Latest plan fails to address societal problems highlighted by pandemic

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Minister Alan Kelly

WITH the publication of a roadmap for the ending of restrictions, Labour Party Leader and health spokesperson Alan Kelly paid tribute to all those who continue to play their part in the fight against Covid-19, but noted that the government’s latest plan failed to address the deep problems uncovered by the pandemic in our social safety net and public services.

Deputy Kelly said:

“Today’s announcement of a reopening plan wouldn’t have been possible without the work of our healthcare workers and those across the public service, and I want to pay tribute to all who have enabled us to roll out such a strong vaccination programme, fight this disease and maintain essential public services. Irish people have played their part throughout this pandemic and the strong uptake of the vaccine has made today’s developments possible.

“There is welcome news for many parts of our society and economy tonight and in particular a clear plan for resuming live entertainment and indoor activities will provide some reassurance for those sectors. We are concerned that cuts to the PUP will kick in next week despite many workers in the arts, aviation, entertainment and hospitality sectors to name a few still heavily impacted by the pandemic, and many workers will not yet have been able to return to full or partial employment. The fact that it appears the government will introduce a ‘last mile’ payment for some sectors reflects this and is an acknowledgement that the PUP is being cut too fast too soon.

“It is also clear that the roadmap for ending restrictions strikes a difficult balance between reopening fully and a caution about the future trajectory of the virus, but for many parts of our society there really is no going back to the way things were before the pandemic. Covid has been a gamechanger, and the government must rise to the challenge.

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“We still don’t have a statutory sick pay scheme in place, and the endemic rates of low pay and insecure work in many sectors remains. The structural issues uncovered by the pandemic can’t be ignored. We have chronic problems in our childcare sector, and ever growing waiting lists for essential healthcare. There is still no sign of a ‘Catch-Up’ scheme in our schools for children impacted by the many months of closed classrooms while the level of homelessness is growing since the lifting of the eviction ban.

“Too many people are running to stand still, and the Covid-19 crisis has shown the need for a new deal for a safe and secure future. We still haven’t seen the kind of recovery plan Ireland needs to support workers and families by renewing the social contract with a commitment to well-funded universal public services. That is the real challenge this government now faces.

“There really is no going back to the way things were before the pandemic.”