Commissioner for Older people must be first step in social inclusion agenda
Sinn Féin spokesperson on older people and women, Newry Armagh MLA Pat O'Rawe has said that the creation of an independent Commissioner for Older People should be the first step in developing a wider social inclusion agenda to tackle many of the problems facing older people.
Ms O'Rawe said:
"Older people in our society are socially excluded on many levels and face a huge number of barriers. Without financial commitments to match well intentioned paper polices there is little or no prospect of improving the life experience of older people.
"Political will is needed to actively pursue the political and legislative changes necessary to establish a decent standard of living, full access to services and the right of older people to fully participate in the life of their community. The first step in delivering a strategy for social inclusion would be the creation of a Commissioner for Older People that can ensure that we get a joined-up approach.
"The incomes of many older people are falling behind that of the community as a whole. Older people are living on inadequate pensions and struggling with spiralling costs of living. After a lifetime of work and contribution through taxes, rates and national insurance we must ask if the standard of living provided for older people meets their needs and reflects these contributions. Society must question how governments, who have benefited from these contributions, have repaid them.
"Action and most importantly real financial commitments across a broad range of policy areas is required. There are a number of specific policy initiatives that Sinn Féin believe will combat levels of poverty and social exclusion, including:
· A Commissioner for Older People
· A Fundamental review of the standard of living of older people, including pension provision, cost of living, fuel poverty and disposable income
· Year on year targets to eliminate unnecessary deaths from cold
· Introduction of free personal care and an adequate level of nursing care in residential accommodation
· Fair access to health care for older people based on clinical need
· Free telephone line rental, free TV licences and examination of potential of free Internet access
· Free public transport across the island of Ireland
"It is essential that older people have access to transport and the planning of all aspects of transportation should ensure that barriers to accessing services, employment, and volunteering, educational, recreational and social opportunities are removed. We need to evaluate public transport and supported transport provided especially within rural communities.
"Sinn Féin believes that all public transport should be accessible and that older people throughout Ireland should access to free public transport." ENDS
Note to Editors
At the last census there were 270,592 people of pensionable age living in the North, with this figure estimated to increase to 314,000 by the year 2021 (Mid-year estimates and population projections 2003, NISRA)