At Tuesday's question time with OFMDFM Ministers were asked to provide an update on the Older People’s Strategy. The following transcript outlines that OFMDFM hope to be in a position to launch the consultation for the strategy in late March or early April.
Mr Humphrey asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister for an update on the strategy for older people. (AQO 3552/11-15)
Mr P Robinson: With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will ask junior Minister Jonathan Bell to answer the question.
Mr Bell: The new draft active ageing strategy was extensively reworked during 2012 following the feedback from the ageing strategy advisory group, which was chaired by Claire Keatinge, the Commissioner for Older People. The advisory group provided very helpful feedback on the content of the current draft strategy and provided comments on the draft early actions plan that has been developed to implement the strategy. We are grateful to the group for its advice and expertise. Junior Minister McCann and I met Claire Keatinge and representatives from the age sector to discuss the development of the strategy. It highlights the key issues facing older peoplehere. It will be implemented through the Delivering Social Change framework with a focus on what Departments can do to add to existing work to make a strategic change to services or programmes for older people.
The specific scope of the Delivering Social Change signature programmes, their associated targets and reporting mechanisms are currently the focus of discussion in all Departments. Once they are finalised, we will have a strategy and an early actions plan, the content of which, I am delighted to say, has been strongly influenced by older people and those who work closely with them. We hope to be in a position to launch the consultation for the strategy in late March or early April. It will take account of the views of older people, their representatives and, importantly, those who care for them.
Mr Humphrey: I thank the junior Minister for his answer. Will he assure the House that, in line with international practice, legislation on goods, facilities and services for over-18s will be implemented without delay?
Mr Bell: Yes. Anti-discrimination legalisation in relation to age is currently limited to the fields of employment, vocational training and further and higher education.
In answering the earlier question, I should have said that, following consultation and analysis, the final strategy will be published in the autumn of 2013.
The Programme for Government committed us to extending age discrimination legislation to the provision of goods, facilities and services. That will require new legislation to be taken through the Assembly. Prior to a new Bill being introduced in the Assembly, a considerable number of steps have to be taken to ensure that the legislation achieves the intended outcome. That will involve a period of detailed policy development, and we are at that stage now.
In Britain, the Equality Act 2010 provisions banning age discrimination against over-18-year-olds in the provision of goods, facilities and services and public functions came into operation on 1 October 2012. In July 2008, the European Commission issued a draft anti-discrimination directive that included protection in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the grounds of age. I understand that that is currently stalled in the Council.
Comparative analysis is also being undertaken to determine how other jurisdictions, such as Australia and Canada, which have age goods, facilities and services legislation in place, have made provision for all ages. That will inform our consideration of the scope of the legislation that we will introduce.
Ms S Ramsey: Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. It is useful that the junior Minister mentioned the position of children and young people. He has practically answered the question that I was going to ask. Minister, you mentioned that the issue was stalled in the Council. Can you elaborate on that?
Mr Bell: I am not privy to the internal work of the Council. My understanding is that, in 2008, the European Commission issued the draft directive, which included a provision for protection in the provision of goods, facilities and service on the grounds of age. I am not sure what the current circumstances are, but we can certainly ask and seek to provide that information to you.
Mr Lyttle: I welcome the improved level of consultation that has been used in the strategy. Perhaps we could consider using that method for other strategies. Does the junior Minister agree with the assessment that there is a benign prejudice against older people in our society? How does he hope that the strategy will tackle that prejudice?
Mr Bell: Many older people's groups have told us that they are delighted with the work that the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister did, not only in establishing a commissioner but in establishing a commissioner with considerable teeth in the work that she does and what she can call in to examine. I have also spoken to the Pensioners Parliament, and I want to pay a considerable tribute to older people. After all, they are the people who made this society. I have also talked to groups about childcare, and we see a continued reliance on grandparents, who do an excellent job in shaping the lives of children.
Issues such as travel insurance are of concern to me and, I think, to the Member. We are particularly concerned about what healthyolder people are asked to pay for travel insurance simply on the grounds of their age. Northern Ireland overwhelmingly recognises the contribution that our older people make to our society, and the two words that I would say to that older generation would be, "Thank you".