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Przygotowa?a Emilia Marchelewska

During Forum Polonia Convention in March, 2010 focus groups with Polish community leaders from around the country were held.
Leaders presented situation of the Polish in Ireland in the following arrears:
• Health care and social welfare
• Employment and career
• Culture
• Education
• Political & institutional lobbying

Main issues identified cross the border:

• Language barrier
• Lengthy process of social and psychological adaptation to living in Ireland
• Isolation of many initiatives
• Groups / NGOs working on limited resources / volunteering
• Poor knowledge about existing services, available supports and rights and entitlements = influence ability access to health care, social welfare, further education, employment, rights enforcement
• Services are not designed to accommodate new mobile society (Ireland & Poland)

Health welbeing & Social Welfare
Centre for Addiction Counselling (CKU), Dublin, Parasol, Counselling & Psychotherapy Centre, Cairde, Cross Care, University in Limerick, UCD
Facilitated by Emilia Marchelewska (Cairde)

Recession left many on:
• Low income, reduced working hours
• Unemployed as a result of:
o Redundancy
o Injury / illness as a result of employment in Ireland
o Mothers – let go / giving up low paid jobs to care for children
The table shows the rising numbers of Polish national using Cairde advocacy service from Jan.2008 – March 2010.

Barriers to access services:
• High costs of health care including mental health services
• Access to information and advocacy (outside of Dublin)
• Discrimination
• More difficult access to social welfare:
o Backlogs > delays in making decision, “misplaced” documents;
o Refusals (HRC)
• “I know a person in my situation who got this benefit”
• “It used be easier to get anything”
• “Everyone gets refusal letter first”
o Refusals (PRSI paid) – not registered by employers, domestic workers
• “I kept asking for a contract and then I left” (laundry worker)
• “I used to earn E700weekly, for the last few months: nothing” (domestic worker)
o Now new SWA (basic payment) regulations

Effects of migration and difficulties with adaptation and accessing services
• Stress, depression,
• Addictions
• Marriage break down
• Poverty, homelessness
• Feeling of “not fitting into the system”
• Feeling of being between the 2 countries (Poland and Ireland) and in the either one at the same time

Facilitate by Barnaba Dorda (Siptu)
Siptu, Irish Polish Society / Toast Masters Club, Polish Community in Portlaoise, Local FAS office Dublin

• Increasing difficulties in getting employment
• Worsening working conditions
• Enforcement of employment rights difficult due to
o Language barrier
o Scare of loosing a job
Poles have not utilised personal assets:
• Poles are well qualified but working in low skilled jobs
• Poles have transferable skills and are flexible employees
• There is some interest in increasing qualifications in Ireland
• Interest in entrepreneurship

Lobbying & Social and Political Engagement
Irish Polish Society, Multi City Kilkenny, Polish candidate in the Local elections 2009, Galway Irish Polish Association, Junior Business Chamber
Faciliated by Sebatsian Wiedel (Irish Polish Society)

—Polish nationals interests are not fully reflected in existing policies and systems
—Need for representation on the political scene
—Need for strong social, political and business lobby groups

There is some work and achievements in this field:
—Irish Local Elections, 2009
—Forum Polonia – ‘Give a voice campaign’ – rise in numbers of Poles on te Electoral Register
—9 Polish candidates
—Forum Polonia- media group
—Social institutional advocacy through Polish employees (e.g. Cairde, Cross Care, Siptu)

MyCork Association, UCD, Irish Polish Society, Polish School Galway
Faciliated by Beata Molendowska (My Cork)

—“I am staying in Ireland, because my child is happy in school here.”
—English language support teachers due to budget cuts > influences ability to gain knowledge and socialisation process
—Polish weekend schools
Polish language, culture, history & geography)
Enable children to go back to Polish education system after returning home
6 days school week
—There is no scheme for structured cooperation between Polish weekend schools and Irish educational system

Social & Cultural Integration
Polski Express, Art Polonia, Irish Polish Society, Polish Localise, Kilkenny News, Tallagh Library, Polish Social & Cultural Association, Polish Community Portlaoise
Facilated by Anna Pas (Polski Express)

—Many local initiatives – celebrating Polish culture, art, entertainment
—Good tool of integration
—Need for more bilingual event targeting wider audience as well as Polish
—Need for initiatives on a bigger scale

—Many grass roots initiatives – growing need for coordination and addressing issues on the higher level
—Build stronger links with policy makers and service providers
—Adress English language skills
—Improve access to services
—Improve awareness of rights and entitlements
—Monitor discrimination
—Provide adequate support and safety net for those in a difficult circumstances
—Diversity of population should be better reflected in the public service

Emilia Marchelewska