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29 May, 2018

Reclassification of AHBs: Business as Usual? Report on PAI’s Social Housing Conference

2018-05-29T15:56:14+00:00May 29th, 2018|News|0 Comments

On Thursday, 24 May 2018, Public Affairs Ireland welcomed delegates to Dublin’s Radisson Blu Royal Hotel to engage in a discussion about the social housing crisis and, in particular, the role of Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in the delivery of the Government’s goals.

 

PAI’s Director, Garrett Fennell, chaired the event, and opened the conference with a brief contextualisation of the situation as it now stands, emphasising that while all the country is short of all kinds of housing, the homelessness crisis signals a “particularly acute need” for social housing.

Figures over the last year have been hopeful, with a high level of delivery. Higher, in fact, than the Government’s projected figure. Mr Fennell noted that AHBs are a “core element” of the success in delivery. However, the recent “dark and unexpected cloud from Brussels” – the reclassification of AHBs as “on balance sheet” by Eurostat and the CSO – may have an impact on the number of homes built and provided this year, and in the years to come. He lauded the diverse panel of speakers at the event, who he assured would highlight for attendees “a range of different perspectives” in order to “understand the implications of the reclassification”.

 


Jim Power, consultant economist and author of Friends First’s Quarterly Economic Review, took to the podium to discussion projections for what could be the future role of the AHBs.

First, he took a look at the lay of the land, in economic terms. CSO figures showed that rent prices are up 65% since end of 2010. The year-on-year growth rates are at upwards of 7%. He asserted, “Housing is the biggest social and economic issue facing the country today”. And it’s a time-old issue: an excess of demand meeting a limited supply. This issue is somewhat exacerbated by the fact that we are quickly approaching a fully employed economy. This has led to a higher rate of mortgage availability. However, it could also herald a shortage in labour in the near future. Mr Power reckons that this issue will be especially prevalent in the construction industry – key players in housing delivery.

“After 2007 or 20088, we basically stopped building houses. We can see a sharp decline in social housing provision, notably a decline in the homes provided by the Local Authorities, a sign of the move towards private companies and AHBs”. In the foreword to Rebuilding Ireland, the then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny, stressed the increasing role the AHBs will play in the delivery of social housing in the future, which we have seen is true.

 

The NESC reviewed the Irish situation and made a number of suggestions to tackle the crisis. One such suggestion was that authorities should find a way of embedding a model of permanently affordable housing. But what do we mean by affordable housing? Mr Power noted one definition: affordable housing accounts for less than 30% of gross disposable income, or 35% of disposable income, on housing costs (rent or mortgage).

The higher the housing spend, the less money that is available to the rest of the economy.

In a European context, we don’t have an exceptionally bad system. The percentage of citizens who pay more than 40% of their disposable income on housing is relatively low. However, it was notable that the part of the housing market that is most stressed is the private rental system.

 

Past systems have led to a shortage in the number of housing units available. It was common, previously, to sell housing to tenants that had rented is. This results in a loss of housing stock, contributing to difficulties. The current demographic and increased employment put further pressure on housing stock in the private rental sector, continuing the trend of shortage of supply. Recent moves towards the Air BnB model – where homes are rented to tourists on a short-term basis for comparatively much higher rents – has contributed to the loss in the number of private rental properties available.

In terms of overall impact that this has, it is clear that increased spending on housing depletes the expendable income available to be fed into the economy as a whole.

Mr Power advice would be to increase the focus on new builds, as opposed to acquisition. New builds from AHBs have proven to be of an extremely high quality, with over half of AHBs agreeing to adhere to Building for the Future - A Voluntary Regulation Code for Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland. High satisfaction rates were recorded for the units delivered, not something that Mr Power could envisage would have been the case where Local Authorities delivered the units.

In conclusion, Mr Power commented when looking at “what the issue is, and how it feeds into social housing, you cannot look at those categorisations in isolation, they all feed in to one another”. For example, the predicted skill shortage will need to be looked at in order to lessen its impact on the delivery of social housing.

However, his main belief is that,

“If you solve housing, you will solve a lot of other economic and social problems”.

 


Justin Bickle, CEO and Co-Founder of Glenveagh Properties PLC, stands at the helm of a private organisation that is passionate about partnering with Local Authorities and AHBs in order to aid them in delivering high-quality homes.

Mr Bickle has a personal drive to create social and affordable housing that meets high standards. He himself lived in social housing through his childhood into his twenties. To him, the UK model of Mixed Tenure housing seemed the best option: a mixture of social homes, and affordable homes, and rented and privately owned units. This ensures that communities stay diverse, and helps prevent the creation of “ghettos”.

“Housing is a cyclical industry – perhaps the most cyclical. Our job is to build a resilient business. It’s not a land-bank play”, Mr Bickle ensured. Glenveagh’s model then, would help move Ireland towards the NESC’s recommendation of a permanent structure of affordable housing. He called this process “Community place-making.” Mixed tenure communities may be new to the Irish market, nut they are the standard in UK market.

 

Mr Bickle noted that his organisation have a desire to do the right thing; they are not primarily motivated by high profits.

His thoughts on the sector, currently? “I do think there is a solution to the current problem. It may take the people in this room to sit down and get it done. As part of a PLC, we want to be part of the solution. We have access to the materials, and we want to do the right thing.”

What we have in place at the moment is a dysfunctional market. In some ways, the actual figures don’t really matter; it will take a long time to actually deliver units in order to meet that backlog. Of Glenveagh, he said “We don’t want to create a boom-and-bust house builder. That just contributes to a boom-and-bust housing model more generally. If the industry comes together, I think there is an opportunity for a vehicle that could solve the current problem.”

 

We lost a decade to the crash. We need to shift the way we do things. AHBs and Local Authorities should be willing to engage with innovations in building technology. Glenveagh us rapid-build steel frame technology to deliver 67 in record time. They can build a wood-frame house in two weeks; the average is 6-8 when using masonry. “If we can do it to a higher standard in a shorter time, why wouldn’t we?”

His final thought was,

“Talk is great but action is better.”

 


Economic consultant Rafique Mottiar set out to illuminate the reasoning behind the reclassification of AHBs as “on balance sheet”. His analysis comes with the backing of his wealth of experience working with the organisation.

The CSO breaks down the economy into sectors. AHBs were previously defined as “Non-profit institutions serving households” or NPISH. This is due to the fact that they are voluntary organisations providing for a social need. This sets them aside from the Governmental sector.

 

When the Commission came to Dublin in 2017, they raised the issue of whether that was where they should rightly stay, because the social housing model was changing as a result of the housing crisis and the commitments made in Rebuilding Ireland. As a result, they asked the CSO to review, which they began to do in December 2017.

This is based on the qualifying conditions for the Governmental sector. AHBs are controlled by Government Departments, and lack a certain level of autonomy. This means that they are institutional units.

More substantially, the question is posed: were they market or non-market? They were not market institutions. In a market, they have incentives to adjust supply to demand. They are essentially charities. AHBs didn’t need to adjust cost and give consumers have a choice based on that price.

So then, which sector should they belong in? This is the issue that caused problems. Eurostat and CSO have a huge list of criteria. They have three specifically to decide which sector to put them in: the level of Government control, the amount of financial risk the bodies are subject to, and the degree of financing they receive from Government.

 

AHBs, in the way they are set up and regulated means there are constraints set up on them that require a significant amount of government control. While there may be some financial risk, it hasn’t necessarily shown itself yet. They receive a lot of financial support from Government, through several funds.

So what impact will that have? With the reclassification, it is estimated that there will be a €100m increase in Government debt this year, or around 0.03% of GDP. This could have a significant impact of the inclusion, in those terms. Further, it means that from now on, all AHB activity will be seen and examined by the Government. There is a potential impact on the objective of AHBs to deliver on one-third of social housing by 2020. The Government will now have a collective interest in how AHBs account for themselves.

 


Before the conference took a mid-morning break, Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, Damien English TD, spoke about the Government’s priorities, concerns, and progress in the delivery of social housing.

He noted that despite the recent concentration on the referendum, the provision of social housing was the Government’s first priority. He also reassured those in the room that he and the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy TD, help the AHBs in the highest esteem. On the issue of the reclassification, he further assured them:

“It is business as usual. We need you to focus on delivery. It is a balance sheet issue, an issue for the Government to tackle, it should not impact you. Do not limit your ambition.”

It is important, from the Government perspective, that AHBs engage with the Local Authorities to aid in the delivery with social housing, and other models such as affordable and first-time buyer properties. All things considered, AHBs delivered over 2000 houses last year. The Government are in the process of assessing each Local Authority’s land-bank and deciding which sites would be best suited to AHBs. The Minister implored those working in AHBs to “strengthen the communication”.

 

While the number of people that were moved into homes last year was greater than the Government had first anticipated, there are still too many people homeless or waiting on housing. The Minister said,

“Our job, all of the stakeholders, is to address this. We’re helping our own people, our own families and communities. By working in partnership, we can do that.”

Any number of homeless people, he said, was too many. Because of this, the public discourse could lead you to believe that the effort being made by AHBs is not having an impact. However, the Minister noted,

“It’s important as members, stakeholders, and tax payers, you need to know that Rebuilding Ireland is working. It was a five year plan, not a five week plan.”

 

Another key priority in tackling the crisis is communicating to those involved in housing development that working with the Government on Rebuilding Ireland is a “safe space”, especially for builders, and that it’s okay to invest in housing again. He said the message should be load and clear: “There is a commitment there, there’s a plan there.”

