Speech for Minister Hoctor at the Opening of the I.R.D. Conference ‘Tackling Rural Isolation’
I am delighted to be here today to launch the report on ‘The needs of Older People in Duhallow’. I would like to congratulate I.R.D. Duhallow for commissioning this report and Jack Roche, Chairperson of the SAOI Network, who researched and wrote it.
Strategy for Positive Ageing.
The development of Services for Older People continues to be a priority on the overall Government agenda. The cornerstone of our policy is supporting older people to live in their own community for as long as possible.
As Minister for Older People, I have responsibility for the recently established Office for Older People. This new Office reinforces most clearly the commitment of the Government to enhancing many aspects of the lives of our senior citizens, particularly through promoting improved co-operation at all levels of both the statutory and voluntary sectors.
One of the priorities of this new Office will be to develop a Strategy for Positive Ageing. The 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. This approach is key to delivering the Government’s vision of improved integration of services, and thereby further supporting older people into the future.
Community Based Services
The Government’s objective of continued development of community-based services for older persons is reflected in the unprecedented levels of funding given to the sector in recent times. Over the last three years significant baseline funding has been provided for Services for Older People. In the region of €540 million additional funding has been allocated, of which just over €210 million was directed towards expanding community-based services such as Home Care Packages, Home-Helps, Meals-on-Wheels and Day/Respite Care. This significant funding initiative has been designed to both enhance existing services that the Government had already put in place, and also to widen the range of services available.
The Report – ‘The Needs of Older People in Duhallow’
I understand that 65 year olds and over, represent 17% of the population of Duhallow – a significant proportion of the population. This valuable Report gives a clear picture of the challenges and issues which are facing older people in this community. The recommendations and actions outlined in this report will serve as the foundation stone for a locally appropriate strategy to respond to the identified needs of older people in Duhallow into the future.
The main issues identified as areas of concern for older people in this report are:
- Inadequate access to transport.
- Housing issues including the difficulties experienced in contracting trades people to do odd jobs around the house and a lack of knowledge regarding available Local Authority grants.
- Health, wellbeing and leisure. A gap in local amenities catering for older peoples’ specific needs and requirements and a desire for more cultural and heritage events was also highlighted.
- Safety and security. It was felt that older people living on their own are at greater risk of danger and therefore the use of monitored alarms and mobile phones were to be encouraged and promoted through community groups.
- Finance. This report reveals that there is a lack of both knowledge and advice for older people regarding available financial opportunities. Older people feel that they are being unfairly overlooked as an inactive market by financial institutions.
- Isolation. As you know, Duhallow is predominately a rural area with over 85% of the population living in the countryside. It is therefore very important that older people are supported in an effort to reduce the risk of rural isolation. Participation in older peoples groups and transport to these meetings were seen as a factor in combating rural isolation. The provision of initiatives such as a Community Radio has been put forward in this report as an effective tool in attempting to reduce rural isolation.
Additionally, associations such as I.R.D. provide a forum to discuss and exchange ideas and information of concern to older people. It also provides services and supports within the community which help to combat the sense of isolation sometimes felt by older people in rural settings.
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 National Development Plan 2007 – 2013: 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.
The Care and Repair Programme
Building on the recommendations of this report, I.R.D., in association with Age Action Ireland are launching ‘the Care and Repair Programme’ in Duhallow. The Care & Repair Programme was started on a pilot bases in March 2007 by Age Action Ireland in association with Irish Life. Since then the Programme has expanded to cover areas of Dublin, Galway and now Duhallow.
This programme is an innovative and creative step in as it provides support on many levels for our older population.
Firstly, it provides practical help to older people with repair and maintenance work around the house. Jobs range from replacing light bulbs to fitting door chains and spy-holes or smoke alarms.
Secondly, it provides older people in isolated areas with an opportunity for social contact and interaction. Living alone in a rural setting can lead to social isolation. The Care and Repair Programme helps to alleviate this isolation through social contact.
Thirdly, it provides older people with a register of reliable and honest tradespersons if a job is beyond the scope of the Care and Repair Programme.
And finally, it provides ‘The QuoteCheck Service’ whereby an experienced volunteer visits the older person’s home, assesses a large job and gives an informed opinion about the quotation which has been received by the client from a professional tradesperson. QuoteCheck gives the older person peace of mind and the assurance that the price being quoted is not a “rip off”.
I would like to thank Age Action Ireland for their advice and support to I.R.D. Duhallow as they implement the Care & Repair Programme. This advice and support will be vital as the programme finds its feet. The programme will operate with the help of farmers involved in the Rural Social Scheme and volunteers. I would also like to thank them on behalf of the people who they will be helping. You will be providing an invaluable service for the older people in your community.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate I.R.D. on this report and Age Action for their involvement in the Care and Repair Programme here in Duhallow.
I wish you every success as you work together to improve the lives of older people in your community.