Mrs Gwenda Thomas, who has special responsibility for Social Services, said the appointment of the Commissioner was an important step in improving the lives of older people in Wales.
A recruitment campaign to find the right person for this unique role in the UK begins with advertisements next week (July).
Mrs Thomas provided the update on the recruitment of the Commissioner and the Welsh Assembly Government’s Strategy for Older People, at the Excellence Wales Learning Exchange on Older People in Llandudno, organised by the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA).
She said it was important that all organisations in Wales work together to improve the lives of older people - to give them access to services without barriers.
Mrs Thomas said:
Our strategy for older people is about shedding the stereotypes that surround older people and ensuring that government at all levels can help people to live the lives that they want and deserve.
This is not just about traditional issues such as social services or pensions it is about putting older people at the centre and ensuring they are engaged as active citizens in society, allowing people to work longer if they want to and ending the problem of good, able workers being thrown on the scrapheap just because of their age.
Older people must have access to transport, education, training and sports facilities. But they must also have independence and choice in getting these services. We must ensure that health, social care and housing services are tailored around the needs of older people and to maintain their independence in their own homes and that specialist services are available when needed.
Mrs Thomas said that the aim could only be achieved if central and local government, together with the voluntary sector, worked together in effective partnerships.
And listening to what older people themselves are saying is an important part of that aim.
The Commissioner’s role will be to ensure that the interests of older people in Wales, who are aged 60 or more, are safeguarded and promoted. The Commissioner, as an ambassador and authority on older people’s issues, will speak up on behalf of older people within society who deserve a stronger voice about the services they receive and the needs they have. The role will be supported by statutory powers and will enable the Commissioner to review the impact of public services on older people and where things go wrong examine the reasons and the remedies.
Mrs Thomas added:
The Assembly has introduced free bus travel, free swimming, health promotion action plans, a carers strategy, housing support, a programme to increase benefit take-up and a National Service Framework for Older People.
Appointing a Commissioner will build on that platform of support for older people.
She said that the Strategy will also be developed and one of the real challenges over its next phase will be to evolve the approach so that issues about ageing and older people are mainstreamed - integrated on an equitable basis in all aspects of public policy. This will be done in the coming months in consultation with all partners and stakeholders on this report in the coming weeks.
She said the strategy was not a quick fix but events such as the Excellence Awards helped recognise achievements which were milestones on the journey to achieving its aims.
Mrs Tomas added:
I would like to congratulate last year’s winners of the Excellence Wales Awards for our Older People, Flintshire, who achieved highly commended status.
She also congratulated Swansea, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend local authorities for achieving commended status and Conwy, Newport and Ceredigion on attaining certificates of recognition to.
Notes to Editors
The Welsh Assembly Government’s Strategy for Older People in Wales was launched on 30 January 2003 and provides a structured basis for the Welsh Assembly Government and other public bodies in Wales to develop policies and plans to address implications of an ageing population.
The Commissioner for Older People Wales Act received Royal Assent in July 2006. It gives the National Assembly powers to establish an independent Commissioner whose role will be to help promote and safeguard the interests of older people and to speak up on their behalf. Regulations setting out the detail of the Commissioner's appointment, term of office and administrative functions came into effect on 16 February.
Excellence Wales: The Welsh Local Government Association has been developing and promoting the concept of Excellence Wales for several years, building a broad base of support at national and local level for its introduction. This scheme is unique to local government in Wales and is developed in collaboration with the Welsh Assembly Government, Wales Audit office, Welsh local authorities, and good practice across the UK.
12 July 2007