The Government’s Plan is to deliver between 10,000 and 12,000 homes for social housing every year. When there are so many people in emergency situations, however, “the targets don’t mean much, because we need people to move away from that. But they do matter.”

The numbers are heading in the right direction. Between 2016 and 2017, 7,000 houses were delivered. It will be 8,000 in 2018. Last year, over 4500 left emergency situation. This year, €2bn will be spent. Money has been allocated, it’s available for those projects. AHBs need to “keep pushing”. Moreover, “the urgency needs to stay there”. The Government are committed to ensuring that process is as quickly as possible. They need developers to be on site within 59 weeks at a maximum.

 

It’s been a difficult space to get back into, especially when the public commentary is not always in your favour. However, Minister English leaves the following advice:

“We need to focus on supply and delivery. Engage more with private companies to find solutions. Act like a private organisation and demand the best from suppliers. You’re paying them.”

 


During the succeeding question and answer session, members of AHBs expressed their great concern over whether or not they would be able to act as though it was “business as usual”. A representative of Circle Voluntary Housing assured the Minister that “If we don’t have the capacity to ramp up your borrowing, we won’t be able to deliver.”

In response, the Minister reiterated that this was invariably a Government issue to deal with, and that the money was there to be spent.

When asked whether the Government had an opinion on whether or not AHBs should be considered as “on balance sheet”, the Minister said,

“It would be better if you were off balance sheet, [and] if we can find a way to undo this, we want to. [However] this is a separate issue than delivery. It doesn’t have to affect what you’re doing.”

Another commentator noted what they considered a “lack of focus on the 10/15 year plan.” However, the Minister drew attendees’ attention to the newly published Capital Fund released by DPER. The commitment to 12,000 houses per year, and the funding for it, was accepted and published after the reclassification.

A final comment from an attendee explained,

“We’re really keen to be allocated land and to be held to account for delivering targets on that land for the people that really need them.”

The comment was welcomed by the Minister.


 


Following a mid-morning break, Brian Geaney welcomed attendees back. Mr Geaney is Director of Services at the Housing and Community Directorate in Cork City and County Councils. His aim was to “put across some of the issues that they face in the Local Authorities.” One such issue is what Mr Geaney saw as historical structures of communication. “There may be egos some places”, he said, “but it is not a time for egos. It’s a time to work together to get solutions.”

What is different nowadays? “The days for building without meaningful consultation are gone.” Now, all stakeholders need to be invited to the table. He said that the needs of communities should be considered when planning and developing housing on Local Authority land-banks. There is no shame, he says, in thinking, “Yes, we need social housing, but not in this place”.

 

To a certain extent, prevailing idea about who Local Authorities are, and what their role is, could be hindering open communication lines between AHBs and themselves. The traditional role of Local Authorities is seen to be that of regulators, specifically, “telling people what they couldn’t do, as opposed to what they could”. This is changing as their role moves away from that of providing houses to one of being an enabler for the delivery of housing, especially in conjunction with AHBs.

Mr Geaney’s advice is that both AHBs and Local Authorities need to embed “leadership and partnership cultures” within their structure. “Without it, things will not get solved”.

From the perspective of Local Authorities,

“We need AHBs to think outside of the traditional solutions. Sites may not be handed to you, you may have to work a little harder for it. There is a large job in convincing, for example, elected members of Local Authorities, who sometimes think of AHBs are private organisations”.

 

In terms of development on land-banks held by Local Authorities, Mr Geaney assured the attendees that “land and development departments can’t operate in their own silos” anymore. Shared resources between Local Authorities and AHBs is key to unlocking the potential that lies in those land-banks.

As AHBs move towards a model of choice-based letting, it is less likely that a previously prevailing accusation that they “cherry-pick” their tenants will be levelled at them anymore. Local Authority “lands are few and far between”. Where they do have land, they are often best developed by an AHB, from a tenancy management perspective.

Mr Geaney believes that a real hurdle for the collaboration between Local Authorities and AHBs is the intense regulation for procurement procedures. The red tape, he said, is “often a burden in emergency situations”. He would like to see a lowering in the level of regulation when it came to social housing provision. Opening that competitive dialogue in procurement could be key to finding solutions. Local Authorities “are willing to play a role in using their compulsory purchase function to help deliver” on social housing needs.

In conclusion, Mr Geaney informed the attendees that we “cannot solve the problem until we know how we’ll do it. It’s about collaboration. Everyone needs to listen to each other and support each other. We need to move past certain ideologies that may be antiquated”. As echoed throughout the morning, collaboration is key.

 


John Hannigan, CEO of Circle Voluntary Housing Association, set out to outline the impact that the Eurostat reclassification could likely have on the AHB sector over a 10 or 15 year period. Some 95% of the existing funding in the sector is from Government. The implication of the reclassification is that AHBs are now “an arm of the State”. So then, the likely impact goes beyond simply a Balance Sheet issue – it is expected that they will see an increase in “control elements” over the next ten- or fifteen-year period. And this will count for current investments, bad news for anyone “gearing up to use their sinking stocks”.

As mentioned earlier in the morning, the reclassification puts greater pressure on AHBs in terms of borrowing. Their borrowing will now be seen as State borrowing, and as such, will be subject to EU Standards and restrictions on borrowing levels.

 

As expressed by commentators from the delegation, there is a real fear that the AHBs’ “capacity to deliver will be severely impacted”. Mr Hannigan presented estimates for the level of production called for under Rebuilding Ireland; an estimated range of €3.375bn to €7.733bn or (1.1% of GDP to 2.32% of GDP) for 15,000 housing units. This is a material issue. As part of the On Balance sheet portfolio, “when it becomes a material issue, [AHBs] will now be in competition with other strategic capital infrastructure investments”.

 

At the AHBs, he commented, there is a “strong bias on doing, rather than just talking”. They are “working with organisations that have seen how things have gone in the past to see how we can improve now”. AHBs already currently compete with the private sector. The private sector, naturally, are producing houses for profit, not for charity. When AHBs deliver housing, “the only thing that’s gained is that someone is now in a house”. Mr Hannigan has said that “stronger regulation is required”.

Finally, Mr Hannigan welcomed the statement that the Government will work with AHBs to get them back off balance sheet. A technical group has been set up by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance to work towards such an end. He called for stakeholders from AHBs to be given “a seat at the table as a partner to that process”. The Government have the resources and ability, AHBs have a wealth of relevant research.

 


The penultimate speaker of the day was Housing Europe’s team lead, Sorcha Edwards. In the main, she looked at the context of housing throughout Europe. She noted that housing policy is changing across the continent; it is becoming much more integrated with “social security systems, environmental and regeneration policies”. EU policies and Measures such as the European Structural and Investment Funds, AMIF, H2020 and the Juncker Plan have led to “real positives outcomes in some countries”.

There is also the developing “recognition that cities can provide housing for all groups of society”, but that we are not on track. Rising housing prices and a lack of social housing provision increase societal inequality in some countries. In fact, Ms Edwards believes that “a lack of appropriate housing can increase the risk of populism”, as there is a visible trend where we can see that “those against social housing are often euro-sceptic”.

 

In terms of the reclassification, Housing Europe undertook a survey in 2017 that showed that, of the 12 member countries of Housing Europe, nine were classified as Off Balance Sheet, and three were classified as On Balance Sheet. Many of the members were concerned about this issue. Ms Edwards drew the delegation’s attention to SGP Investment Clause 2.2, which could go some way to mitigating the damage done by the reclassification, and “can partially solve the national-co-financing issue in the case of EFSI or Structural Funds”.

Across Europe, there is a noticeable shift away from public grants to other financing methods. “Hybrid systems are the new normal”. This include systems like Social Impact bonds, which involve private investors, the European Investment Fund, and municipalities.

If you look at countries such as Austria, Vienna has 70% social housing. Some were developed by private companies, some by limited profit companies. The tendency towards mixed-income models, which go some way towards avoiding ghettoisation.

 

Since 2011, no denying that housing was a sector at the core of the crisis. The EU undertook an economic process aimed at identifying macro-economic imbalances and country-specific requirements. The subsequent development of the European Pillar of Social Rights, a non-binding document, as member states insisted, meant that there was a documented reference  to providing social housing to “those in need” as core to the EU’s purpose. This goes further than the definition “for disadvantaged groups” as previously accepted.

Eurostat is aware of the many Member States take with the issue of reclassification and is under pressure from the EU under the Social Pillar.

Up until now, the classification was not an issue for member states. “You will see the diversity of how systems are funded across the Member States. The diversity is massive. Housing Europe have seen that there is a definite feeling that Eurostat approaches each classification/decision differently and that should be a part of the discussion. It should stay on our radar, and continue the pressure on a political side”.

 

Provision of housing is core to the EU's purpose. Eurostat is independent, but not completely unrelated, so the conversation must stay active.

Following Sorcha’s presentation, the floor was reopened for questions.

 


One commentor noted Sorcha’s assertion that “hybrid systems are a new normal”. They lamented the fact that Governments and statisticians often try to classify things as one category or the other, but Voluntary Housing Associations are “a bit of everything”.

Sorcha went on to comment further,

“In the current environment, we hear feedback from cities that say state aid rules block investment in social housing funding. It’s a complex set of rules,” she agreed, “but they can be overcome”.

