- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Category: Press Releases
MIKE HEDGES AM WELCOMES COMMITMENT TO OLDRER PEOPLE MADE BY DEPUTY CABINET MEMBER HUW IRRANCA DAVIES
Speaking after the Plenary Session of the Assembly on Tuesday, Mike Hedges AM, Chair of the Cross Party Group on Aging and Older People said…
‘I am pleased with the Ministers statement and the work that the Welsh Labour Government has committed to undertaking in the future in relation to older people. I chair the Cross Party Group on Older Persons and Aging so it is a topic close to my heart. I have chaired several meetings on the theme of loneliness and have heard astonishingly sad stories where people have no family or friends to spend time with. I have also had personal experience of a person coming to my surgeries every month to have a chat – because I was their only contact apart from their Dr. As a society we need to put the rights and needs of older people right at the top of our priorities – and I am pleased to see the Welsh Government making the commitments outlined by the Minister today.
Huw Irranca Davies AM – Thank you Presiding Officer. Yesterday was International Day of Older Persons and communities across Wales joined together to recognise and celebrate the many and varied contributions that older people make to society and the Welsh economy.
As this year the celebration aligns with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I would like to take this opportunity to update Assembly Members on the work Welsh Government is taking forward to place human rights at the heart of Welsh public services and make Wales the best place in the world to grow old. Growing older should not erode an individual’s human rights.
Wales has a long history of working with and for older people from the introduction of the first Strategy for Older People in Wales in 2003, to establishing the world’s first Older People’s Commissioner in 2008.
This commitment to improving lives for older people continues today. Earlier this year we started a new programme of work to reinvigorate our focus on older people’s issues. We are working closely with the Older People’s Commissioner and older people and their representatives to co-produce a framework for an ageing society.
A key strand of this work aims to make rights real for older people. A stakeholder group has been convened to consider the steps needed to achieve this aim.
Raising awareness of human rights can empower older people to play an active role in ensuring the care they receive upholds their fundamental right to be treated with dignity and respect. However, we must also raise awareness of human rights among the public bodies and organisations that work with older people every day.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, came into force in April 2016. The Act provides the legal framework for improving the well-being of people who need care and support, and requires local authorities to have due regard to the United Nations Principles for Older Persons. Simply referencing the Principles is not enough. Due regard means that local authorities must actively consider how the duties impact on the decisions they make.
Independent advocacy services can give a voice to people helping to ensure their views and wishes are represented when making choices about their own lives. They are important for supporting people to engage actively and participate in the development of their own well-being outcomes.
Advocacy for all persons is embedded within the SSWB Act 2014. My officials have been working with a technical stakeholder group to set the standards for children and adult services through the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 (RISCA). We are also updating the Part 10 Code of Practice (Advocacy) to provide practical guidance on how rights can be made real for older people accessing advocacy.
One of the five themes of the United Nations Principles for Older Persons is independence. The Integrated Care Fund (ICF) promotes a human rights based approach by supporting older people to maintain their independence and continue to be part of a community.
For example, the Acute Response Team (ART), based at the Prince Phillip Hospital in Llanelli, provides a 24 hour rapid response service for frail older people who would otherwise require admission to hospital. The team work in partnership with a range of other ICF initiatives to facilitate integrated and person-centred care for individuals in their own homes. This allows them to remain within their communities and continue in their day-to-day lives without the interruptions of visiting hospitals for treatment and experience better health outcomes as a result.
Participation is also a theme within the UN Principles. I recognise that Government must ensure the infrastructure is in place to support people to remain active and engaged. Local transport services, community facilities such as public toilets and places to meet make a tangible difference to the lives of older people. They are integral to creating vibrant and cohesive communities.
Reducing levels of loneliness and social isolation among people of all ages is a key priority for Welsh Government. In Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021 we confirmed our commitment to developing a nationwide and cross-government strategy to tackle these issues by March 2019.
Funding of £750K in 2018-19 and in 2019-20 has been agreed to develop this cross-government approach.
The current public debate about loneliness and its impact on both physical and mental health strikes to the core of our society. It questions how we care and support each other.
For those of us growing older, the loneliness debate can sharpen our focus on how we will spend our time when we stop working. People of all ages should be encouraged to plan for their future, not just financially but to consider the social networks that they will need to age well. We should all question what we will expect our communities to offer us in later life and how we can start building those communities now.
By volunteering, caring for loved ones or by being a valued member of their local community, older people form the backbone of our society. As Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, I will play an active role in combatting ageist and corrosive stereotypes of older people. If we continue to view old age negatively, we will not be successful in creating a society that supports all older people to enjoy a life that has value, meaning and purpose.
Celebrating Older People’s Day can encourage people of all ages to look forward with positivity and embrace growing older. My aim is to make Wales the best place in the world to grow old and I look forward to working with key stakeholders, the Older People’s Commissioner and, most importantly, older people themselves, to realise this aim.