Name: Professor Pat Dolan
Occupation: Co-founder Child and Family Research Centre (CFRC) at NUI Galway and UNESCO Chair for Children, Youth and Civic Engagement
Newsworthiness: Pat will speak at the PBW National Conference on Family Issues this Thursday
Director Child and Family Research Centre (CFRC) at NUI Galway and UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement
A leading light in family and children’s rights not just in Ireland but around the world, Professor Pat Dolan will highlight the economic crisis facing many families when he speaks at a major conference this Thursday.
BPW Galway will host a National Conference on The Family, in the Hotel Meyrick tomorrow, Thursday 22 September. As one of the keynote speakers, Pat will talk about the issues around debt forgiveness in families and the effects the country’s economic problems are having on parents and children.
“The whole issue of bailing out banks and bailing out families is getting a lot of attention. It is interesting that we bailed out the banks well in advance of bailing out families,” he says.
Pat admits that the issue of debt forgiveness is “quite a complicated one”, but says he will be making the argument that the economic cost to the State of not supporting families will be much larger in the future.
He will be factoring in things like the cost of mental health services, as stress and depression increases in those struggling through the economic climate. One of the most distressing things about the current crisis, both economically and in family life, he says, is what is hidden beneath the surface.
“Many years ago, if you look at old photographs of Galway, it was very obvious who was in debt or who wasn’t in debt. The debt is a bit more hidden now and there are families who are struggling to pay basic utility bills and are struggling with the fact that they can’t afford to pay their mortgage,” he says.
These stresses and pressures can be a factor in “pushing families over the edge”, he adds.
One of the things discovered in the Monageer report into the tragic deaths of the four members of the Dunne family in Wexford at the hands of father Adrian in 2007 was the impact of financial debt. Pat says this is of course an extreme case but also shows how more support needs to be given to struggling families.
“Parents may have got themselves into debt but their children didn’t and should the children suffer because of parental debt is a very key question. And the answer is they shouldn’t,” he says.
Pat says that families in difficulty need more support from government but not in its current form.
“Professionals go into families and the type of support they offer is advice when in fact what families very often need are much more practical things like a washing machine or enough money for school books,” says Pat.
Originally from Dublin, the father of three came to Galway over 30 years ago. He has previous experience on the health boards in child guidance and with youth work. He was also a children’s service manager before moving into academia after receiving his PhD and ten years ago he helped to set up the CFRC at NUI Galway with the help of Dr John Canavan.
In 2008 he was “very honoured” to be named the first ever chair of a UNESCO body in the Republic of Ireland, namely the Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement.
This body is involved in a series of research projects, teaching programmes, is involved in writing policy for international government and evaluation work, which means evaluating what needs to be done to make service more efficient. They also do extensive research.
“I have just done a major study on youth mentoring, which has just been completed. I am doing a piece of work next month for UNESCO in Paris, where we have the Global Youth Forum in the UN headquarters,” he says.
Pat will work as a facilitator to hear the voices of youth from around the world, find out their views and how they can be involved better in society. Taking an example of the London riots, where most media reports tarred young people with the same brush, he says these are voices to heard.