Noel Baker: A new Government must deliver on its pledged 'social contract

Noel Baker: A new Government must deliver on its pledged 'social contract
The PFG contains some proposals for that group, including extending free GP care to those in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant.

The new Programme for Government promises a "new social contract" between citizens and the State but contracts are meant to be a guarantee that something will be delivered - and that hasn't always been the case.

Given the rumblings of "paying for the pandemic", there is some succour in the pledge to protect core weekly social welfare rates. The PFG also mentions deferring plans to move the pension age to 67 - pending the report of the Commission on Pensions - with SIPTU, Age Action and the National Women's Council of Ireland among those welcoming the move. 

Other changes are proposed, such as introducing a system to enable people to defer receipt of their state contributory pension on an annual basis, and the gradual introduction of a pension auto-enrolment system.

The pledge to replace the Direct Provision over the next five years has been hailed as a massive step forward, but while the plight of those in DP has been highlighted in recent months, so has that of carers.

The PFG contains some proposals for that group, including extending free GP care to those in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant, but how the efforts of the next government pan out in improving the lives of this much-neglected group may prove a decent gauge as to the overall success of the PFG.

There is plenty more, including a National Traveller Health Action Plan, a new National Strategy for Women and Girls, and under LGBTi+ proposals, there is a ban on conversion therapy and the expunging of criminal records for gay men convicted of historical offences.

Regarding gender recognition, those aged 16 and 17 years may be able to self-declare, while the PFG also says it will "commence research to examine arrangements for children under 16".

There are also pages on efforts to improve services for those with a disability, although it's telling that much of it stresses the need to improve on or fully implement that which was already - or theoretically - available.

Also building on what was already there are policies relating to childcare and the 'first five years', including enabling "increased remote, flexible and hub-working arrangements".

Less nebulous is the setting up of an agency called Childcare Ireland to help expand high-quality childcare, and the extension of paid parental leave for parents.

At the sharper end plans include increasing access to parenting support programmes and early intervention supports.

There will be plenty to analyse when it comes to actual delivery. As Child Law Rapporteur Conor O'Mahony tweeted: "Like others, I welcome the commitment to establishing a specialist family court. But I recall that it was in the Programme for Govt in 2011 as well. Let's get it done."

That, and much more, if this PFG is to be an instruction manual for implementation and not just another aspirational pamphlet.

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