More questions for HSE on care of children

December 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

The conclusions of the HIQA report that some children are unsafe in Special Care Units makes for very sobering reading.

It seems that hardly a month goes by without some revelation or other relating to HSE care of children.

Just last week it was confirmed that some 200 children have died in the last decade while in state care.

In October we got the grim details of the Roscommon child care case and we also discovered that almost 800 children ended up homeless and in need of emergency accommodation last year

The system is badly flawed in a number of significant respects. For instance, while HIQA is responsible for inspecting the various centres, including High Support Units and Special Care Units, the number of inspectors is clearly inadequate. The work that HIQA does is very valuable, but their resources are stretched too thinly.

The failure of the HSE to ensure that all staff are properly qualified is a problem in special care units, just as it is in other areas. In Coovagh House for example, it was found that 20 of 109 staff were unqualified. In addition, thanks largely to the recruitment moratorium, these facilities are also forced to rely on agency staff, rather than recruit badly-needed care workers.

While I welcome the appointment this week of a national director for childen’s services, the outstanding HIQA recommendations such as the publication of a national strategy for special care; the appointment of a monitoring office for special care units; and a review of national governance of special care services, need immediate attention

The Child Care Amendment Bill which is making its way through the Oireachtas will provide for some protection to children in care. The Bill should be prioritised ahead of some of the more frivolous pieces of vanity project legislation that are in danger of clogging up the system in the lead up to the dissolution of the Dail.

Arguments in favour of reducing minimum wage unconvincing

December 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill is the piece of legislation seeking to reduce the minimum wage to €7.65 per hour.  Labour has strongly opposed this in both houses.  Last night, an initial debate took place in the Seanad.

One of the features of this debate on the national minimum wage is the dearth of evidence on which the measure is based. A reference to the Forfás report, to appeared in the Minister of State’s speech. Perhaps Senator Mark Dearey was going a little too far, even from the point of view of his own argument, when he said Forfás had confidently predicted job creation would flow from this measure. The Minister of State did not go that far, although he did point out that Forfás had stated it was likely that the presence of the national minimum wage influenced wage levels for a further 26% of the labour force, that is, those within 1.5 times of the national minimum wage. That point is often invoked.

Senator Dearey has said Forfás confidently predicts that the €1 reduction from €8.65 to €7.65 in the national minimum wage will lead to job creation. With all due respect to my colleague, I very much doubt if it has stated this because one thing is certain: if the Minister of State had such a clear argument available to him to support what he was doing, it would have been included in his speech, but it is not. He was much more careful and made the point, which is not untrue, that Forfás had spoken about the fact that the national minimum wage as a benchmark had an influence on pay levels in a wider section of the labour force.

In 2000 the Oireachtas put in place a regime under the National Minimum Wage Act which involved a process to determine the appropriate level for the national minimum wage. This was one of the last western countries to do so. It was not a figure which was supposed to be pulled out of a hat. On the various occasions it has been reviewed by the Labour Court it has been reviewed on the basis of a clear process set out in the legislation, involving an analysis and a consideration of labour market trends, the wider economic environment and the context in which it was set. The national minimum wage has been increased five or six times since 2000 and on each occasion there were lengthy debates on what the rate should be in the context of national pay agreements and programmes. The 2000 Act contemplates an agreement between industry and the trade unions on the basis of discussions and the Minister actually makes the order. That is a satisfactory process because it involves an input from both sides and, ultimately, a decision being made by the Minister.

The biggest concern I have in regard to the change in the national minimum wage is that it seems to amount to an arbitrary reduction to €7.65 without the presentation of evidence or an analysis as to why there should be a reduction. I do not accept Senator Dearey’s point that there is a clear nexus with job creation. Not only is it problematic in regard to the figure chosen, but the process put in place under the 2000 Act for careful consideration and deliberation involving people who know about and have experience of the issues involved, including employers, has been set aside by this arbitrary decision which, it seems, has been made not on the basis of analysis but on what looks good for the optics. « Read the rest of this entry »

Alex White selected as Labour general election candidate in Dublin South

December 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Senator Alex White will run for the Labour Party in Dublin South in the forthcoming General Election.

He was selected at a convention last Saturday in Ballyroan Community Centre, Rathfarnham.

Speaking afterwards, White said he was “pleased and deeply honoured” to have been selected.

“This is the most vital General Election in our lifetime. The recent budget, the four-year plan and the EU-IMF deal have been the bills for economic failure – bills that the public will have to pay off well into the future.

“In Labour we have a profound sense of fairness and social justice. We now need to marry those politics to a message of hope. Hope that we can begin a process of renewal that will transform our politics and economy for the collective good. Huge challenges face our country. But they are challenges that together we can overcome. Labour’s vision and politics must be at the heart of our recovery.

“In the coming months, I hope to bring that message to the doorsteps of Dublin South. I very much look forward to it.”

Where in this Budget is there a plan for recovery?

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday’s budget was severe on all sectors of society. There are many people who cannot afford to take the cuts handed to them by this government. Yet, because the devil of this budget is in its detail, it may take until January for the full realisation of these measures hit home. 

Today, I spoke on the budget in the Seanad. You can view the video below…

In Ireland’s Interest: Labour’s Proposals for Budget 2011

December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

In advance of Budget 2011, the Labour Party published a policy document In Ireland’s Interest on Friday 3 December.

The document refers to the party’s proposals based on Jobs, Reform and Fairness, and it serves the interests of the Irish people.

You can view the document in full in the News section of my website. Visit it by clicking here.

Burst Water Pipe in Rathfarnham

December 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Water Section of South Dublin County Council are carrying out works today to repair a burst water main at Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham. Customers in Butterfield Avenue, Washington Lane and surrounding areas may experience reduction in pressure or no water today whilst the repair works are being carried out. 

SDCC hope to have full water service restored by mid afternoon.

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