Green Party Spokesperson for Justice and TD for Dublin South-Central, Deputy Patrick Costello, has called on the Minister for Health to urgently reconvene the NPHET Vulnerable People Subgroup in light of growing concerns that vulnerable groups are being left behind by the pandemic. His calls come following a string of news reports around vulnerable individuals and communities in recent weeks, from hundreds of domestic violence calls to Gardaí being cancelled before appropriate police action was taken, to the news that only 2% of the prison population have been vaccinated.
Speaking on the matter, Deputy Costello said: “The mandate of the NPHET Vulnerable People Subgroup was to provide oversight regarding specific measures and actions that need to be taken to protect vulnerable groups in society as we tackle this pandemic. The term vulnerable people covered an exhaustive list from mental health service users to prisoners, children in care, and those accessing social supports. However, it was disbanded last November after it was deemed it had met its Terms of Reference regarding preparedness plans being in place across government for vulnerable groups.
“The reality is that vulnerable and marginalised groups of people are still very much at risk and the protections that have been put in place are not strong enough to tackle the huge surge in requests support services are experiencing. I have therefore called on the Minister for Health to urgently reconvene the NPHET Vulnerable People Subgroup to ensure that the necessary measures and resources to assist vulnerable groups are being appropriately implemented, instead of the fragmented oversight we are currently seeing which is causing undue harm to our most vulnerable.
“Domestic violence was already referred to as an epidemic in the Programme for Government before Covid-19 even hit our shores, and the system failure that saw hundreds of 999 calls being cancelled before an appropriate police response was carried out is a clear indicator that appropriate resources are not being effectively coordinated to respond to the surge in victims seeking support. Similarly, vaccination of our prison population is moving at an alarmingly slower rate than the rest of the general population, despite prisons containing a significantly higher proportion of medically vulnerable people, and there are fears that we are yet to see the real tsunami of mental health problems post-Covid that will completely overwhelm our services even further.
“As concerns around the Delta variant grow, we need to ensure the response measures and resources put in place to tackle Covid-19 are sufficient to protect our most vulnerable and marginalised cohorts. It is imperative that we prevent any further widening gulf between our disadvantaged communities and the rest of the population, a move which would have chilling long-term consequences,” concluded Deputy Costello.