RCPI is calling on the Government to make homelessness and health a priority in Budget 2018

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The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) calls on the Government to protect those who are vulnerable to becoming homeless and to provide healthcare services for those who are homeless. Homelessness is a prime example of the need for health services that can meet multiple complex needs- mental health, addiction, chronic medical conditions and personality disorders.

The provision of adequate social housing is a most important intervention to protect the health of those who are currently homeless. Addressing the broader health and social care needs of the men, women and children who are currently affected, or are at risk of becoming homeless must also be a priority.  It is also essential to recognise the severe effects that homelessness has on an their health and that the lack of housing is leading to a substantial increase in the number of people accessing hospitals and the health services who require care.

The key health intervention required from the Government is the provision of social housing on a scale that can meet the growing need across our society. It is also critical to highlight that a substantial proportion of homeless people in Ireland today have ended up – and remain - in that position because of ill-health and addiction to alcohol and drugs. There is an urgent need for an overarching plan to support the health and wellbeing of homeless people in Ireland and to prevent those who are vulnerable from becoming homeless. The implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is one important measure that can help to support better health and improve our relationship with alcohol in Ireland

Prof Frank Murray

RCPI President

RCPI President Designate, Prof Mary Horgan said all Government Departments must come together in a coordinated way to address the health and social care needs of the homeless and those who are at risk.

There is no single pathway into homelessness. The fundamental issues of poverty and inequality that are driving individuals and families into homelessness, and which have precipitated this current crisis, must be addressed. There is a housing emergency and a housing-led approach is required. It is a sad fact that people with chronic mental illness, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injuries and dementia, are more likely to become homeless where there is an inadequate supply of public housing. They need to be supported

Prof Mary Horgan

RCPI President-Designate

The pre-Budget submission Budget Decisions for a Healthier Ireland calls for a strategy to support the health of homeless people in Ireland.

  This strategy should encompass and address the following elements:  
  • Housing is the key health intervention for homeless people
  Providing and resourcing an adequate supply of housing is the most important intervention for homeless people.  
  • Prevention and alleviation of homelessness at the population level
  The Healthy Ireland programmme has been framed as the mechanism through which primary prevention of homelessness as a consequence of ill-health can be avoided at the population level.  The actions taken under Healthy Ireland should be reviewed with regard to their effect on the health of those at risk of, or currently experiencing homelessness. In addition, Healthy Ireland must be integrated horizontally across government departments and the health of our homeless must no longer be seen as the sole domain of the Department of Health and the HSE.  
  • Prevention and alleviation of homelessness by supporting vulnerable individuals and families.
  A 5 year plan for funding, organisation and joint working across these services should be developed. The funding mechanisms for homelessness and health should be evaluated, together with a review of the services provided by the HSE and organisations funded by it in the community/voluntary sector.  Develop national guidance on accessing addiction, mental health and other treatment services by people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless (promised as part of the Homeless Strategy National Implementation Plan in 2009).   The pre-Budget submission also calls for the implementation of the Sláintecare report to tackle the hospital system crisis.

There needs to be changes to the way the entire system is planned and funded to enable it to deliver integrate models of care, for example for older persons and those with chronic disease, that can be accessed at local and primary level as well as in hospitals. It is important that a structural reform and investment in the transformation of how healthcare is delivered to patients, must be led from the very top of Government

Leo Kearns

RCPI Chief Executive Officer

RCPI pre-Budget Submission 2017

Yvonne McCahill

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