I referred on the Order of Business to our not being given the full story, this is the kind of action I mean. The centre is gone and the notion that it has been integrated into another is incorrect; it has been abolished. If we just used plain English, we might be able to make more progress in our discussion.
October 22, 2008 § Leave a comment
I joined the panel on last night’s edition of RTE Radio 1’s Late Debate. Also on the panel were Sean Ardagh TD, Harry McGee of the Irish Times and Aileen O’Meara of the Sunday Business Post. The discussion centred around the changes to the Medical Card Scheme and the 1% levy.
You can listen to the show in full by clicking here.