What it takes is a constant conversation. If we put more issues on the table, the Courts will have to provide clarification where things seem unclear. “The last thing the European Commission wants to be accused of is that it’s hindering the delivery of social housing”. They would welcome the clarification, also.

 

Justin Bickle of Glenveagh PLC, as the head of a private organisation, was worried with John Hannigan’s assessment that private organisations were predominantly in the housing market to turn a profit. Glenveagh aim to help social housing delivery. He asked those of the AHBs, “what do you need from us?”

 

John Hannigan of Circle answered,

“We need a multi-dimensional approach. Private sector are doing a good job in what they are doing.” The standards are high, but they need to engage with AHBs to aim for social good".

 


Dr Mary-Lee Rhodes, an Associate Professor of Business & Administrative Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and the Chair of the Interim Regulatory Committee of the Housing Agency, presented the closing remarks of the morning. She began with an anecdote. She came to Ireland to do her doctoral thesis 20 years ago. She focused on the “crisis of affordability and supply”, but had trouble with people engaging with the subject. Yet here we are, again, in a crisis of affordability and demand. Echoing the sentiments of the morning, she said, “It’s a thorny problem, it will take real innovation” to find a solution. She closed out the event with an interactive poll, which asked attendees to prioritise recommendations made by the conference speakers throughout the morning. The results of the poll are as follows:

18 May, 2018

Reality of loneliness is greatly misunderstood

2018-05-21T11:10:06+00:00May 18th, 2018|News|0 Comments

Thursday 3 May 2018

Professor Roger O’Sullivan is Interim Chief Executive of the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH). He is also Director of the Ageing Research and Development Division within IPH. In 2016 he was made visiting Professor at Ulster University. Between 2007 – 2015 Roger was Director of The Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland.

As a society, we have never had more opportunities to connect with people, yet the fear of loneliness is capturing the public’s imagination.

 

While the history and experience of loneliness may be as old as civilisation – featuring in classics such as Bronte’s Jayne Eyre, Shelley’s Frankenstein and Steinbeck’s Of Mice or Men – nonetheless our understanding is still limited and often stereotypical.

 

In its simplest terms, loneliness is explained as the difference between desired and actual contact. It is a subjective feeling, in that some people with lots of friends can still feel lonely, and those who live alone may not! Loneliness has been described as an unwanted solitude.

 

Increasing social contact is often considered the “cure” for loneliness. While increasing social contact may be valuable for some people with few friends or family, it does not help all those experiencing loneliness. Likewise, advising people who report loneliness to get a pet when they want human contact is unlikely to change the feelings of loneliness.

 

The term loneliness is often used in an interchangeable way with the term social isolation; however, they are different and require different actions to address, as illustrated below:

(Henderson, 2013 cited in Harvey and Walsh, 2016)

 

Loneliness is a condition that is often associated with older people, but it is a mistake to think of all older people as lonely. Loneliness can occur from time to time, at a particular stage in life or can be associated with specific events such as widowhood or retirement. For those who experience it, we need to ensure that it is recognised as emotionally painful, distressing, and – importantly – individualistic.

 

Loneliness has been described as following a U-trajectory – generally higher in teenage years, low during family formation and working age and rising again in older age. Of course, anyone can have a temporary feeling of being lonely, but chronic loneliness is a sustained feeling of loneliness and affects about 10% of older people (Victor, 2011).

 

 

Impact of Loneliness

Although chronic loneliness can affect health and quality of life, it is not clear whether loneliness causes these, or indeed whether poor health and a declining quality of life are triggers for loneliness. However, what is known is that older people who are chronically lonely are more likely to have poor health, are at higher risk of developing dementia, and are more likely to visit their local doctor or A&E department (Lawlor, 2016).

 

Loneliness has been linked to a wide variety of mental and physical health outcomes, such as depression, nursing home admission, and overall decline in quality of life for older people:

  • Lonely people have higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels;
  • Loneliness can increase the risk of heart disease and impede recovery rates from stroke;
  • Lonely people have more disrupted sleep;
  • Loneliness has been associated with a broad range of adverse psychological conditions including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, social deviance, lower social skills, a more critical view of self, and perfectionism (Harvey and Walsh, 2016, Lawlor 2016)

 

There are both individual and wider societal factors that have implications for one’s risk of loneliness. Individual risk factors include: age, gender, childlessness, poverty, education, income, personality (anxiety), widowhood, and migration as part of retirement. Environmental risk factors include such aspects as low population density in rural locations and/or location in an impoverished neighbourhood (IPH, 2016).

 

In terms of groups at particular risk of loneliness, they include:

  • Individuals with a physical disability/mobility issues;
  • Individuals with an intellectual disability;
  • Individuals who are caring for a family member or friend;
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community;
  • Individuals living with dementia or cognitive impairment;
  • Individuals from ethnic minority/minority communities (Harvey and Walsh, 2016).

 

 

Tackling Loneliness

 

Although loneliness is a very personal experience, addressing loneliness is not simply a matter for individuals but is also an issue for public health and society as a whole.

 

What we know about what works for tacking loneliness is still developing but in terms of preventing loneliness we know that people who have a more positive view of later life report less loneliness. Those who are more socially active and engaged with networks are more likely to be protected from loneliness.

 

Positive healthy relationships matter. As children, we make friends quickly, but it is actually a skill that we could all benefit from across the life-cycle. Likewise, building our social support, and our physical and psychological resources are key, but that is not forgetting that loneliness can have a social and economic dimension.

 

The important message is that loneliness can be transient, and when we need help through difficult times associated with loneliness and depression or bereavement, it is important to ask for it.

 

This article is based on a research paper by Brian Harvey and Kathy Walsh that was published by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH). The purpose of the paper research was to examine the concept of loneliness and to identify the most effective policy and service interventions to address loneliness amongst older people in Ireland, North and South.  You can find this paper and more information on the work of IPH on www.publichealth.ie

 

Bibliography


CARDI. (2012). Focus on Loneliness and physical health. Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland.

 

Harvey, B and Walsh, K.  (2016) Loneliness and Ageing: Ireland, North and South.  Institute of Public Health in Ireland.

 

IPH. (2016). Loneliness and Ageing: Ireland, North and South.  Institute of Public Health in Ireland.

 

Lawlor, B. (2016). Loneliness or isolation: is there a difference to health? Presenation at  Loneliness & Ageing: A Public Health Issue - Seminar, Belfast 6 December 2016.

 

Victor, C. (2011). Loneliness in old age: the UK perspective. Safeguarding the Convoy: a call to action from the Campaign to End Loneliness. Age UK Oxfordshire: Oxford.

16 May, 2018

Ethical Data and Information Management: Concepts, Tools and Methods

2018-05-21T11:21:59+00:00May 16th, 2018|News|0 Comments

In 2015, PAI partnered with Castlebridge Associates, an expert consultancy group for data privacy and informational management.

 

In early May 2018, our highly-rated trainers, Daragh O’Brien and Katherine O’Keefe, released a key reference book, Ethical Data and Information Management: Concepts, Tools and Methods. The book,

“offers a practical guide for people in organizations who are tasked with implementing information management projects. It sets out, in a clear and structured way, the fundamentals of ethics, and provides practical and pragmatic methods for organizations to embed ethical principles and practices into their management and governance of information …

[It] is an important book addressing a topic high on the information management agenda. Key coverage includes how to build ethical checks and balances into data governance decision making; using quality management methods to assess and evaluate the ethical nature of processing during design; change methods to communicate ethical values; how to avoid common problems that affect ethical action; and how to make the business case for ethical behaviours.”

 

Aimed at “information managers and data scientists”, the book delves into the way we can use data to improve our lives while maintaining a high standard of privacy and care for personal data. This includes a chapter on data analytics and its seeming struggle with ethics. Of-the-moment topics, such as the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, are also explored from an ethics standpoint.

 

The book not only examines the theoretical issues of ethics and use of data, but discusses measurable systems for ensuring that the ideals are maintained in practice. This includes data governance, and physical architecture for the management of information.

 

Finally, the authors provide advice on making the shift to “ethical information management”.

 

As the introduction to the book notes,

“We live in interesting times”.

O’Brien and O’Keefe’s book is an important tool to navigating through this rapid development of information management.

 

The book was published by Kogan Pages Publishing, and is available here.

3 May, 2018

Obesity will not be reduced solely by a Sugar Tax

2018-05-21T14:47:32+00:00May 3rd, 2018|News|0 Comments

Thursday 3 May 2018

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Department of Transport’s Senior Economist

A sugar tax has been introduced to help tackle growing levels of obesity in Ireland. Prof. Donal O'Shea, a consultant endocrinologist and Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Policy Group on Obesity welcomed the sugar tax on RTÉ Morning Ireland on 1 May. He said it was the first solid, concrete step the Government has taken to tackle the obesity epidemic. He pointed out that 20,000–40,000 people died from obesity-related conditions over the last ten years. However, speaking on the same programme, Prof. Mike Gibney, Emeritus Professor of Food and Health in UCD, pointed out that a significant salt reduction programme has been extremely successful in Ireland and that did not involve a taxation initiative. The salt reduction programme, running since 2004, has resulted in a massive reduction in salt in a number of foods, including bread and breakfast cereals.[i]

 

What is the Sugar Tax?

