Fr Peter McVerry says ‘We must use research to inform policy’ at LIT
“We must use research to inform policy.” These were just some of the words spoken by Fr Peter McVerry when he spoke at the Department of Applied Social Sciences 4th Annual Undergraduate Conference 2017 last week.
Fr Peter McVerry addressed a packed audience at LIT’s Millennium Theatre which included: Social Science practitioners, Social Science students, agency personnel and academic staff at LIT. In a wonderful and authentic address, Fr Peter McVerry spoke of his own experiences working with young people on the edges of our society over the years and how important it is to understand the reasons for addiction, imprisonment and homelessness. In his passionate talk, he spoke about the importance of taking the time to listen to the person’s story in our work. He said he once thought that the lack of a comfortable bed was the most important loss to someone who finds themselves homeless, he said it is not, it is the feeling that ‘nobody cares’. He said it is crucial in the work of social care, which is the profession many of the social science undergraduates will be entering, that we show people we care and give time to demonstrate this. Cathy Jones, Head of Department of Applied Social Sciences also stated ‘We need to be cautious about the demands of bureaucratic procedures in this area, she spoke of the dangers of over bureaucratising services, where the time given to caring, is compromised in administration procedures’
McVerry is currently championing a campaign for the Government to address the housing crisis in the country. He has recently been active in the media championing a vacant house property tax to stimulate movement in the housing sector so that more affordable housing will be released to the market. He has also advocated for those with severe drug use issues, demanding the decriminalisation of drug use, for Ireland to mirror policies like Portugal where the use of drugs is perceived as a health issue, not a criminal issue. He recommends that those working in the caring professions rethink what their professionalism means and to work genuinely to keep the person at the centre of their commitment to care. He was highly complimentary about the profession of Social Care Work and its necessity in the homeless agencies as well as in the community. He highlighted the impact our Undergraduates can make in their professional lives, stating how he wished this type of training had existed when he started his work back in the 1960s.
The audience also heard from Professor Vincent Cunnane, who noted that we need to continue to ‘have hope’ in the work that we do both as educators and as practitioners to support those on the margins to access better and healthier futures for themselves, acknowledging LIT’s commitment to accessible education at third level for first generation students in our more marginalised communities. Dr Liam Brown, Head of Research, Development and Innovation also addressed the audience, encouraging the undergraduates and practitioners in the audience to join our research community at LIT, either for postgraduate research or to contribute to new knowledge in practice through research collaborations between LIT and the community. Cathy Jones spoke about the current undergraduate degrees in Social Care, Community Work and Early Childcare; as well as the Masters level programmes offered in the Department. She stated that ‘as a Department, we continue to be guided by our vision to create new knowledge and contribute to the social care and community practice, in a society where people matter. Having Fr Peter McVerry as our keynote speaker was a real fit for the Department, he works from a place of the heart, not Ego and it is clear that in his approach to his work it is ‘people who matter.’
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