Speaking notes for Minister Harney at the Launch of the Report on the Needs of Older People in North Clondalkin and Palmerstown

Good Afternoon everyone. I am delighted to be here with you this afternoon in the Coldcut Club for the launch of “An Analysis of the Needs of Older People in North Clondalkin and Palmerstown”. I would like to thank Su Clarke, Community Worker with South Dublin County Council, for her kind invitation to perform this launch. I would also like to express my gratitude to Rowlagh Womens’ Group, who commissioned this report.

The older peoples’ agenda has been to the forefront of wider Government policy in recent times – covering not only health and personal social services but also, for example, education and training; rural transport and housing.

Older people have laid the foundations of the economic success and prosperity we enjoy today and we are committed to providing them with the services they deserve.

The pursuit of the various commitments envisaged under “Towards 2016” and the NDP was greatly strengthened earlier this year with the establishment of the Office for Older People, located in the Department of Health and Children. A key objective of the Government is to address the needs of older people while at the same time maximising the opportunities to allow them to continue to contribute to society.

The Office will develop the considerable work already undertaken by my Department over the past number of years to ensure that Older People are supported to live independent and healthy lives in their own communities.

One of the key functions of the new Office is to develop a Strategy for Positive Ageing.

My goal is to develop a meaningful and innovative strategy that will result in real improvements in the lives of older people.

The Strategy will involve, for example, the development of operational plans by Government Departments, clearly setting out objectives relating to older people, and joined up thinking on initiatives serving this community. Other areas for consideration include ongoing mechanisms to monitor progress and identify challenges. The new strategy will be developed on a Cross departmental basis.

The Government has committed very significant investment to the area of older people over the last few years, both for community-based and residential services. These initiatives are being implemented through the HSE.

Tangible evidence of this commitment is found in recent budgets.

Extra funding of over €400 million was added to services for older people under Budgets 2006 and 2007 of which €190 million was for community-based services such as Homecare Packages, Home Helps, Day Care, Respite and Meals on Wheels.

Improvements in services are best achieved through partnership, between Government, service providers, both public and private, voluntary organisations and older people themselves. This report makes a number of useful recommendations to improve local services to older people, so it will make a significant contribution, in this regard.

I understand that this well-researched report is the end result of a piece of reseach, which involved older people in North Clondalkin and Palmerstown last year. The purpose of this survey was to establish priority needs and problems of this group and one of its findings is that volunteering in both Clondalkin and Palmerstown is twice the national average for this age group. That is a statistic to be proud of, and I applaud you all for your enthusiasm and kindness, in this regard.

However, the recommendations of this report also make for very interesting reading. One of these is that all agencies whose responsibilities involve older people will be asked to review relevant research, so they can address any issues.

This will also enable them to improve services for older people if necessary. The agencies involved include South Dublin County Council, the HSE, The Department of Social and Family Affairs, An Garda Siochana, Dublin Bus and the VEC.

I note also that the Steering Committee supports the establishment of an Active Retirement Association in North Clondalkin. This group would work with the new Rowlagh Womens’ Group Outreach Worker. I am sure that such as organisation would generate many benefits for that particular locality, especially in view of the lively senior citizens who reside there! It appears that Rowlagh Womens’ Group are prepared to facilitate this new organisation and to provide resources as well as training for the target group.

I am also very impressed by the recommendation that information events on various topics should be held. These would include issues of particular interest, such as health issues, crime prevention, Passport for Leisure, Chiropody Card, the Senior Helpline, Health Services and the Carer’s Allowance.

Of course, a major role is played by the Older Persons’ Research Project Steering Committee, and at least four of the recommendations will involve them. For example, one recommendation is that they will continue to access resources for new and existing older persons’ groups within their remit. This should greatly assist with the enhancement of facilities and services locally, for those of mature years .

Another such recommendation is that this committee supports Palmerstown Active Retirement Association in campaigning on issues related to public services.

Local access to computers and training is recommended for older people in both Palmerstown and North Clondalkin. In today’s knowledge based society, I welcome this initiative.

In conclusion, this extremely thorough and well-presented report will certainly lead the way, in terms of developing and enhancing services for older people in both North Clondalkin and Palmerstown. It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to officially launch this Report, “An Analyis of the Needs of Older People in North Clondalkin and Palmerstown”.