Commissioner for older people urged
Published on 10 September 2013 12:00 PM
The views of older people could soon be represented within Government by a dedicated commissioner, tasked with encouraging ministers to focus policy and decision-making on preparing for an ageing society.
Speaking in a report on the issue, published by the CentreForum think-tank, former care minister Paul Burstow - who served in Government until last September - said an older people's commissioner would ensure ageism in society is challenged.
He hailed the work already done by such commissioners in Northern Ireland and Wales, saying they had made a real difference to the lives of older people.
The report, titled 'Giving older people a voice', says the Care Bill that is currently going through the Westminster Parliament - which aims to introduce a cap of £72,000 on adult social care costs from 2016 - should be reworked to include the introduction of an older people's commissioner.
Britain 'woefully unprepared' for the increasing pensioner population
Mr Burstow said the commissioner would be responsible for fighting the corner of older people, plus 'spearheading the future-proofing of English policy development across Government to prepare for the challenges posed by an ageing society'.
The report comes months after a report from a House of Lords committee warned that Britain is 'woefully unprepared' for the increasing pensioner population.
Mr Burstow added: 'Older people need a powerful voice, someone who listens to and acts on their concerns. Too often our ageing population is presented as a looming crisis. Successive governments have overlooked the huge contribution of older people and failed to prepare for the rapid ageing of the population. It is time that changed.'
In Wales, Sarah Rochira has served as the older people's commissioner since June 2012 and she highlighted the importance of her role.
Writing in the report, she said her role was to 'speak out for older people and to make sure that those who run our services, as well as our national and local government, understand and act upon the issues that matter to them'.
The report said key and successful elements of Ms Rochira's role, including promoting the rights and interests of older people and challenging discrimination, could 'clearly' be translated into a position at Westminster.
Copyright Press Association 2013