Social Isolation One Of The Biggest Problems Facing Ireland

Minister of State Tom Parlon has outlined radical proposals to tackle the growing problem of social isolation in the country. Speaking at the Progressive Democrats conference Mr Parlon said social isolation was one of the most pressing challenges our country is facing today.

“Ireland today is a very different place than 20 years ago. We now work some of the longest hours in Europe. In addition to this, changing demo-graphics and lifestyles means that older people, particularly, are at much greater risk of social isolation.

“We are all aware of the debate that has raged in recent months in relation to the drink-driving crack-down, which has hit rural areas particularly hard. I believe that this debate needs to be broadened from the focus of alcohol-related socialising to looking at the wider problem of social isolation. Social isolation encompasses both social and emotional isolation, that is, both a low level of social participation and the experience of loneliness. Although many older people are socially connected, there are others, who for various reasons such as loss of relationship or loss of mobility do not have this opportunity.

“I am proposing that a nationwide Anti-Social Isolation Scheme entitled One-2One to be established to target those people in communities who are isolated and lonely.

“This community based scheme, initially run on an evaluated pilot basis, will be established in each county, with local people and neighbours becoming the external link with the world for older people who may be isolated geographically or socially within the community. It will involve recruiting neighbours who will visit older people on a weekly basis and provide them with companionship.

“People who might be recruited to do this work would include stay-at-home mothers/fathers, who might have free time when their children are at school or part-time careers who may be in a position to work limited hours outside the home. As well as employing people in their local community, it will put a set structure in place where old and isolated people have regular social contact.

“Preliminary estimates put the cost of running this scheme, including training, wages, administration etc. in the region of •1,250 per person per month. There are a number of options through which the scheme could be administered including the possibility of distributing the funding through the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.”