Speeches

Speech for Minister Hoctor for the launch of Report, Social Space: Equal Place

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here today. It is a privilege to be in a position to launch this very worthwhile report- Social Space: Equal Place. I would like to thank the Alzheimer Society of Ireland for their kind invitation to speak.

Dementia/Alzheimers:

Dementia is a most distressing condition and presents a significant and growing challenge to health and social services. People nowadays live longer and as a consequence are more likely to develop Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. While dementia is not solely related to age, it does affect 5% of people over 65 years with the figure rising to 20% over 80 years of age. As Minister for Older People, I am committed to working in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies, such as your own, to improve the quality of care for older people and to ensure that the needs of that sector of the population are comprehensively addressed. Today it is more important than ever to combine our respective efforts with a view to developing dementia care services to meet the challenges of the future, in an efficient and effective manner and in an atmosphere of mutual support and understanding.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland:

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland has been to the forefront in highlighting the needs of people suffering from the disease and I believe, has been very successful in raising public awareness as to how these needs can best be met.

There is no doubt that the many services offered by the Society have brought hope and comfort to many homes, families and individuals. The establishment of your social clubs is a prime example of your commitment to alleviating the sense of lonliness and isolation often experienced by Alzheimer patients and their carers. As we are all aware social interaction and the ability to relate to others is a fundamental human need. The social clubs have been instrumental in fostering and sustaining bonds of friendship and understanding, by providing a support base where individuals and their carers can meet, relax and share experiences. The report that we are launching here today, Social Space: Equal Place, explores the impact of these clubs on both the person and their carer, and highlights the benefits of providing a dementia friendly social network. It is an informative and thought provoking piece of research that merits careful consideration.

Government Initiatives:

There is a complementary link between Government policy in the care of older people and in care for people with dementia. Both policies stress the need to provide support in dignity and independence, through the provision of appropriate services to the people concerned and their carers. To this end, unprecedented levels of funding have been provided in recent times for services for older people. In 2006 and 2007 for example, just over €400 million was given to enhance service developments across the sector. Many of these new supports have been community based and aimed at increasing levels of day care and respite services.

Office for Older People:

In my role 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 the lives of our senior citizens. The Office will be fundamental in ensuring that our vision of a unified approach to the challenges and opportunities presented by our ageing population is realised. It will make sure that older people receive the support and encouragement they need to continue to enjoy life.

One of the priorities of my new Office will be 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. To ensure that this happens I also have responsibilities in the Department of Social and Family Affairs and Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am also a member of the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion which ensures that there is an integrated coherent approach to issues relating to older people across Government level. This approach is key to delivering the Government’s vision of improved integration of services, and thereby further supporting older people into the future.

I look forward to embracing the challenge of working with my Office to develop a meaningful and innovative strategy that will focus on improving the lives of older people

Conclusion:

On that note, I would like to thank you once again for your warm welcome here today, and to wish you all continued success in the future.