I move Amendments 1 and 2 in the name of Paul Davies AM.
There are some 800,000 older people in Wales who deserve every opportunity to be empowered, have their rights strengthened and needs fulfilled, and I would like to start by paying tribute to the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira for campaigning so tirelessly to achieve just that.
Her work on Scams and Swindles, Care Homes, Ageing Well in Wales, Domestic Abuse and Ageism demonstrates the wide reach of issues impacting older people, which we recognise today.
The Commissioner opens this report by referring to older people in Wales as “a phenomenal asset”, and “everyday heroes”.
With a contribution of £1bn each year to our economy through childcare, volunteering, care and community work, it is fair to say that this is a great description!
Yet all too often the value of these everyday heroes goes unnoticed or unrecognised, and it is completely unacceptable that too many older people, particularly those who may be more vulnerable, see their rights diminish as they get older.
A year ago next week, on Human Rights Day, the Commissioner called for legislation to protect and promote the rights of older people here in Wales.
Our amendments today seek to strengthen the Commissioner’s calls, through the introduction of an Older People’s Rights Bill.
We want to see a single piece of legislation to:
- Clearly enshrine the rights of older people within Welsh law
- Place a duty of due regard on all public bodies
- Place a duty on the Welsh Government to promote knowledge and understanding of the rights of older people across Wales
- And, Introduce measures to tackle ageism, promote ageing well, and embed older people’s wellbeing within public service delivery.
The fact that the Commissioner’s casework team provided assistance and support for 413 older people across Wales in 2015-16 shows that we still have progress to be made, particularly in the area of care and residential care, which combined made up a considerable amount of her casework.
The Commissioner also identified the key themes which came across in her casework as:
- Accessing continuing healthcare funding,
- The impact of care home closures,
- and The cost of care.
These are themes which I too have picked up on in much of my own casework, and are part of the reasons why Welsh Conservatives want to see:
- a cap on care costs,
- much-improved joined up working between the health and social care sectors,
- and much better bed provision – to prevent delayed transfers of care, and ensure choice, suitability and the right location for those who need care.
We have also used our amendments to highlight the issue of isolation among older people. This is a concern that the Commission has focused on previously, and we want to ensure that this Chamber does not forget the impact that loneliness can have on a person’s physical and mental well-being, particularly around this time of year.
- Loneliness can have the effect on mortality similar in size to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- New research has found that people with early signs of Alzheimer’s were 7.5 times more likely to be lonely.
So let’s use this report as to commit ourselves towards making Wales the first Dementia-Friendly nation in the UK!
Llywydd, we are fortunate to have such a dedicated and commitment Commissioner working on behalf of older people across Wales. Let us ensure that we are working in tandem to create an age-friendly Wales – ensuring that older people are able to access the services, support and care they need, and are empowered to continue to lead rewarding and fulfilling lives, enriching our social fabric as only those with such life experience can!