The tax will be applied to certain sugar sweetened drinks – see Box A. It has been designed to lower the consumption of high-sugar drinks and, in doing so, help to tackle the growing levels of obesity in Ireland. The official name of the new tax is the Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax (SSDT). While the main objective of the new tax is to help tackle obesity levels across society, it will also raise an estimated €40m revenue annually for the State.

 

Box A: How the Sugar Tax will be applied

  1. The official name for the new tax is the Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax (SSDT). It is effective from 1 May 2018.
  2. SSDT applies on the first supply in the State of sugar sweetened drinks. The supplier is liable to account for and pay the tax. The tax applies to water and juice based drinks which have added sugar and a total sugar content of five grams or more per 100 millilitres. Products liable to the tax may be in ready to consume or in concentrated form.
  3. The tax operates as an excise duty and is administered on a self-assessment basis. Suppliers are required to register with Revenue in advance of making first supplies of sugar sweetened drinks in the State. They must file returns within one month after the end of the accounting period during which the supplies were made.
  4. A relief from the tax is available where sugar sweetened drinks sourced in the State are supplied, on a commercial basis, outside the State. In order to claim this relief, "exporters" need to register with Revenue in advance of making supplies outside the State.

Source: Revenue Commissioners' Guidance, available here.

 

Delay in implementation

Budget 2017 announced that the new tax was to be introduced in April 2018. A public consultation process invited interested stakeholders to make submissions in relation to the design, scope and practical implementation issues of the tax. This process received 30 submissions, which are published on the Department of Finance website.[ii]

However, there was a delay in the introduction of the tax, until 1 May 2018, because approval had to be obtained from the European Commission to ensure that the new tax did not infringe EU State aid law. The sugar-sweetened drinks tax is the first of its kind to be reviewed by the European Commission and will provide a benchmark for State aid decisions in this area.

 

What will the tax yield?

The Department of Finance estimates that the sugar tax will yield in the region of €40m in a full year. In a background document, the Department admits that it was difficult to assess the exact yield from the tax as “the soft drinks industry continue to reformulate their products reducing sugar content”[iii].

The first indication of the actual amount the sugar tax will raise will come at the end of July, the deadline for suppliers to return their first two months of collected sugar tax.

 

Is taxation sufficient to reduce obesity?

A sugar tax, by itself, will not reduce obesity. The Department of Finance hopes that the tax will drive change in the products produced by the soft drinks industry. Specifically, it hopes that:

“… the introduction of a financial barrier on sugar sweetened drinks will result in reduced consumption by incentivising individuals to opt for healthier drinks in tandem with providing motivation for the soft drinks industry to reformulate by reducing added sugar content and delivering healthier products”.[iv]

Colm Jordan, Director of the Irish Beverage Council, was not so optimistic. He pointed out that:

“The Government’s Health Impact Assessment found no conclusive evidence a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks will impact population weight. Wherever a tax has been introduced it has failed to tackle obesity”.

He did however state that:

“Notwithstanding this, we have co-operated fully with the design and implementation of the tax.”[v]

 

Suite of Measures to tackle obesity

The Government is not relying on taxation alone to tackle the nation’s problem with obesity. It has published a wide-ranging plan called “A Healthy Weight for Ireland – Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025”[vi]. This plan reflects the Government’s desire to assist people to achieve better health and, in particular, to reduce the levels of those who are overweight and obese. It also acknowledges that the solutions are multiple, and that every sector has a role in reducing the burden of these conditions. Specifically, 10 steps for action have been identified – see Box B. These steps will chart a course for reversing the obesity trends, preventing complications associated with obesity such as diabetes, and reducing the overall burden for individuals, their families and the health system.

Box B: Ten Steps
Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016–2025

  1. Embed multi-sectoral actions on obesity prevention with the support of government departments and public sector agencies
  2. Regulate for a healthier environment
  3. Secure appropriate support from the commercial sector to play its part in obesity prevention
  4. Inform and empower change through a clear communications strategy
  5. Develop a service model for specialist care for children and adults
  6. Mobilise the health services with a focus on prevention
  7.  The Department of Health will provide leadership
  8. Acknowledge the key role of physical activity in the prevention of overweight and obesity
  9. Allocate resources according to need in particular for children and disadvantaged groups
  10. Monitor research and review

Source: Department of Health, A Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016–2025, available here.

 

Some concluding remarks

The introduction of the Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax is only the start of a process. It could never be enough on its own in tackling obesity. Accordingly, there is a real need to see action under each of the steps listed in the Government’s Obesity Policy and Action Plan. However, it is surprising that the Minister for Finance failed to ring-fence the proceeds from the tax to fund other some public health initiatives. The UK did decide to ring-fence the yield from its own sugar tax. From 6 April 2018, millions of children across the UK will benefit from the government’s key milestone in tackling childhood obesity, as the Soft Drinks Industry Levy comes into effect.[vii] The UK levy which is expected to raise £240m each year will go towards doubling the Primary Sports Premium, the creation of a Healthy Pupils Capital Fund to help schools upgrade their sports facilities, and give children access to top quality PE equipment. The levy will also give a funding boost for healthy school breakfast clubs. The UK experience should certainly be looked at by our Minister for Finance.

Notes


[i] Listen to the show here.

[ii] View the submissions on Department of Finance website, here.

[iii] Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax, Information Note - Budget 2018, available here.

[iv] Ibid, available here.

[v] 76% of soft drinks not liable for new sugar tax”, Food and Drink Ireland Press Release, available here.

[vi] Full Plan available here.

[vii] UK Government Press Release, available here.

30 Apr, 2018

GDPR Compliance is an Ongoing Process: Notes from PAI’s Breakfast Briefing

2018-04-30T15:56:49+00:00April 30th, 2018|News|0 Comments

On Friday 24 April, PAI hosted a breakfast briefing addressing the imminent deployment of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) on 25 May.

 

Three speakers spoke about data governance and the use of data for better services.

 

*

 

Sharon-Dillon Lyons spoke about where our attentions should lie in the month running up to the end of May.

Data Protection, she noted, is not new. We already adhere to legislative provisions for the protection of the right to privacy for individuals. The GDPR is not “reinventing the wheel”, it is a continuation and strengthening of the core principles already in place. “It’s not as though some terrifying audit will take place across Europe on 25 May,” she said, stressing the importance of focusing on continued, ongoing compliance. GDPR is a “living” obligation.

 

The first draft of the 2018 Data Protection Bill that would transpose the Regulation failed to carry through the high fines, as set out in the GDPR, for government departments. This was a difficult issue for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, an independent office. Fines under the new systems are supposed to be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”. As a result, the second draft of the Bill set out a €1 million maximum fine for public bodies. Ms Dillon-Lyons noted that financial cost is not the only risk for contravention – reputational damage and loss of stakeholder trust are important considerations where a breach is concerned.

 

There is also the further concern of litigation from those whose data has been breached. Up until now, there hasn’t been much litigation in the area of Data Protection. Ms Dillon-Lyons begged the question, “why?” The threshold, at the moment, is reasonably high. To have a successful claim, you must be able to show that you have accrued damages. Will this change after May, with the right of action to the circuit court under the Regulation? There is no longer the burden of proving damages as a result of a breach. In fact, Ms Dillon-Lyons believe that “non-punitive loss actions will have a better cultural effect than any legislation”.

 

It might also be wise to plan for retrospectively seeking consent for any ongoing processes, as per the Article 29 Working Party’s recommendation.

 

A cause for concern, she commented, is that there is a tendency towards a “tunnelled view of preparing”. People in the area of Data Protection are aware and ready for the Regulations, but this does not always go beyond that. There isn’t a “network effort” to examine the organisation as a whole and map where all the data is. By pulling in voices from all departments, you can ensure there are “adequate operational policies” as opposed to top-down policy that is out of touch with how the organisation is actually run.

“Does everyone in the organisation know what their specific jobs?”

Finally, you should put in place immediate response plans for breaches of IT systems and physical storage of data.

 

*

Martin Mannion, of Deloitte, spoke about the ways big data can be used to construct a 360° model of the citizen. “Between the dawn of civilisation and the year 2003, we amassed five exabytes of data. We are now creating that every two days”.

 

Martin discussed the limitations of traditional storage of data, and presented the idea of using parallelism across a cluster of machines to create a horizontally-scalable system for storage of raw data. This is not only more cost-effective, but presents benefits for processing of the data. As the data is retained in its original, unfiltered form, it can easily be reanalysed at a later date in different ways. There is “no need to predefine a data scheme before loading”; you can store more than data tables, but audio and visual files.

 

This set up would serve as the basis for a Citizen 360° system. This would seek to use all of the various types of data available to build a solid image of a citizen. This system would look to improve engagement in a very powerful way.

 

The usability of this system would make rectification and erasure of citizens’ data much easier, as it would all be held in one centralised portal. For example, a similar system is in place in British Columbia, Canada, where all social services share information on a single platform to aid in providing better services to its citizens.

 

So, if this was to be employed here, “what do we need to consider? How can we employ this while staying compliant?” Role-based auditing would help ensure that information could not be accessed by anyone who shouldn’t be, or changed without due need. Cyber-security, as well as physical data safety, would be of highest importance.

 

*

 

The final speaker of the day was Gurchand Singh, head of the data analytics team at An Garda Síochána. He began his presentation by assuring the crows, “data, in of itself, has no intrinsic value”. The value is in the application of that data, and the end purpose.

 

Mr Singh’s presentation aimed to illustrate the ways that data can be used to drive better public services and trust in public institutions.

