Speeches

Speech for Minister Ivor Callely at the NCAOP conference on The Role and Future Direction of Day Services for Older People in Ireland

Introduction

I am very pleased to be here today to attend this important conference on the Role and Future Direction of Day Services for Older People in Ireland. I would like to thank Bob Carroll, CEO of the National Council for giving me the opportunity to be with you today. It is always inspiring to meet with people involved in helping to improve services provided for older people and I wish to express my congratulations to all those involved.

Positive Contribution by Older People

The term “older people” encompasses a vast range of individuals, each shaped by a unique life experience, each with aspirations and needs, just like other members of society. The growth in the number of older people as a proportion of the population represents both challenges and opportunities to all of us. No one can underestimate the positive contribution of older people to Irish life – The vast majority of old people are active and healthy and fully participate in our communities. Some people may need some degree of help in caring for themselves at some stage in their life.

I am glad to say that the cornerstone of policy in relation to the care of older people is care in the community, with the overall aim being to support older people in dignity to live in their own community for as long as possible. Nowadays, older people are living longer and healthier lives, and those lives should have purpose and meaning.

One of the basic needs of all of us including older people is contact with others in our day-to-day lives. One of the important functions of day care centres is to offer an opportunity for older people to meet with their peers and also provide them with a focus for social interaction. Older people can also avail of practical facilities such as meals, bath/shower facilities, medical room, hairdressing and other health and recreational services.

Commitment to improve the lives of Older People

We all know that our population is ageing and I am glad to say that there is a positive acceptance among the general community that older people have been instrumental in building and strengthening the Irish state to the healthy level we enjoy today. The present Government acknowledges the full measured contribution of older people to society in general and it is fully committed to improving all aspects of their lives by focusing on issues that affect their well-being.

The emerging knowledge of society represents a set of new imperatives and new opportunities for society as a whole. The effective creation, use and decimination of knowledge is the key to success. As you are aware e-Government is about providing citizens with information when and as it is needed.

I am a strong supporter and want to see the development of e-Health which should improve access to health information by professionals, patients, the general public and all stakeholders.

Development in Services

In recent years, health and social services for older people have been improved, both in hospitals and in the community. Funding, both capital and revenue, has been substantially increased in respect of services for older people. Between 1997 and 2003 additional funding of approximately €284m has been provided for services for older people. The funding base for services for older people is now, therefore, at a very substantial level. Much, however, remains to be done if we are to meet emerging needs.

I am working with my Ministerial colleague, Michael Martin, to reform the structures for the delivery of our health services. In the next 4 weeks we will launch our proposals and then open the proposed reforms to feed back for a period of about 3 months.

I have a clear vision of a health service that will adequately respond to all needs at every level – a world class health service.

Capital Developments

There are a lot of good things happening in health and a lot of good things happening in every community. The National Development Plan is providing capital funding of over €253 million to services for older people in the period 2000-2006 inclusive. On a national basis this will enable a comprehensive infrastructure of community nursing units and day-care facilities to be put in place as well as the refurbishment of existing extended-care facilities and the replacement of old accommodation. Older people deserve first class facilities and we intend to provide such facilities in appropriate locations.

Conclusion

I want to congratulate the National Council On Ageing and Older People for their work in producing this report. It represents a qualitative exploration of the views of older people, service providers and carers. It serves to provide policy makers with the insight of those who receive our services, and the frontline providers of these services. It will also greatly help to inform my Department´s approach to the development of day services for the older people.

Again, I thank you for inviting me here today and wish you well in what I am sure will be a very worthwhile conference.