Campaign

The People’s Programme for Government

By 28th April 2020 No Comments

 

Our People’s Programme for Government

Uplift regularly uses surveys to poll members on key issues that affect their lives. While COVID-19 has presented huge challenges to most people in Ireland, members are also looking beyond the end of this crisis – to the new Ireland that can emerge.

The following policy principles that we are proposing are based on extensive surveying of thousands of Uplift members We have divided our results into three main categories, which Uplift members have consistently named as top priorities for a new Government.

Section 1: Building a Thriving Health System

There is clearly a strong agreement across political parties that our health system needs to radically transform in order to be able to deliver the care that people in Ireland need. Indeed, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have recognised in manifestos that more nurses and frontline staff need to be recruited, that there is a pressing need for more step-down and Primary Care services, and that 24/7 Mental Health care needs to be a priority. [1]

However, while the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the incredible job that health workers and front line staff do, it has also demonstrated where our health system is lacking.

Here are the policy proposals for building a thriving health system, backed by Uplift members, in order of priority:

Step up recruitment of specialists

We welcome Fine Gael’s commitment to “the recruitment of 1,000 frontline staff” including clinical and diagnostic workers. [2] to strengthen our health system.  However, there is a pressing need for more key diagnostic and clinical specialists i.e. psychologists, occupational therapists, endocrinologists and speech and language therapists etc. Uplift members believe it is worth investing in competitive salaries and work packages driving recruitment and retention in order to reduce waiting times and deliver better services.

Keep private hospitals in public ownership and introduce a one-tier health system

It is a step in the right direction that for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, the caretaker government led by Fine Gael decided that there would be no inequality in the standard of care given to public or private patients. However, it is imperative that the public does not overpay private companies during this time, and that staff in the private sector have the same rights and entitlements as public sector workers. We must also work toward a one-tier system, that removes the need for private health services and delivers an excellent standard of healthcare to all people who live on this island. 

Build and resource more primary healthcare centres

  As has been rightly recognised by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil manifestos the key to taking pressure off our hospitals is through delivering more diagnostic, outpatient, community, and mental health services through the Primary Health Care System. We are also calling for more Primary Health Care centres to be opened nationally –  prioritising the areas with most need.   

Introduce 24/7 Mental Health Care Nationwide

This has rightly been identified as a priority by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, though delivery of these services has been too slow and too many lives have been lost as a result. 24/7 Mental health care can be made available through local primary care services, or where they don’t exist, through existing psychiatric care teams. 

Nurses need a salary increase

Uplift members support spending €300m per annum in order to pay nurses at a higher rate. As the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted, recruitment of nurses is possible given the right circumstances. However to meet Fine Gael’s target of “5,000 additional nurses” [3] for our health service, we need to ensure that we are offering competitive salaries and working conditions so that those recruited during the COVID-19 crisis are retained, and that more can be recruited in the coming years.  

Introduce free GP care for everyone – like the NHS

It is commendable that both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael manifestos are seeking to expand on who free GP care is offered to. However, we know that GPs are a powerful weapon in the fight against ill health, and often the first point of contact when people fall either mentally or physically ill. Removing the barriers to this care at the point of use will mean a healthier Ireland, where conditions are diagnosed and treated earlier. 

 

Section 2: Delivering a People’s Housing Plan

Uplift members have been engaging with elected politicians on the policy principles proposed in ‘The People’s Housing Plan.

The People’s Housing Plan is a vision for the future of Irish housing based on the lived experience of over 3,000 people in Ireland and the policy expertise of professionals who actively work in the fields of housing and homelessness, policy and research. [4]

Last week, we re-polled members on the measures put forward in the People’s Housing Plan, along with other measures specifically related to COVID-19.

Here are the policy proposals for ensuring everyone on this island has a safe, warm home, backed by Uplift members, in order of priority:

Introduce a rent waiver scheme for people who cannot pay rent because of COVID-19

It is essential that renters are not met with huge rent debts or eviction notices once the immediate threat of COVID-19 passes. It is much welcomed that banks have agreed to facilitate a mortgage holiday for mortgage holders, but the same must be extended to renters. This is why a rent waiver scheme is so necessary for people who cannot pay. 

Stop the sale of public lands to private developers

The sale of public land to private developers cannot continue if we want to deliver high quality, affordable and fully public homes over the next five years. Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have supported the sale of valuable public lands. However, a  Behaviour and Attitudes poll conducted on behalf of members showed that 94% of people across Ireland support building public homes on public land. [5] 

Build fully accessible public homes and Traveller accommodation, at least 100,000 over the next five years

There are currently over 71,000 people on the public housing list, yet only 4,000 new public homes were built in 2018.[6]. While the Housing Assistance Scheme delivers ‘social’ housing through the private rental sector, it does not deliver secure and affordable homes. [7]  This can only be done through either the building of new public homes, or through the acquisition of new public homes through purchase – either compulsory purchase of vacant property or purchase of private property at affordable rates. People in receipt of HAP continue to be in insecure rental situations, where the landlord may choose to evict them for any reason. 

