Speech by Minister Brady at the Launch of the Older Voices Kildare Project
I would like to thank Denise Croke – Project Co-ordinator for her kind invitation to be here with you today to launch the Older Voices Kildare Project. I would also like at the outset to acknowledge the dedication of the Steering Group for this project, and Kildare VEC, the HSE and Kildare Leader Partnership for their on-going support and funding. The partnership approach to developing this programme empowers older people in a real way to become actively involved in their communities
A sense of isolation, at any age can be a difficult reality to cope with. It is therefore very important that older people are supported to reduce the risk of rural isolation. Being actively involved in our communities can address the problem of isolation and nurture new interests and broaden our horizons. I understand that isolation for some older people was identified in the recently published ‘Let Your Voice be Heard’ – A Report on Community Needs undertaken by the Partnership. This problem was mentioned by many of those interviewed. The project aims to empower older people to break down the sense of isolation experienced by many and challenge the myths and stereotyping surrounding older age. It will, for example, provide information for older citizens, identify barriers that some older men can experience, and explore a new initiative – “Countywide Space for Older People” to strengthen the voice of older people Co. Kildare.
Office for Older People
As Minister, I have specific responsibility for the Office for Older People. This Office shows most clearly the commitment of the Government to enhancing the lives of our senior citizens. My aim is to ensure that the vision of a unified approach to the challenges and opportunities presented by our ageing population is realised, and that older people receive the maximum support and encouragement to enhance their lives and to continue enriching society.
The overarching aim of Government policy is to help older people to remain at home and in their communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, for whatever reason, then we help ensure access to high quality, modern long term residential care. I am happy to be able to say that, notwithstanding the severe overall economic difficulties facing the country at the moment, we provided an additional €10 million in the recent Budget to expand the Home Care Package Initiative. In addition to other community measures such as Home-Help, Meals-on-Wheels, and Day Care, these packages are helping one of the most vulnerable sections of our society.
Strategy for Positive Ageing
As you are aware, one of the priorities of my 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. I intend that the new Strategy will cover all the main issues relevant to older people and not just focus on the health and personal, social services areas. It will concentrate on a broader range of issues, highlighting the participation of older people across society and the ways in which relevant programmes and services are organized. It will concentrate, for example, on income, housing, transport, education and employment. The Strategy is being developed by a Cross-Departmental Group, chaired by the Director of the Office for Older People. There is an Expert Advisory Group and a Liaison Group composed of key Non-Governmental Organisations representing older people advising on the process.
Last June, I called for submissions on the new Strategy. This is the first time that there has been such a wide-ranging consultation between Government and older people about matters that affect them. The closing date for the public consultation process was 24 September last. We received over 180 submissions and considerable work has been undertaken in analysing these. I intend that the Strategy will be progressed as quickly as possible.
Government Strategy – Social Inclusion
The Government is committed to a coherent strategy for social inclusion based on the lifecycle approach set out in the national partnership agreement Towards 2016. This National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (NAPinclusion), complemented by the social inclusion elements of the NDP 2007–13: Transforming Ireland – A Better Quality of Life for All, sets out how the social inclusion strategy will be achieved over the period 2007-2016. The overall aim of the NAPinclusion is to build viable and sustainable communities, improving the lives of people living in disadvantaged areas and building social capital.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate all those associated with this Older Voices project. I wish you every success as you work together to improve the lives of older people in your community.