 

By way of illustration, he spoke about a campaign undertaken by the team surrounding the area of home burglaries. They took information from the Garda Pulse system, hoping to “come back with an evidence-based analysis of what’s going on”, and provide “a data-driven response”. They collated the data, and noticed a pattern: burglaries were more frequent in the darker months. There were clear clusters of events in certain areas. They also noted that houses that were burglarised were often targeted again in the months that followed. They used these summations to develop and deploy community programmes and higher officer footfall in effected areas. As a result, they slowed the rapid rise of crimes of this type.

 

Mr Singh believes that data quality is highly important. He asked, “if your data is inaccurate or out of date, why are you holding it?”

 

He also believes that a well-rounded data analyst should always have an interest in the human side of data, and data protection principles. Data analysts often become myopic when presented with a large collection of data; they want to extract as much information as possible, and analyse it in as many ways as possible. When this happens, the rights of individuals can fall by the wayside. A key concern should always be “not only the possibilities, but also the limits of what we can do with the data”.

 

In terms of preparing and continuing compliance with the GDPR, it is certainly important to have plans. It is not, however, the most important thing.

“You can have lots of strategies, but culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

 

 

11 Apr, 2018

Modernising Copyright: A comparison of recommendations and actual amendments

2018-04-04T15:47:15+00:00April 11th, 2018|News|0 Comments

In 2011, the Government established the Copyright Review Committee. The Committee consisted of Dr Eoin O’Dell (TCD), Patricia McGovern (DFMG Solicitors), and Prof. Steve Hedley (UCC). They were tasked with producing a Report that would review the current regime of copyright in Ireland, and in particular, any barriers it presented to innovation in a digital world. To do so, they invited submissions from many different stakeholders with interests in the area of copyright, “to ensure that the full range of views of the copyright community was available to them”. They also looked to other territories that had undertaken a process of reforming their copyright legislation. The Report was published in late 2013.

At its heart, the Report found that “inadequate copyright protection undermines innovation” and creators feel much more secure in creating when they know that the legislation can protect them and their work.

Modernising Copyright[i] made several recommendations that could be made to the present legislation. Principle among them, the Committee recommended:

  • Improved systems of redress for Copyright disputes, including specialist intellectual property (IP) tracks in the District and Circuit Courts;
  • Tightly-drawn but numerous exemptions for the purpose of supporting innovation, in line with the exemptions set out in Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001[ii];
  • Redefinition of terms in relation to heritage and education institutes;
  • Development of current legislation to encapsulate technological advances and digital behaviours;
  • A version of a Fair Use doctrine, akin to that in place in the US; and
  • The establishment of a Copyright Council of Ireland.

 

On 13 March 2018, the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018[iii] was presented to the members of the Oireachtas, sponsored by Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation. The Bill takes “account of certain recommendations for amendments to that Act contained in the Report”, but does not address all of the main recommendations. In particular, no provisions are provided for the establishment of a Copyright Council of Ireland, and there is no version of a Fair Use doctrine contained within. However, the Bill is extensive, and makes many moves to aid in the modernisation of the current legislation. This update is not only necessary, but overdue. Technological advances move much quicker than legislation, given the nature of both. The digital landscape is much different now than in the early 2000s. Many of the current provisions are anachronistic, and loopholes develop as quickly as the tech-savvy generation can envisage new ways to use copyrighted materials.

 

The amendments are many, covering a wide range of creative disciplines. Below, we will delve into some of the main issues mentioned above.

 

Systems of Redress

In the Report, some attention is paid to the issue of registered rights versus right by default. However, right by default is not only the international standard, but “registration is precluded by Article 5(2) of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works”, to which Ireland is a party. This right imbues the rightsowner with the ability to decide who can copy their work (as legislated for in section 37(1)(a) of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, hereafter referred to as the CRRA), including in digital settings, such as on a website.

However,

“It is not enough that copyright-owners hold rights; they must also be able to seek and obtain appropriate and effective remedies when they their rights infringed.”

 

The Committee suggested that current Small Claims procedures of the District Courts could be extended to include IP claims. They also suggested a specific IP court could be established within the Circuit Court. This would include an appeal system for the granting of license rights in the IP court of the Circuit Court.

Section 2 of the 2018 Bill provides for the repeal of Section 96 of the Trade Marks Act 1996. Subsequently, Section 5 provides for the extension of the jurisdiction of the above courts to facilitate rightsholders brining “lower value IP infringement claims for relief in civil proceedings within the monetary jurisdiction of those Courts”. It does this by inserting Section 16(a) and 16(b).

Section 32 of the Bill extends the rights that are currently afforded to the rightsowner to any relevant license holder. This allows either party to pursue redress where rights are contravened.

 

The “alternative dispute resolution system” suggested by the Committee does not appear in the Bill, as initiated. This would have included a graded and proportionate approach to sanctions and remedies.

“In this way, at one end of the scale, unintentional breaches would not be met with significant awards of damages, and that, at the other end of the scale, the most serious breaches would be appropriately dealt with by the award, for example, of restitutionary, exemplary or punitive damages.”

This is important in removing or minimising barriers to innovation.

 

Exemptions

The Copyright Directive 2001 set out a large number of exemptions to findings of infringement. The Bill encompasses many of the exemptions.

Section 11 introduces a new exemption “for criticism or review of a work, provided that such use is not expressly reserved and that the copy and communication are accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement”.

Section 12 provides for an exemption for the purpose of “caricature, satire and parody”.

On a more digitally-focused front, Section 13 provides for an exemption for “Text and Data Mining (TDM) for non-commercial research”, an exemption that the Committee noted had the potential to yield “significant social benefits”.

Other exemptions that have been transposed from the 2001 Directive include an exemption for the purpose of creating copies of works in order to make them accessible to those with disabilities (Sections 24, 25 and 26).

The Committee’s recommendation for an exemption for user-generated, non-commercial content does not appear to have been absorbed into this iteration of the Bill.

 

The Report’s suggestion of a Fair Use clause would travel further into this territory. That will be discussed below.

 

Educational and Heritage Institutes, and Legal Deposit

It was the Committee’s recommendation that the “existing education exceptions relating to ‘research or private study’ should be amended to cover ‘education, research or private study’,” and that “those relating to ‘instruction and examination’ should be amended to cover ‘education and examination’, and that such exceptions should extend to distance learning and the use of material available online”. Section 14 of the Bill allows for these exemptions, by substituting an amendment in place of Section 57 of the CRRA. The amendment states that this exemption will only apply where there is no relevant licensing scheme for educational establishments in place.

Section 4(d) and 4(e) amend and expand the definition of ‘educational establishment’ and ‘education’ to include various forms of education available in a digital world.

 

In the Report, the Committee states,

“We recommend that references in the current legislation to “libraries and archives” be replaced with a more generic reference to “heritage institutions” (as defined in section 22(2) of the [Draft 2013] Bill), that such institutions should be able to format-shift works in their collections for archival or preservation purposes, to display such works on terminals in the institutions, and to use them in public lectures and in catalogues relating to exhibitions”.

While the suggestion of broadening the term, Sections 15-18 of the 2018 Bill allow for non-permanent copying by libraries and archives (S.15) and use of images of licensed works in the advertising of exhibitions (S.16); creating permanent copies of works for preservation and archive purposes (S.17); and display works in their permanent collections, or dedicated terminals on the premises of the library or archive, for the sole purpose of education, teaching, research or private study once accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement (S.18). This provision also extends to works displayed during public lectures.

 

At the moment, there is a system of legal deposit in place for copyrighted work, as per Section 189 of the CRRA, which aims to ensure,

“the nation’s published output (and thereby its intellectual record and future published heritage) is collected systematically, to preserve the material for the use of future generations and to make it available for readers within the designated legal deposit libraries.”

A recommendation of the Report was to “extend this to our digital heritage”.

Section 27 of the Bill allows copyright deposit institutions the ability to collect non-print work systematically to produce a shared archive of digital works as well as creating an obligation on publishers to provide an electronic copy of a publication if requested by a deposit institution.

 

Amendments to account for digital advances

The Report singled out several issues that are, in nature, specific to a digital environment. For example, they recommend that protection be extended to watermarks and metadata on photographs and videos, and that removing or changing these would qualify as an infringement. Section 4 of the Bill expands the definition of “rights identifying information” to include digital data of this kind.

The Report also expresses the opinion that an exemption should be defined for snippets of text used in the sharing of links to original source material, as long as this snippet is “reasonably adjacent to the link, and that a very small snippet should consist of no more than either 160 characters or 2.5% of the work, subject to a cap of 40 words”. These snippets are not mentioned in the current version of the 2018 Bill.

Section 4(e) includes many new definitions on the basis of technological advances since the CRRA was written into law. These include “electronic transmission”, which does not include transmission by means of MMDS (4(e)(a)) or digital terrestrial retransmission (4(e)(b)), and “excluded data information” which means a computer program (in whole or in part) or the source code of a website.

 

Fair Use

The Report makes reference to the value of employing a Fair Use doctrine,

“As to the recommended fair use exception, it is very circumspect, and differs substantially from the US doctrine. We recommend that the existing exceptions be regarded as examples of fair use, that they must be exhausted before analysis reaches the question of fair use, and that the question of whether a use is fair on any given set of facts turns on the application of up to eight separate factors”.

