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Published on 07 March 2011 09:00 AM

Last week, Wales voted 'Yes' in the referendum on additional powers for the National Assembly for Wales.

Here Victoria Lloyd, Age Cymru's Director of Influencing and Programme Development, gives her response to how this historic development will affect older people and Age Cymru:   

What does the 'Yes' vote mean to Age Cymru and older people in Wales?

In answering the question, we really need to look at what is important to older people in Wales. 

It is important to state at the outset that older people are not a homogenous group and individuals will have differing priorities. 

Many of those priorities will be in areas devolved to the Welsh Assembly – health, social care and transport but others including pensions are reserved to Westminster.

The Assembly has legislated in three areas that stand out as being particularly relevant to older people over the last four years – these are the Carers' Measure, the Domiciliary Care Measure and the Mental Health Measure.

These Measures went through the whole complexity of the Legislative Competency Order (LCO) and Measure process. 

In future if legislation is needed the Assembly will be able to respond more quickly to provide the solutions. 

It does make sense that if we are making laws in Wales we do so in a streamlined and efficient way.

The 'Yes' vote provides greater clarity for the people of Wales. 

When we are looking at policy development the process we need to follow will be clearer – there will be no confusion as to whether an LCO is required.

We feel that streamlining the process does provide the capacity for the Assembly to consider a broader range of legislative issues if it needs to. 

As with Westminster, there are a number of ways that LCOs and measures can be proposed – either by the Government, as a result of petitions and through being successful in the members ballot. 

Yet the system we have had for the last four years has restricted the capacity /opportunities for legislation because it requires the Assembly first to debate the LCO and then later the development of the measure – and this increases the time required on the floor of the Assembly.

So the referendum result will speed things up, it may enable the Assembly to pass more legislation and will provide greater clarity.

What it will mean in terms of what the Assembly does next for older people is less clear?

We have elections next month, and once the next Government is formed– be it a single party or another coalition - we will have a much better idea.


As Age Cymru, our calls at the election include the reform of social care.

Any wholesale reform of paying for care will need to be led by the UK Government because key areas such as taxation, National Insurance and welfare benefits are not devolved to Wales. 

Nevertheless there is much that the Assembly Government can do to incrementally improve the situation.

A step in the right direction would be to ensure that occupational pensions are disregarded from means assessment for care services in the same way as the earnings of those under 65.

It is right that working people with care needs are not charged against income they earn from paid work, however not treating earnings from occupational pensions in the same way is effectively age discrimination.

We are actively looking at the potential for legislation in the area safeguarding older people – to determine whether it could be used to offer better protection to older people  - if legislation is felt to be the most appropriate way forward then obviously the positive vote means the process will be clearer.

It is though important for us to remember that the work of the Assembly is not just about legislation.

Older people repeatedly tell us that more support should be provided for personal care in hospital and that nurses should be enabled to spend more time caring for patients.

Treating people with dignity and being properly attentive to their care is a vital part of their treatment, rehabilitation and eventual discharge.

Too often this simple requirement is ignored in health and social care, and sometimes the system lets people down so badly that failings undermine basic human rights.

One of our other election calls is for health services to ensure that the standards contained in the National Service Framework for Older People (NSF) are fully implemented across Wales. 

Incorporating dignity and rights awareness into training programmes for staff involved in personal care of patients is vital.

We believe the next Welsh Assembly Government must take this forward as a priority.

So while some key issues of concern to older people may require legislation at the Assembly, much of what matters to older people is about the implementation of policy and decisions about spending.

It is also important to remember that some of what matters to older people in terms of legislation is not the responsibility of the Assembly. 

Around 20% of older people in Wales are deemed to be living in poverty, there are steps that can be taken to alleviate this by amending legislation – for example – the automatic payment of benefits to older people who qualify. 

The referendum won’t make a difference in this policy area as it is not devolved.

So 'Yes' for Wales will make a difference but it is still only part of the picture.

For more information: Call Age Cymru Advice: 08000 223 444