Deprivation in Limerick’s regeneration estates is ‘worse than 10 years ago’, claims study

Nick Rabbitts

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Nick Rabbitts

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Deprivation in Limerick’s regeneration estates is ‘worse than 10 years ago’, claims study

Moyross has lost 60% of its population since the regeneration process began; Dr Eileen Humphreys says repopulation is essential, but no a mixed basis

DEPRIVATION in Limerick’s regeneration areas is worse than before the multi-million euro process started, a new study claims.

The Limerick Leader can this week reveal details of a presentation from top sociologist Dr Eileen Humphreys, who has warned huge sections of the local population are at risk of being left “further behind” the pace of change.

It shows in spite of more than €300m being spent on tackling poverty in Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park, these areas have “disimproved” relative to both 2006 and 2011.

More than half of the people in these areas remain out of work, with almost seven in ten people of working age in Southill dependent on the State for help. And in at least one area, unemployment is higher than at the height of the recession in 2011.

In that time, these areas have seen their populations almost halve and original residents move out to different parts of the city and county.

Limerick Regeneration – whose initial purpose was to try and tackle the inequality in the city – was launched in 2008 as a €3bn plan. But the economic meltdown meant its budget was slashed and progress quickly stalled.

Now, ​Dr Humphreys has presented an overview, focusing on the socio-economic conditions of regeneration, to the Moyross local regeneration committee.

In the data, which is based on the 2016 census, the sociologist focuses on Pobal’s HP deprivation index, which draws on a number of data points such as employment levels, and education levels.

It was revealed that John’s A, in St Mary’s Park is the most disadvantaged area in the country. Here, unemployment for men is at 69%, while for women it’s at 40%.

Accession to third level education is only at 2% of the population. The so-called HP deprivation index is at minus 31.9, down from 30.7 in 2006. The unemployment rate actually increased from the height of the recession in 2011, to now.

It’s a similar story in O’Malley Park, Keyes Park, Moyross, and parts of Prospect, where the HP index has fallen from 2006 levels.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Dr Humphreys said while the recession helped some move on, it did not help those at the lowest end of the social scale.

“A lot of people moved on as things improved because they were able to get back into some education or training. But when you’e left far behind and in a certain age group, or a young person, who had a lot of serious and complex problems, it’s going to be more difficult to move out of that situation,” she added.

Elsewhere, the ratio of people dependent on the state for support is at 56.8% in Moyross, 57.8% in St Mary’s Park and 60.7% in Ballinacurra Weston. In Southill, it’s at 68.1%.

During the first years of Limerick Regeneration, the population fell as homes were demolished and tenants were handed the opportunity to move to different parts of the city and county.

The starkest drop came in Moyross, where the population has fallen 60% in a decade, just 1,963 people now residing in the northside estate. Overall, the population of all the regeneration areas is down almost 50% in 10 years. ​

Dr Humphreys believes now the only way back for these areas is to repopulate them – but in a different manner to how they were done initially.

“If we’re going to grow these areas, you can’t just dump people into social housing. It’s not the way to do it. There needs to be a mix of social and affordable housing, opening up places. That takes such a long time,” she explained.

And it’s for this reason, she fears, it could be a long time still before the regeneration areas recover.

“We cannot say there will be [immediate] big improvements because of the way society has changed and the way the economy has changed. Reducing the areas was probably a necessary thing to do at that point in time if you wanted to change the profile of the areas,” Dr Humphreys argued.

Sources have argued the data presented might make it appear the situation is worse than it is, particularly with younger people of working age moving from the areas, and older people not working in a higher proportion.

Unlike a decade ago, populations in the estates are not necessarily as evenly split.

The income of some people in the regeneration estates may have risen, but in that time so has everyone else’s as the economy recovered. So, that means the deprivation level does not see a big change. ​

The council declined to comment.