These are the words of Sarah Rochira, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales in her annual report Driving Change for Older People: Impact and Reach Report 2013-14; which is being discussed in Plenary this afternoon.
The Commissioner’s overall priorities include:
- Tackling prejudice, inequality and discrimination;
- Driving up the quality of – and availability and access to – health and social care; and
- Protecting and improving community services, facilities and infrastructure.
The annual report states that older people are too often talked about in a derogatory, disrespectful and defamatory manner. Furthermore, many older people face discrimination, which is both illegal and morally wrong, limiting their access to services and fair treatment.
The report notes that the Commissioner has worked with local health boards, local authorities, care homes, the police and the Welsh Government to deliver a series of training seminars to professionals that explored ageing and the impact of negative attitudes on service delivery.
The report also refers to the Commissioner’s work with the Welsh Government to establish a Welsh Declaration of the Rights of Older People, which has now been introduced. The Welsh Government states it is now working closely with the Older People’s Commissioner and stakeholders to develop an action plan.
The Commissioner commits to further work to challenge ageism, discrimination and the stereotypes held of older people, their impact upon individuals, and their impact on delivering efficient and effective public service.
The Commissioner published a report on The Importance and Impact of Community Services within Wales in February 2014. The report makes a case for protecting community services, such as buses and community transport, public toilets, pavements, public seating, libraries, leisure facilities, and community and day centres. The Commissioner states that these community-based services and facilities are not luxuries; they are essential to the maintenance of older people’s health, independence and wellbeing.
I was therefore delighted that the Welsh Government announced proposals in March 2014 to place a duty on Local Authorities across Wales to improve access to public toilets.
In July 2014 the Commissioner launched a new toolkit for older people and a good practice guide for local authorities to enable meaningful engagement of older people in consultations and decisions about community services.
The annual report also refers to the Commissioner’s Residential Care Review, which has now been published.
The review found clear variations in the quality of care provided, and that older people are often not receiving the level of care they have a right to expect. The Commissioner states in her introduction:
The overall conclusion of my Review is clear: Too many older people living in care homes have an unacceptable quality of life and the view of what constitutes ‘acceptable’ needs to shift significantly.
The review was discussed in a Welsh Conservatives debate about older people in Plenary in November 2014, which can be viewed on senedd.tv. It was also discussed in the Health and Social Care Committee’s scrutiny session with the Older People’s Commissioner, also available on senedd.tv.
The Commissioner set out requirements for action and requested that the relevant bodies provide a written account of their progress by 2 February 2015.
The annual report also sets out the Commissioner’s future plans, including her intentions to:
- Undertake formal reviews into the support available to carers and people living with dementia; and
- Work with partners to strengthen the access older people have to domestic abuse support and the criminal and restorative justice system.
Article by Amy Clifton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.