Today’s news that the Minister has announced a reprieve for 18 statutory residential care homes across Northern Ireland is a real victory for the voice of older people living in those homes.
Age NI have argued over the last twelve months that the voice of older people in those homes must be central to any changes that occurred, and it is clear that those voices have had impact in this debate. A number of unanswered questions remain however, about the future direction of Transforming your Care (TYC) and social care services for older people now and in the future.
Age NI has a vision of what social care should look like: quality, integrated social care that recognises the rights, aspirations and diversity of us all and is based on the right to live with dignity, independence, security and choice.
We have also outlined a number of tests for reform, believing that any reform of social care policy and services should result in quality; clarity; independence; sustainability and affordability, all underpinned by equality and human rights.
The question remains about how the vision of TYC to have ‘Home as the hub of care’ will be achieved? How will resources be prioritised to ensure that this vision becomes a reality? And most importantly, how will social care outcomes for older people be improved?
Age NI believes that achieving this vision require investment to be prioritised in a number of areas such as developing a broad range of preventative services which promote older people’s health and wellbeing, keeping them fit and healthier for longer; developing accommodation and care solutions like Belfast’s Mullan Mews or Barn Halt Cottages in Carrickfergus; articulating a vision and strategy which spells out the importance of day care services as part of the framework of social care; and rooting out the age discrimination and benevolent prejudice which blights the provision of health and social care to older people.
The Dignity Commission in England, a partnership between the NHS; Local Government and Age UK has highlighted that ‘Undignified care of older people does not happen in a vacuum; it is rooted in the discrimination and neglect evident towards older people in British society’.
Older people deserve to be protected from discrimination in health and social care, as their counterparts in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are. Delivering these priorities is still central to improving social care service for older people now, and in the future.
Age NI have argued over the last 4 years that as our society ages, it is of vital importance that we get our social care system right for us all. Today’s announcement must not signal a halt to the commitment to improving social care provision across Northern Ireland. That’s too high a price to pay.