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Meirion Hughes Memorial

Published on 15 November 2018 04:44 PM

Social Care and loneliness form the basis of Age Cymru's first ever memorial lecture in tribute to our former chair, the late Meirion Hughes

Former colleagues, politicians, older people's representatives, friends and family members gathered at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on 4 October 2018 to pay tribute to Age Cymru's former chair, the late Meirion Hughes.

Fittingly, the focus of the lecture was Transforming social care and combatting isolation and loneliness, two issues that were very close to Meirion's heart.

Hosted by local AM and friend Ann Jones AM, the lecture featured a presentation by Gwenda Thomas, the former Welsh Government Minister for Social Services, and a current Welsh Government perspective provided by Huw Irranca-Davies AM, the current Welsh Government Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, as well as a lively Q&A session with the audience.

The former Welsh Government Minister for Social Services – Gwenda Thomas

Gwenda Thomas opened by paying tribute to Age Cymru and its work in providing advice and information, enabling independence and combatting loneliness throughout Wales, adding that the Third Sector is now a key component in the delivery of services.

The former Minister said the introduction of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 would help make social care sustainable for a generation by, for example, recognising the contribution of informal carers.

Gwenda Thomas said the integration of social and health care must form the basis of service delivery. Adding that the social care workforce must be valued and respected.

She went on to say that it is right and proper to celebrate our longer lives and wondered whether there is now a new fourth age with when I'm 84 replacing when I'm 64; between these two ages some of us are in need of care and support, some of us are carers, some of us are volunteers and some of us are still in full time work.

Turning to the issue of paying for care, Gwenda Thomas said she was proud that the Welsh Government increased the level at which savings are protected but accepted there needs to be a public debate on the issue, across the generations, and said she preferred the concept of social care being free at the point of need.

Gwenda Thomas suggested that multi agency strategies were the way forward underpinned by a local delivery plan and emphasised that it is not helpful for local authorities and local health boards to make unilateral decisions. She called for the integration of social and health care with joint care planning and budget sharing in addition to the involvement of the third sector.

Referring to her own ageing process, Gwenda said Wales has become a better place in which to grow old but warned that the government must not relent in its implementation of the Social Services and Well-being Wales Act, particularly at a local level.

The former Minister concluded by reflecting on the contribution of Age Cymru and Meirion Hughes in the field of social and health care, without whom many older people would see a deterioration in their well-being.

The Welsh Government perspective

The Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies AM, opened by referencing the Welsh Government's A healthier Wales, our long term plan for health and social care which he said outlined a commitment to adopting a whole system approach to health and social care, one that focuses on health and well-being and on preventing illness.

He stressed the importance of the recently establish regional partnership boards that would hopefully bring together health and social services as well as third sector partners to help deliver effective integrated care services, with the support of the government's £100m Transformation Fund.

The Minister said supporting the 370,000 unpaid carers in Wales will also be a priority for the Welsh Government and noted that £3m had been set aside to provide respite care.

He pledged that Human Rights will be placed at the heart of public service in Wales. He cited The Social Services and Well Being Act (2014) as a vehicle for instigating a cultural shift whereby older people would become active participants in developing their own care plans instead of being the passive recipients of care.

Tackling Loneliness

Referring to the report Taking Wales forward, the Minister said not only is the government developing a cross government strategy to address loneliness and isolation but it is also asking people across Wales for their views.

He recognised that local transport, community facilities and places to meet can make a tangible difference to the lives of older people. But, he said tackling the problem of loneliness has to be everyone's responsibility.

Finally, the Minister paid tribute to the work of Age Cymru, particularly in relation to its Age Positive Week that encouraged local communities and older people to celebrate everything that is positive about ageing in Wales.

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