Saturday, January 31, 2009

Most vulnerable should be protected from cuts - Cori

CORI JUSTICE, the social justice campaign group, has said it will press the Government, during talks on a national recovery programme, to protect the most vulnerable in society from the scope of the planned €2 billion cuts in exchequer spending.

Cori Justice director Fr Seán Healy said yesterday that a slash- and-burn approach to the country’s social infrastructure, which was built up over recent years, would be foolish.

Such a policy would not allow Ireland to benefit from any economic upswing but would leave the country having to spend another decade rebuilding what it had just dismantled, he said.

However, Fr Healy said that Cori Justice, which is part of the community and voluntary pillar at the talks, would be arguing that tens of millions of euro could be saved through better value-for-money programmes, rationalisation of services and the postponement of some projects.

He said it would also be proposing a widening of the tax base and an increase of the tax take by the exchequer.

Cori Justice maintained that the Government should not cut back on its commitment to provide 9,000 social housing units annually. However, it said huge savings were possible by renegotiating contracts for land and building work in this area.

It also said plans to develop primary care teams in the health sector should not be hit by the cuts.

Such teams, which would involve GPs working with other health professionals, such as community nurses, physiotherapists, etc, were the cornerstone of the restructured health service. Fr Healy said millions of euro could be saved in greater value-for-money initiatives in, for example, the area of fees paid to pharmacists.

The Health Service Executive last year sought to save €100 million on such payments but the move collapsed after a successful legal challenge.

Fr Healy also suggested that there was scope for rationalisation in the provision of accident and emergency services at night-time in three hospitals in Cork. This issue is under review by the HSE.

The community and voluntary pillar was initially deeply unhappy with the framework document produced by the Government on Wednesday as a basis for the talks on a recovery programme.

However, following contacts with officials on Wednesday evening, more emphasis was added in relation to social policy and social infrastructure, allowing the pillar to endorse the document.

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(Source: IT)