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Social Care and Social Policy in Ireland: Seeking Social Justice in the Era of Austerity and Beyond

Posted: 17 February, 2015

A major conference on social care, social policy and social justice was held in DIT Grangegorman on Friday February 13th.

Picture 1 – l to r : Siobhan O’Donoghue (Uplift); Fr. Peter McVerry (Peter McVerry Trust); Noel Howard (Social Care Ireland); Professor Brian Norton (President, DIT); Frieda Finlay (Disability Rights Campaigner); Karen Smith (DIT); Anne Marie Shier (DIT); Angela Feeney (Head of Humanities, ITB); Senator Katherine Zappone; Professor Kathleen Lynch (School of Social Justice, UCD); Margaret Fingleton (ITB); Kevin Murphy (ITB)

This conference was a collaborative initiative of members of the social care programme teams in Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology Tallaght. The organisers were Karen Smith & Anne Marie Shier (DIT), Kevin Murphy (ITB) and Margaret Fingleton (ITT). The conference was jointly funded by Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology Tallaght.


Picture 2 – l to r: Noel Howard (Social Care Ireland); Senator Katherine Zappone; Siobhan O’Donoghue (Uplift)’; Frieda Finlay (Disability Rights Campaigner); Fr. Peter McVerry (Peter McVerry Trust)

Attended by over 130 people the purpose of the conference was to provide a space for practitioners working in social care, social work, community work or youth work to come together with academics, researchers and activists to share ideas and experiences in exploring issues related to activism and policy advocacy from a social justice perspective. There were 26 presentations on the day addressing themes such as research findings on poverty and the impact of austerity and policy issues in social care including agency working, young people leaving the care system and HIQA inspections in the disability sector. There were also presentations on policy advocacy in the areas of migrant rights and asylum seekers, empowerment of older people through a ‘Socrates Café’, as well as a number of presentations on issues related to social care, social policy and social justice from theoretical and practice-based perspectives.


Picture 4 - (l-r) Siobhan O'Donoghue (Uplift), Frieda Finlay (Disability Rights Campaigner), Peter McVerry (Peter McVerry Trust). 

The keynote address was delivered by Professor Kathleen Lynch, School of Social Justice, University College Dublinwhospoke on the topic of ‘Care, Gender and Social Justice: Affective Equality and Contributive Justice’. Professor Lynch’s address dealt with issues such as the value placed on care in Irish society, gender inequality in the provision of care and the links between inequalities related to care and the affective domain and inequalities related to the political, economic and cultural domains. There was a panel discussion in the afternoon chaired by Independent Senator Katherine Zappone on the theme of social care, social policy and social justice. The panellists were Fr. Peter McVerry (Peter McVerry Trust), Frieda Finlay (Disability Rights Campaigner), Noel Howard (Social Care Ireland) and Siobhan O’Donoghue (Uplift). Topics addressed during the panel discussion included homelessness, the rights of people with disabilities, growing economic inequality and experiences of policy advocacy work. The panel and attendees also discussed issues related to social care practice such as incorporating the views of those who use services into policy and service provision.