Reduce the number of vacant homes and land banks by introducing a higher tax and through the Government buying suitable sites and properties

Right now, local authorities can apply a 7% tax on vacant sites, but it’s not enough to work quickly. A higher tax of 30% on unused land banks and vacant properties would: 1. Increase supply quickly: There are over 245,460 vacant homes across the country. Many of these could be brought to the market quickly if it became less profitable to keep them empty. [8]  As it stands, people are paying 30% more rent on average than during the Celtic Tiger peak due to a lack of supply. [9] We need to make it more profitable for developers to bring homes to the market, than to leave them vacant while prices soar and homelessness grows. The revenue from a ‘use it or lose it’ tax could be ring fenced to be put towards public build of affordable homes.

End institutionalised living like homeless hubs and Direct Provision

Ireland’s institutionalisation of human beings has to end. To our national shame, we are still dealing with the effects of institutional abuse of people who were incarcerated in mother and baby homes and religious schools. We are repeating that pattern today through the system of direct provision, emergency accomodation and homeless hubs. We must end these systems as a matter of urgency and instead give people the privacy, dignity and opportunities they deserve. 

Section 3: Delivering a Just and Sustainable Recovery 

Introduce a ‘Green New Deal’

 It is essential that when we begin to recover and emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, that people have opportunities to return to decent employment. This means a public programme that builds energy efficient homes and retrofits existing ones to lower BER ratings and save on household fuel consumption and costs – we welcome plans to expand this by 10x by Fine Gael. [10] However, a Green New Deal also means investing in building a much stronger public transport system that allows people to access services and work in a much more energy efficient manner. 

Invest in new renewable public energy programmes and ban the exploration and importation of fracked gas and oil

There are also huge employment and revenue opportunities in renewable energy. Indeed, Scotland, which has a similar capacity for wind energy, saw their renewable energy industry contribute £5.9 billion to Scotland’s economy and provided 21,400 people with decent employment. [11] This industry should be developed in Ireland as a public good and a public revenue generator. We must suspend licenses for the exploration of gas and oil and rapidly transition away from the importation and use of fossil fuels. 

Ban single use plastics and introduce a bottle deposit scheme

Plastic bottle deposit schemes have been massively successful in countries like Germany. It is also popular with people in Ireland with 78% percent of people polled by Behaviour and Attitudes on behalf of Uplift supporting a scheme. [12] 

Make services free at the point of use – health, childcare, education ie. Universal Basic Services

Universal Basic Services offer a  practical, efficient and affordable solution to increasingly unaffordable services. While Fianna Fáil’s plan to “expand Ireland’s childcare sector by investing in providers, supporting staff, and reducing core operating costs” and Fine Gael’s plans to “increase the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme to 42 weeks per year over the course of the next five years” [13] are steps in the right direction – a much more ambitious programme to deliver high quality and efficient public services that are universal and free at the point of use is necessary to make sure everyone has an opportunity to thrive in Irish society. 

Offer capital grants to small businesses and self employed people that help them become more energy efficient

 Small to medium sized Irish businesses account for 70.5% of our total employment, exceeding the EU average by 4%. [14] However, it is these businesses that will be most hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why a recovery stimulus grant scheme, that supports businesses to invest in their sustainability and growth, whilst also becoming more energy efficient and lowering their carbon output, is essential to a just recovery for everyone living in Ireland. 

References

[1]  Fine Gael & Fianna Fáil Manifestos

[2] Fine Gael Manifesto

[3] Fine Gael Manifesto

[4] Uplift: The People’s Housing Plan

[5] Uplift: The People’s Housing Plan

[6] Uplift: The People’s Housing Plan

[7] Uplift: The People’s Housing Plan

[8] Uplift: The People’s Housing Plan

[9] Uplift: The People’s Housing Plan

[10] Fine Gael Manifesto

[11] Business For Scotland: How Scotland is leading the world’s renewable energy revolution

[12] The Guardian: Bolder Bottle Deposit Scheme could be worth £2 Billion & Uplift: Behaviour and Attitudes Poll Results Plastic Bottle Deposit Scheme

[13] Fine Gael & Fianna Fáil Manifestos

[14] European Commission: Review of SMEs by Country