This would be much more stringent than in the US, where the Fair Use doctrine only applies five factors. Five of the eight factors would relate to personal use. They would be:

  • reproductions on paper for private use;
  • format-shifting;
  • back-ups;
  • parody; and
  • non-commercial user-generated content.

While parody is covered under the EU exemptions, the remaining four factors are not included in the 2018 Bill.

Other factors would include Fair Use exemptions for news media, religious use and official celebrations.

 

It is worth noting that, while the above mentioned Copyright Directive exemptions are examples of Fair Use, a tightly-drawn Fair Use doctrine would examine past these definitions into more of a grey area. In the US, significant case law has led to a number of “tests” when examining a claim of Fair Use of copyrighted media. For example, the idea of “substantial similarity” in works – either “fragmented literal similarity” or “comprehensive non-literal similarity” – was developed by Melville Nimmer, a noted copyright authority. There is also a “pattern test” developed by Prof. Zechariah Chafee, which is primarily used to test fiction, comparing elements of plot and character between two works to see if substantial similarity exists.

 

In the view of the Committee, it is these

“precedents in fair use cases [that] have allowed US copyright law to find generally beneficial accommodations with new technologies (such as photocopiers, VCRs, and online search) as they have arisen, without the need for cumbersome statutory amendment”.

They also note that many submissions they took regarding this issue conflated these tests with the Berne Three-Step Test, as employed under Article 9(2) of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works[iv] in 1967.

 

The 2018 Bill makes no reference to “Fair Use”.

 

 

Copyright Council of Ireland

Perhaps the most notable disparity between the recommendations of the Report and the new proposed legislation is the decision to not provide for the establishment of an “independent self-funding organisation, created by the Irish copyright community, recognised by the Minister, and supported and underpinned by clear legislative structures”. This body is referenced throughout the 2013 Report in a way which underpins many of the recommendations further on.

Many of the submissions received by the Committee also called for a similar entity, which would draw a broad subscriber-base from the copyright community. The Council would be based “on principal objects that ensure the protection of copyright and the general public interest as well as encouraging innovation”. The ideal structure would see a Board, made up of members that would represent a wide range of stakeholders in copyright matters. These could include rightsowners, collecting societies, intermediaries, licensees, users, entrepreneurs and heritage institutions. Many submissions also suggested technological experts should be part of the Board, to ensure any developments are technologically feasible.

 

They would be responsible for increasing awareness around copyright practices, researching issues of note, fostering a dialogue between stakeholders, publishing standards and codes, and promoting creativity, sharing, open access and innovation.

A further function of the Council would be to enable it to decide to establish a voluntary Digital Copyright Exchange aimed at providing a mechanism to expand and simplify the collective administration of copyrights and licences.

 

There would also be scope for the Council to facilitate alternative dispute resolution solutions, “which would be voluntary, independent, neutral, impartial and expeditious in nature”.

 

The Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018 has only reached Order for the Second Stage, and it is certain to face some changes throughout the stage of scrutiny. The Bill, as initiated, does significantly work towards a modernisation of the copyright regime. In the main, this is done by redefining the definitions of what constitutes a copyrightable work, and what constitutes copyright infringement.

Many of these changes have clear roots in Modernising Copyright. So too are there notable differences between the two.

 

 

Notes


[i] Modernising Copyright, 2013, available here.

[ii] The Copyright Directive 2001, available here.

[iii] Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018, available here.

[iv] Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, available here.

5 Apr, 2018

MetroLink – More details on Cost benefit Analysis would be helpful

2018-04-03T16:00:21+00:00April 5th, 2018|News|0 Comments

Thursday 5 April 2018

Tom Ferris is a Consultant Economist specialising in Better Regulation. He lectures on a number of PAI courses and contributes blogs regularly to PAI. He was formerly the Department of Transport’s Senior Economist.

 

MetroLink is one of the biggest investment projects – costing between €3- and €4bn – announced as part of the Government’s new National Development Plan 2018-2027, February 2018.[i] Box A provides an overview of MetroLink. While publication of the cost benefit analysis (CBA) on MetroLink is to be welcomed, it would have benefited from the provision of more details.

What is MetroLink?

The MetroLink Project is the development of a north-south urban rail project that will run between the corridor of Swords and Sandyford, connecting key destinations including Dublin Airport and the Dublin City Centre, along the 26 kilometre route.

A large portion of the line will be underground, including where it passes the under the Dublin City Centre and Dublin Airport. The underground section will terminate close to the Charlemont stop on the LUAS Green Line South City Area, where the metro will rise up and connect to, and run southwards on the LUAS Green Line. The LUAS Green Line will be upgraded to Metro standard as part of the project.

There will be a total of 26 stations (including 15 new stations); 3,000 additional Park and Ride places, and a journey time of about 50 minutes from Swords to Sandyford.


Source: http://www.metrolink.ie

Cost Benefit Analysis

Before Exchequer resources are expended on capital projects, they must meet all of the relevant appraisal processes required under the Public Spending Code In particular, the Code requires cost benefit analysis to be undertaken on big capital projects. Put simply, cost benefit analysis is the method used to evaluate the various direct and indirect costs and benefits of investment proposals.[ii]

The new dedicated website on MetroLink includes a section on the CBA carried out on the project[iii]. The CBA is only 28 pages long, and five of those are devoted to the index and information about those who undertook the CBA. In general, the report describes well the statistical techniques and tools adopted for the CBA. A new tool called “TUBA” is included. It is a transport economic appraisal software developed by Atkins Ltd on behalf of the Department for Transport in the UK. An appendix running to seven pages lists the different parameters used in “TUBA”, but not in a consumer-friendly way. It would have been useful for the general reader if examples were given of how parameters, such as value of time, carbon factors, or fuel factors, were actually applied in the process.

What about the results? The report does present the overall results in a set of simple tables. Table A pulls together the results in a single table.

Table A: MetroLink - Results of Cost Benefit Analysis

Capital Costs

(€bn)

Present Value of Costs

(€bn)

Benefits

(€bn)

Benefit-to-Cost Ratio (BCR)
[1] [2] [3] [4 = 3/2]
3.0 2.243 6.778 3.02
3.5 2.528 6.778 2.68
4.0 2.812 6.778 2.41

Source: http://www.metrolink.ie/#/cost-benefit-analysis

The table shows that the MetroLink scheme is forecast to generate around €6.8bn in transport user benefits over a 60-year period. Capital expenditure is estimates at between €3bn and €4bn. The costs are shown in terms of “net present value”, in order to compute the “benefit-to-cost ratio” (BCR). The final column of the table shows a BCR ranging from 2.41 to 3.02. According to the report.

“This indicates that investment in MetroLink is worthwhile, based on economic benefits alone and the scheme will provide a High level of VfM [Value-for-Money]”.[iv]

Some concluding comments

The CBA on MetroLink gives little detail as to the actual application of the different tools and models. In general terms, explanations are given as to what was done to produce the overall result, but the analysis would have benefitted from more work by way of sensitivity analysis. Because we live in an uncertain world, risks and uncertainties need to be built into forecasts of costs and benefits. The MetroLink CBA does include a range of costs. It is noted that:

“Due to the high level nature of the cost estimates, a range of costs have been tested to provide upper and lower estimates of the potential BCR for MetroLink. The estimates are provided for the purposes of this appraisal only and should not be used or relied upon for any other purposes”. [v]

However, as regards benefits, only a single estimate has been presented (see Table A). It would have been useful to see what a lower estimate of benefits would mean in terms of overall results.

Finally, the point should be made that publishing the results of the CBA of MetroLink is very positive. Not all cost benefit analyses on public projects are published. And yet it is in the public interest that people should be made aware of the costs and benefits of projects being funded from the public purse. Of course, the real test comes when there is a “look-back” on completed projects to see how costs and benefits actually measure-up against the original projections. How will the MetroLink story be told in 60 years’ time?

Notes


[i] Read Tom’s article on the National Development Fund’s monetary allocations here.

[ii] Read Tom’s 2017 article on Cost Benefit Analysis here.

[iii] View the CBA on the MetroLink website here.

[iv] As per Metrolink CBA, available here.

[v] Ibid.

3 Apr, 2018

Why Re-Opening Rural Garda Stations will not Improve Rural Security

2018-05-21T11:28:01+00:00April 3rd, 2018|News|0 Comments

Tuesday 03 April 2018

 Authors:

Dr Matt Bowden is a sociologist and criminologist, a senior lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology and Vice President of the Sociological Association of Ireland.

Artur Pytlarz is a Government of Ireland Scholar and PhD Candidate at Dublin Institute of Technology.

It was only a few short weeks ago that the Government announced a new national plan for Ireland. Like most of such plans it has a catchy name – ‘Project Ireland 2040’ – and offers a whole spectrum of aspirations that will make Ireland a better place for all of us. The last two strategic outcomes in the plan, regional accessibility and strengthening of rural communities, when taken together with other initiatives such as the pilot programme of reopening Garda stations (closed during the period of 2012-2013), might be taken as an indicator that the Government has rural development on its mind and wants to tackle rural crime. All such forward-thinking is admirable and necessary, but a fundamental question that remains unanswered is, what is the re-opening of Garda stations addressing exactly?

