Sarah Clancy: Government must invest in communities to build wealth – Irish Examiner

Yesterday, Clare Public Participation Network launched its report ‘Towards an Anti-Poverty Strategy for Clare’ at Buswell’s hotel in Dublin. This report, researched and written by Dr Conor McCabe, was commissioned by 6 community groups comprised of people who experience poverty and exclusion in County Clare. These groups include Travellers, people with disabilities, older people, women, carers, lgbtq+ people, migrants, asylum seekers, and people who experience socio-economic inequality in County Clare. They made up the steering group for this project. 

Arguably this group, most of whom are already overstretched and under-funded have, with the detailed help of their researcher and their own expertise, produced one of the best pieces of work on the socio-economic context of contemporary life in that place that is often referred to as ‘rural Ireland’. The report covers a huge amount of ground and data, much of it primary research that had to be done to even paint a picture of life in Clare. However, if there are two main findings from the report they are these:

That people who experience social exclusion in Clare understand it — they know why, they know what is missing, and they fully understand how the issues they deal with intersect.

 They know that insecure housing is a mental health issue, that addiction is worse when combined with a lack of services or transport to those services, that childhood development is impacted by lack of proper living spaces, and that the direct provision system is itself a cause of poverty. 

They know that it costs money and time to be poor or disabled, or a single parent, that courses and education are not an answer to a lack of infrastructure, that care work is undervalued, gendered, and — often in Clare — necessary care is unavailable to those who need it for that very reason, and that taking on low wage insecure work is a risk if you have a family depending on you, or if you have a disability that causes you expense.

Secondly, traditional anti-poverty programmes which focus on improving and helping individuals will not eradicate poverty in Clare. Poverty in Clare will only be eradicated when these programmes are accompanied by sustained, planned investment in infrastructure and services. Empowerment classes will not compensate for the fact that Clare has as our report proves, fewer doctors (33%) fewer dentists (50%) less social housing (27% ) even than national averages.

The report launched yesterday will and should make difficult reading for policy makers — the assertion that the housing system in Clare is in chaos has already rattled a few cages, but really there can be no other way to describe a place which has 10,281 vacant inhabitable houses …….