Letter from Dublin

Dear Dagmara,

I would like to thank Barka for the opportunity to visit Poland and to gain an understanding of the work that Barka does. I would also like to thank you for facilitating the visit and for making it such an enjoyable and worthwhile event.

I found the models and concepts around social integration, social economy and social cooperatives very interesting. There is much we can learn and adapt here in Ireland from the models Barka has developed. In Ireland there is a huge culture of a sense of entitlement to social welfare payments which are seen as a right and not as a payment for which people should have to work for. There is a long road ahead to begin to change this culture.

The Simon Community in Dublin will be exploring the idea of social integration for its homeless hostels in the coming year. If the Barka project continues, I might at some stage ask for a representative from Barka to speak to our housing teams.

What was also interesting for me was the very different approaches Poland and Ireland have adopted to addressing the issue of homeless people with an addiction to alcohol, in Ireland they are provided with all kinds of supports/housing/payments etc and allowed to drink. In Poland it appears that if treatment is refused, there is no assistance provided. It occurs to me that both positions are extreme to some extent, it is possible that the Irish approach may indeed be facilitating people in their drinking while the Polish approach adopts a zero tolerance and no supports. There is possibly a in between approach which both countries should consider, where some supports are provided but with conditions attached.

The main issue which the visit highlighted for me from the detox perspective was that emigrants with an alcohol addiction really do need to be sober going home in order to be able to access appropriate supports immediately on return. Perhaps we can discuss this further on Monday next.