 

 

Firstly, we should discuss the nature of rural crime. A quick glimpse by any layperson at the official Garda crime statistics, despite their limitations, will show the simple fact that crime in rural areas is lower compared with the urban. In fact the further you get from Dublin, the lower the level of recorded crime. Looking also at crime victim studies carried out periodically as part of the Quarterly National Household Budget Survey, also verifies this fact: you are more likely to be a victim of crime in urban areas compared with rural and areas with less dense concentrations of population. This goes against the common perception that rural areas are rife with violent crime. But it doesn't stop there: older people are less likely to be victims of crime compared with younger citizens, men more likely than women and so on. But again, taking feelings of safety into account, those more likely to be victims feel safer; those less likely to be victims feel more insecure. The issue may not have anything to do with whether there is actual crime close to you, but a sense that you are unsafe or that you feel fear. This would seem to suggest that fear of crime is more relevant here than actual crimes.

But we should not underestimate how fear generates a sense of insecurity. And it is not just closing Garda stations that makes rural areas fearful: the same effect can be said to result from closures of essential services such as post offices, banks and hospitals. Rural dwellers have borne the brunt of having these solid institutions taken from under them. Hopefully the Government’s plans for rural areas will ensure that there is greater integration of the country as a whole in creating inclusivity, connectivity and solidarity. Indeed the sense of fear and isolation is not helped by media constructions of crime as a threat emanating from urban dwellers.

 

 

Rural crime is very complex. Current media coverage is often very one-sided: it casts the rural as a victim of encroaching, highly mobile urban criminals. It is internationally well-documented by rural criminologists that rural dwellers can be both victims and perpetrators of crime in the same way as urban dwellers. Farmers, for example, are primarily a compliant social group, but there are always some who will evade the rules. Guns are more readily available in rural areas globally and are often used as weapons in violent crime, and domestic violence is usually an unspoken dimension in the background in rural communities. While we have little in-depth analysis of rural crime in Ireland, smuggling, tax evasion, pollution, illegal dumping, laundering diesel, heritage crimes and so on are all crimes that are prominent in rural areas in Australia and the United States to mention just two countries. If property crimes, burglaries and some high-profile assault cases are not the only crime problem, it follows that the re-opening Garda stations alone is not likely to deal with this broader base of rural crime.

Yet, given the simple binary nature of media coverage of rural crime, it is unsurprising that when listening to the narrative on crime in rural areas or to crime talk, the problem is presented typically in this one-dimensional way. Crime is always exported from the big cities and is invading the countryside in white vans benefiting from the improved road network. In that view, crime is something that happens in the countryside but it originates from the city, and city criminals are the people benefiting from the misery of rural dwellers. It has to be accepted that while this is a real issue, it is a rather simplified version of rural crime.

 

 

But then again, is rural crime the issue? One of the factors presented as a rationale for closing stations was the low level of reported crimes: in some cases only two or three cases per year. This low level of crime does not justify high levels of public expenditure on buildings and pay. However, as we have pointed out earlier, the issue is less about actual crimes and more about the fear of crime. We argue that there is a need for a paradigm shift: a fresh way of thinking would involve moving from rural crime to rural safety and security. This involves local Gardaí working with other agencies and communities to analyse and practically address local problems with all crimes and with the fear of crime. If the new roads could be considered as a factor increasing the exposure of rural residents to crime, reopening the rural Garda stations can be seen as merely a symbolic gesture towards improving safety. But rural safety is produced somewhere else other than in buildings with Gardai in them: it is found in the daily efforts of rural dwellers and engaged police officers who organise themselves on this issue and in the national organisations that support and underpin this work. Hence rural community development, and more particularly, rural community safety should be as important an investment as buildings, vehicles and uniformed officers.

The proposed programme of investment by ‘Project Ireland 2040’, especially the strategic outcome aimed at improving the accessibility to the Irish countryside, is a further step to make Ireland globally competitive and hyper-modern. With such ‘improvements’ there are also risks: extending the road network under previous national development plans has arguably led to greater exposure of the countryside. Making the rural accessible while desirable for the benefits it brings also exposes it to flows of criminal opportunity not previously seen.

 

 

In conclusion, rural safety is a complicated process. Simply opening more Garda stations, although addressing popular demand, is only part in a wider set of mechanisms aimed at the reduction of insecurity and vulnerability. As researchers on rural crime and security, we like to argue that rural in/security should be seen as the result of the interplay between four main forces: state interventions; media coverage; the fear of crime; and active civil society. In this system rural in/security is a shaped as the effect of this interplay or negotiations between those four, sometimes cooperating sometimes competing forces. Therefore, the final product – rural security – is subject to constant change, modification, improvement and negotiation. We could have all the Garda stations we’d like, but if the simplistic binary media-driven narratives undermine the efforts of both State and civil society, people will still feel exposed.

Rural areas are losing their past solidity: a reflection perhaps of the fast and liquid times we are living in. Re-opening police stations, improving the roads network, faster broadband or expanding budgets for rural infrastructural development are important, desired and demanded in rural areas. But without consideration to the exposing effects of such connectivity they may make matters worse by stimulating insecurity and undermining social solidarity.

27 Mar, 2018

Project Ireland 2040 – A Climate Adaptation Perspective

2018-05-21T14:57:43+00:00March 27th, 2018|News|0 Comments

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Barry O’Dwyer is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI), University College Cork. Dr O’Dwyer is the lead research scientist on the EPA and DCCAE funded Climate Ireland Programme. This programme has the specific aim of supporting decision-makers in Ireland in planning for climate change adaptation.

 

 

Unveiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD and the Government, Project Ireland 2040 comprises the National Planning Framework that sets out the national spatial strategy, backed by the National Development Plan. Together these set forth the Government’s vision for Ireland over the next 20 years; this vision is underpinned by 10 National Strategic Outcomes (NSO) which include the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society. To achieve this transition, two complementary sets of actions are required that address both the causes (mitigation) and the impacts of climate change on Ireland’s environment, society and economy (adaptation). Mitigation aims to reduce the causes of climate change by decreasing or preventing emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and enhancing sinks (e.g. through afforestation) while adaptation aims to increase resilience to climate impacts by reducing the vulnerability of Ireland’s environment, society and economy to climate impacts while taking advantage of any opportunities that may arise.

 

Until recently, mitigation has formed the focus of national and international policy but now that the full extent of climate change impacts are becoming clear, adaptation is increasingly becoming a focus of policy. At the national level, this is evidenced by the publication of the National Adaptation Framework (NAF) in January 2018, which sets out the national strategy for the application of adaptation measures in different sectors and by local authorities.

 

 

Climate change is a reality for Ireland. On a national basis, temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising, and patterns of precipitation are changing, an experience that is mirrored on a global basis. They manifest as changes in our average weather and in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The direct impacts of these changes can be viewed through the lens of recent extreme weather events. For the period 2000-2012, almost €750m has been paid out in private flood insurance claims[i]. In terms of publically-owned infrastructure, it is estimated that damages caused to the State’s roads and railways as a result of the winter storms of 2015-2016 cost €160m[ii]. More recently, early estimates suggest that the costs associated with Storm Ophelia will be between €500m and €800m, while Storm Emma (or the “Beast from the East”) is estimated to have cost in excess of €160m, with the disruption from the storm likely to have cost hundreds of millions of euro.

 

When assessing the impacts of these events, it is important to recognise that the extent of the impacts are not only the result of extreme weather itself, but exacerbated by past planning and development policy and patterns, e.g. locating developments in areas considered to be at flood risk. Although extreme weather events form the current focus, it is also important to consider our experiences of the impacts of prolonged periods of climate variability. During the summer of 2012, for example, above average rainfall totals were recorded in the majority of areas and resulted in limited and poorly conserved silage. This event was compounded by the late spring of 2013 and led to a fodder crisis that is estimated to have cost up to €450m and led to the rationing and movement of forage across the country and the importation of silage and hay[iii].

 

 

Research indicates that the impacts of climate change will increase and intensify for the foreseeable future. Projections indicate that the number of intense storms over the north Atlantic are likely to increase and that the tracks of these storms will extend further south, over Ireland, with potentially devastating consequences. The frequency of extreme precipitation events are also expected to increase. While ongoing and projected changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events pose the most immediate risk for Ireland, there is also a pressing requirement to plan for resilience to long-term changes in climate conditions (i.e. average weather) and the impacts of these. For example, the costs for the agriculture sector of projected climate change has been estimated at between €1-2bn per year, primarily associated with the impacts of the increased incidence of pests and diseases, prolonged periods of drought, and flooding[iv]. For a sea level rise of 1m, it is estimated that 350km2 of Ireland’s land area is vulnerable to coastal inundation, with potential property insurance claims in the region of €1.1bn[v]. It is notable that this figure accounts for direct costs only and does not account for replacement costs.

 

 

Project Ireland 2040 has the potential to provide a vehicle to climate-proof Ireland’s society, environment and economy, and to ensure that future development decisions take full account of projected climate impacts. In contrast to the previous National Spatial Strategy, Development Plans and Capital Investment Programmes with time spans of 4-6 years, Project Ireland 2040 is different in that it aims to accommodate future growth over a longer period, which is essential when planning for longer-term climate resilience. The plan aims to concentrate Ireland’s future growth in existing settlements (in particular in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford). This will be achieved through the construction of 500,000 new homes and through urban regeneration and development. This concentration may exacerbate existing vulnerability to climate change. For example, projected increases in the frequency and intensity of drought will put increasing pressure on the water supply system, while sea level rise will put more areas at increased risk of coastal inundation and erosion. Sea level rise poses a particular threat due to the fact that all of Ireland’s major cities and critical infrastructure (e.g. power stations, railways) are located in coastal areas and many are already experiencing climate change impacts through changes in patterns of coastal flooding and erosion. Projected climate change may also reveal a wide range of vulnerabilities not currently considered of importance for Ireland. For example, Ireland’s population is aging and becoming increasingly vulnerable to heat-related health risks.

