Speeches

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.

Conclusion

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.

Thank you.