Government called on to act as landmark study on the Irish in Britain shows…
- 1-in-4 are in bad health
- 9-in-10 receive little social support
- 1-in-4 suffer depression or anxiety
The British Government is failing to provide adequate social support for the Irish in Britain as shocking figures show increased levels of anxiety, depression and illhealth. A report launched in Westminster this week shows one-in-four Irish people in London are in bad health, with a further 23 per cent suffering depression or anxiety. The worrying statistics were highlighted in a landmark study documenting the current needs of the community in London. It reveals nearly nine-in-10 Irish people feel they receive poor levels of social support through local authority services.
The report, entitled Fresh Perspectives: A Needs Analysis of the Irish Community in London, was undertaken by the Federation of Irish Societies jointly with the London Irish Centre. At its launch in the House of Commons on Tuesday the authors called for better Government provisions for the Irish across Britain.
Their host Chris Ruane MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Irish in Britain, supported the call. “The findings of this report must give food for thought for all MPs and elected representatives in London,” he said. “It reinforces representations made by community groups and care workers that the Irish in Britain, particularly the elderly, are at risk of neglect at a time of austerity.” He added: “They are in need of community- sensitive services. The British Irish Parliamentary Assembly has previously expressed the view of politicians from throughout these islands, that the Irish in Britain should not become an easy target for cuts. It is a view with which I wholeheartedly concur.”
The study, which began in April 2011, took part in three phases — including a community survey of 790 Irish people across London and a series of focus groups and online interviews involving a further 65 people. Those who participated were categorised as ‘vulnerable Irish’ and the cross-section included recent migrants, older people, second-generation Irish people and carers. Poor health among the Irish in Britain is being made worse by loneliness, according to a report unveiling the stark reality of life in the capital for the community’s most vulnerable. While the survey of more than 800 Irish people across the city showed high levels of anxiety, depression and high blood pressure, it documented for the first time the increasing numbers of new migrants who find themselves alone and anxious upon arrival.
The authors of the Fresh Perspectives report, launched in Westminster this week, have called on organisations serving the Irish community across Britain to use the findings as a tool to gain better services from local providers for both their traditional and newly-arrived clients.
Dr Mary Tilki, Chair of the Federation of Irish Societies and one of four report authors, said: “The data should be used to ensure local and regional planning for social services includes detailed information on the needs of the Irish community.” She added: “Those involved in migration policy and commissioning must use the results to plan effectively for the needs of this community. As well as this mainstream organisations must improve front-line workers’ awareness of the rights of recently arrived Irish people under the Common Travel Area agreement.”
Irish Ambassador Bobby McDonagh, who provided a foreword for the report which was supported by the Irish Government, called for it to ‘create a basis for action’ to improve the situation for the most vulnerable Irish. Co-author Jeff Moore, Director of care at the London Irish Centre, added: “The study has demonstrated the on-going health needs of the established community, and showed that although the physical health of recent migrants was good, many self-reported anxiety and depression.”
He added: “The data showed that recent Irish migrants, older Irish people and Irish carers lack appropriate social support, feel that mainstream services do not meet their needs and have a preference for culturally sensitive services.”
The landmark survey of vulnerable Irish people in London, conducted over three data collection stages since April 2011, is the largest of its type to ever be undertaken on the community in the city. Its authors explain: “The primary aim of the project was to engage with vulnerable Irish people across London, to assess their needs and aspirations in terms of future welfare, social and cultural services.”
They added: “A secondary aim of the project was to examine the access to, and satisfaction with, targeted services for the wider Irish community in London. To provide empirical data to inform strategic development, commissioning and funding decisions and to underpin the day-to-day operations of Irish community organisations in London.”
The findings, revealed at the House of Commons on Tuesday offer recommendations for Government and statutory providers in Britain, Irish community organisations in London, and Irish Government bodies as well as British and Irish policy makers.
The full report can be downloaded from www.irishinbritian.org or www.londonirishcentre.org