 

 

In response to the challenges posed by climate change, Project Ireland 2040 promises €22bn for climate measures, about one-fifth of the entire budget. The majority of this budget will be allocated for a series of measures to turn Ireland into a low-carbon economy by 2050 and are aimed primarily at mitigating the causes of climate change. This will be achieved through a reduction in GHG emissions from transport, the built environment, and a plan to stop burning coal. This is an ambitious plan. On our current emissions trajectory and with the current range of policy measures in place, it is unlikely that Ireland will meet its GHG emissions targets for 2020 and there is the potential for significant fines. In adapting Ireland to the impacts of climate change, the plan highlights a number of key areas where climate impacts will need to be considered and where future planning policy will have a critical role to play:

  1. Coastal areas (sea level rise and changes in patterns of erosion and sedimentation);
  2. The sustainable management of water and other environmental pressures;
  3. Addressing ongoing and potential future flood risk;
  4. Protecting important and vulnerable habitats as well as diminishing wild countryside; and
  5. Dealing with air quality problems in urban areas.

To implement the adaptive measures, Project Ireland 2040 recognises that the planning process provides a means of implementing and integrating climate change objectives at a local level. This is essential as the climate impacts are felt most acutely locally and it is at the local scale where emergency response is first enacted and where differences in social, economic and environmental conditions determine vulnerability. Importantly, the plan recognises that up to 2040, and beyond, a range of measures will be required to support implementation of adaptation responses in vulnerable areas.

 

Project Ireland 2040 should be applauded in setting the policy context for delivering climate resilience. Moreover, it is encouraging that Project Ireland 2040 recognises the wide range of challenges posed by climate change and has included climate considerations across all areas of planning. However, to achieve Project Ireland 2040’s vision of climate resilience and progress from the stage of policy development to implementation, it is essential that the full extent of climate impacts are recognised through the series of national development plans of which Project Ireland 2040 is comprised. In the short term, and to decrease the impacts of extreme weather events, we need to examine the vulnerability of existing development to ongoing and projected future impacts and, on this basis, prioritise areas for adaptation action. This prioritisation will likely mean abandoning those areas considered to be at significant risk while safeguarding others. For future development, it is essential that all planning fully considers the impacts of climate change including any new or emerging climate change risks (e.g. heat-related risks) at a strategic level. Many of the measures outlined in Project Ireland 2040 will serve to deliver climate resilience but with significant economic costs in terms of on-the-ground implementation.

 

As a framework document, Project Ireland 2040 should be commended for providing a national, forward-looking and ambitious vision for development. It is understandable that every detail of achieving this vision is not provided in Project Ireland 2040, but rather it provides for a policy framework with key aspects on implementation detailed through the series of National Development Plans, of which Project Ireland 2040 comprises. According to the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index[vi], Ireland ranks as the worst-performing country in Europe and 49th out of the 59 countries assessed. As such, these National Development Plans will have to be ambitious, innovative and significantly resourced. Currently, Ireland is at the early stages of the adaptation planning process.

In January 2018, the publication of the NAF provided the national policy context for delivering adaptation and the NAF will form a key component in the delivery of Project Ireland 2040. This forms an important step in delivering adaptation and provides a policy basis for the development of sectoral and local adaptation plans. However, in order to deliver adaptation effectively at sectoral and local levels, there is a pressing need to provide local, regional and sectoral decision-makers with the information and resources required to plan effectively for climate impacts. For example, there is a growing requirement to increase our understanding of how Ireland’s climate is currently changing and to understand how Ireland’s climate might change into the future. Currently, many of the networks dedicated to monitoring climate change are funded on an ad hoc basis and resources are urgently required to safeguard these essential services. In establishing Ireland’s vulnerability to climate change, there is an urgent need to increase our understanding of how, where, and when the impacts of climate change will be most severely felt. This will require a significant increase in funding of research. Moreover, following from this planning and preparatory phase, there will be considerable costs associated with delivering climate adaptation (e.g. hard engineering solutions, green-solutions), particularly as climate change intensifies. In delivering adaptation on the ground, local-level decision makers will need resources and funding and to increase public support for and understanding of climate change and adaptation.

 

Project Ireland 2040 and the associated NAF provide useful and ambitious policy frameworks in the context of delivering climate adaptation. However, the difficulties and challenges will emerge when planning for and implementing on-the-ground adaptation measures, some of which will require difficult and sometimes politically challenging decisions to be made. In order to overcome these challenges and avail of any opportunities, significant investment are now required to achieve the aims of Project Ireland 2040 and adapt Ireland to the ongoing and now inevitable future impacts of climate change. Ireland’s performance to date on climate change is unenviable and significant efforts and resources are required to translate policy ambitions into reality. The proof will be in the pudding.

 

 

Notes


[i] “Insurance Ireland Members Estimate Claims Cost for December/January Floods and Storms at €46 million”, Insurance Ireland. Available here.

[ii] DTTAS (2017) Developing Resilience to Climate Change in the Irish Transport Sector. Available here.

[iii] DAFM (2017) Adaptation Planning – Developing Resilience to Climate Change in the Irish Agriculture and Forestry Sector. Available here.

[iv] Flood, S. (2013). Projected economic impacts of climate change on Irish agriculture. Conference Paper discussed at “Projected Impacts of Climate Change on Irish Agriculture at the Institute of International and European Affairs.

[v] Flood, S., Sweeney, J. 2011. Quantifying Impacts of Potential Sea-Level Rise Scenarios on Irish Coastal Cities. In: Otto-Zimmermann, K. ed. Resilient Cities 2: Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change – Proceeding of the Global Forum 2011.

[vi] Bruck et al. (2018). Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2018. Available here.

15 Mar, 2018

First study on barriers to womens’ return to work published by DCU

2018-05-21T11:15:14+00:00March 15th, 2018|News|0 Comments

A new study has been released by DCU’s Leadership and Talent Institute. It is entitled “Re-Engaging Talent Post- Maternity Leave: Enablers and Barriers to Positive Reintegration”. The research behind the Report was led by members of the Institute, Dr Yseult Freeney, Dr Lisa van der Werff and Professor David Collings. The process was sponsored by HR Search.

In the study,

“Over 300 women, the HR Director and line managers in 28 major organisations were interviewed. The sectors represented include Banking, Finance and Insurance; Professional Services, Telecommunications and Technology, Pharmaceuticals; Aviation and Logistics and Public Sector/Semi-State Organisations”.

 

The Report starts strong by noting that,

“While considerable attention is paid to the underrepresentation of women at senior levels of organisations, little or no research examines the impact of maternity leave on potential disengagement from career progression.”

 

Accordingly, this study is the first of its kind, setting out to examine the real barriers that women face upon their return from maternity leave. To get a full scope of this, women who were returning to work, their line managers, and HR staff in their organisation were interviewed by the researchers.

In the strategic overview, the authors noted,

“While on leave, women are feeling fairly positive but it is important to note the rather significant decline in positive emotions on the first day back.”

 

 

Many things can lead to a negative reintegration into the workplace. When all the experiences had been collated, three clear points led to a negative experience of reintroduction. They were:

  • career derailment;
  • unconscious biases; and
  • a change or deterioration in professional relationships.

Often, these took the form of people assuming that women approaching, or returning from maternity leave were fragile, over-tired, and no longer capable of the level of work achieved previously. These ideas were often compounded by the thought that once a woman had returned after her time away, it was merely a waiting game before her next pregnancy, and thus leave. This left women in a position where they felt their career may have stagnated or they may be forced to leave their organisation.

 

 

Where the women’s potential was valued, and their absence considered a “brief interlude” in a long-term career, the integration was more seamless and easier for the mother.

One respondent, a HR Director working in a Public Sector/Semi-State body, explained:

“This is one year out of a possibly 30-40 year career and that is what we are trying to build a culture around.”

Many of the positive stories of reintegration into the workplace had three elements at the heart:

  • women feeling and/or knowing that they were valued in the organisation;
  • an enrichment of professional relationships; and
  • a renewed focus on their work and career.

 

Best practice identified includes permitting phased return and employing flexible and agile practices for all, not just women.

The Report isolates many recommendations on best practice when managing the return of employees to the workplace after a period of parental leave. Many of these recommendations echoes those suggested by Claire Flannery in her blog, “Dealing with Employees with Family Commitments; Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave”, written for PAI. You can find Claire’s blog here.

 

Dr Yseult Freeney, Associate Professor in Organisational Psychology in DCU Business School, and Research leader on this project spoke to the research:

“Our research shows that maternity leave forms a critical juncture for many women in their careers.

The transition back to work is laden with challenges that can lead to career derailment when the return is not managed effectively. Fuelling this are views of maternity leave as a major disruption rather than a brief interlude, which can be conscious or unconscious … Ultimately, positive returns are associated with a renewed focus on careers and a strengthened relationship with the organisation.”

 

You can read the full Report here.

 

If you want to learn more, PAI will host a workshop on Thursday 22 March on this topic.

You can book your place here.