Speech for Minister Brady at Age Action Ireland’s Annual General Meeting
Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here today at the 17th Annual General Meeting of Age Action Ireland. I would like to thank Robin Webster, and the Board of Directors, for the kind invitation to speak with you here today.
Age Action Ireland
The range of projects which Age Action has initiated over the years, in order to improve the quality of life for older people, is impressive by any standards. Promoting education for older people through various courses – such as the University of the Third Age and the Care & Repair Programme – and developing advocacy programmes ensure that the voices of older people are heard and effectively represented.
Ireland has an obvious and valuable resource in its older population, with an estimated half a million people over the age of 65. In the coming years this number is set to rise. The contribution that these citizens make is significant, and enriches us as a society. Age Action has been to the forefront in working to change attitudes towards older people – rejecting the stereotypes of dependency, passivity and decline.
Older people contribute to economic, social and civic life in ways that cannot be measured in purely tangible terms. This involves, for example, caring for family members, participating in community and voluntary activities, and imparting generational skills to our younger people. How older people are perceived, and perceive themselves, can have implications on how they are treated by wider society.
Our growing population of older people should be seen as a positive resource for this country, as we recognise their talents and skills. It is through active involvement with organisations such as Age Action Ireland that older citizens can address issues of concern such as housing, education, health care, transport and jobs. They can continue to challenge and change, where necessary, negative perceptions of ageing in our society.
Government Policy – Older People
There is no doubt that for many, as we get older, our first choice is to remain living at home in our communities. The Government is committed to ensuring that older people receive a comprehensive range of services that enable them to continue to live at home for as long as possible – a position which is in line with Age Action Ireland’s overall aim.
Home Care Services
The HSE National Service Plan 2010, which was approved by my colleague Minister Harney in February last, commits the Executive to providing almost 12 million Home-Help hours to over 54,000 people. In addition, the Plan is designed to deliver Home Care Packages to around 9,600 people at any one time or to some 13,000 clients over the course of the year.
I am happy to be able to say that, notwithstanding the severe overall economic difficulties facing the country, we provided an additional €10 million in the last Budget to expand the Home Care Package Initiative nationally.
Arising from an independent Evaluation of Home Care Packages, published by the Department in December last, the HSE established a Task Group to progress this year various improvements in home care provision. The Department accepts the need for a more standardised approach to the regulation of home care generally, whether by public or private provision.
This year the HSE intends to:
- Finalise standardised access and operational guidelines for delivery of Home Care Packages.
- Adopt a voluntary code of Quality Guidelines for Home Care Support Services for Older People.
- Develop a Procurement Framework for home care services.
- Introduce Guidelines for access to and allocation of Home Help hours.
The Department is also considering the overall regulation of the community sector in light of the recommendations in the Report of the Commission on Patient Safety, and the Report of the Law Reform Commission on the Legal Aspects of Carers.
Positive Ageing Strategy
We must plan ahead now to make Ireland an ‘age-friendly’ country in which every individual, regardless of their age, can access the kind of services and supports that enable them to live healthy, fulfilling and independent lives.
As you know, a key function of the Office for Older People is to develop a National Positive Ageing Strategy. I have just concluded a public consultation process which began with requests for written submissions last June, and more recently involved a series of regional consultation meetings with older people and service providers in a number of locations around the country.
This is the first time that there has been such a wide ranging Consultation between Government and older people in Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Age Action Ireland for their submission to the Strategy.
At all of these meetings, I have heard an immense amount of valuable information on a very broad range of issues to be considered in the context of the new Strategy. In due course, I intend publishing a report on the consultation process to highlight the issues which older people and service providers have brought to my attention.
The National Positive Ageing Strategy will set out a common framework for the development of operational plans by Government Departments. They will clearly set out their objectives relating to older people, as well as the development of ongoing mechanisms designed to monitor progress and identify challenges facing older people in the future.
I intend to have a very broad-ranging Positive Ageing Strategy, which will have a much wider focus than on health and personal social services. Of course, health and social services are vitally important, but it is my belief that all services and all sectors are relevant to older people and the Strategy that I am developing will reflect that broader focus in setting the direction for all future policies, programmes and services relating to older people.
The various issues raised by members for today’s AGM have all been reflected during the Consultation process to-date for the Strategy. I am conscious of the need to address these, insofar as possible, either in the context of the Strategy or, as appropriate, on a separate basis, if possible, pending finalisation of the Strategy.
In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to the very good work being undertaken by Age Action Ireland. I would like to wish you continued success in the future, and look forward to working closely with you on behalf of older people.