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Author: Age NI
Published on 08 December 2010 05:00 PM

Older people from across Northern Ireland made their way to Stormont yesterday, to celebrate the passage of a landmark piece of legislation creating a much-needed Commissioner dedicated to safeguarding the rights of people in later life.

The celebrations at Stormont marked the most important stage to date, in a three-year long campaign to secure a powerful Older People’s Commissioner for Northern Ireland’s ageing population.

Francis Hughes, of Age Sector Platform said: ‘The passage of the Older People’s Commissioner Bill marked a momentous day for Northern Ireland, and saw Ministers delivering on a promise they made in 2007. This has been a lengthy process, during which the need for a Commissioner has come under close scrutiny. In the end, evidence demonstrated that due to gaps in existing provision, older people’s issues haven’t been given the priority necessary to make a difference. This landmark legislation means older people will have a dedicated focal point with the capacity to prioritise their issues and bring positive change where it’s needed most.’

He added: ‘In economic terms, we believe the Commissioner will provide good value for money by ensuring that the best possible use is made of available resources and that the services Government provide, are relevant to addressing real need. The estimated yearly cost of a Commissioner is £1.5million. To put this in context, there are currently 290,000 older people in Northern Ireland, £1.5million equates to £5.17 per older person per year, less than 10p per week, less than 2p a day. The money spent on an Older People’s Commissioner is a small price to pay in light of the positive impact a Commissioner could make to the lives of older people today and for the future.’

Anne O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Age NI said: ‘Yesterday in the Assembly we saw a shining example of democracy in action. From the outset older people throughout Northern Ireland have been actively campaigning for a Commissioner, with unprecedented numbers taking part in the OFMdFM’s consultation process. While the passage of the Bill is a cause for celebration, it must be remembered that it is a staging post for safeguarding older people’s rights and interests. The focus must be now on getting the Commissioner’s Office established, so that long term strategies for our ageing demographic can be implemented, which could make a difference to the lives of a great many older people.’

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575