Our Priorities for the Scottish Government
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Age Scotland is the national charity for older people. We work to improve the lives of everyone over the age of 50 so that they can love later life.
There are more than 2 million over 50s in Scotland, making up 40% of the total population, and this age group is predicted to increase substantially over the coming years. As Scotland’s population ages, we must invest now in the services and measures that will support older people to live well.
The First Minister, Humza Yousaf, is setting out his priorities for Scotland in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 18 April.
Ahead of this we wanted to highlight to MSPs 10 key areas affecting older people which Age Scotland believes the Scottish Government must make a priority.
An Older People’s Minister
We believe the Scottish Government should reinstate a named Minister for Older People. It is important to have an effective voice within Government advocating for older people. We have heard from many older people, groups, and organisations who feel they are at risk of being forgotten and that older people's issues have been downgraded within the expanded portfolio of the new Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees.
A Pensioner Poverty Strategy
The Scottish Government should develop a national Pensioner Poverty Strategy to tackle this scourge among vulnerable older people. An increasing number of pensioners in Scotland, 150,000 or 1 in 7, live in relative poverty after housing costs but it is hard to determine any actions the Scottish Government have taken to reduce this. There needs to be more focus on what can be done in Scotland by Government, local authorities, and public services to end pensioner poverty – a strategy would provide targets, tangible actions, and milestones for progress.
National benefits uptake campaign
Every year hundreds of millions of pounds in vital social security goes unclaimed by older people in Scotland. Age Scotland would like to see a Scottish nationwide benefits uptake campaign focusing on older people which boosts awareness of what is available and who can help, tackles stigma, and breaks down barriers to claiming support. This should include all social security, such as Pension Credit, irrespective of which government administers it.
Social Care reform
We regularly hear from older people, their families, and carers about situations where social care is not working for their needs. Social care requires urgent reform and must be given the resources and status it needs to deliver for those who use it now and in the future. Efforts to reform social care cannot be put on hold – the Government should clarify its plans for reform and recovery (both longer-and immediate term) as a matter of urgency.
Access to healthcare
People are living for longer than ever before, often with multiple health conditions. Older people must be able to access the healthcare they need when they need it – and have a choice in how they do so. Improving quality of life by tackling incredibly long waiting times and ensuring proactive and preventative healthcare for all must be a focus.
Tackling social isolation and loneliness
We believe widespread social isolation and loneliness, which is particularly prevalent among our older population, should be treated as a public health crisis. Implementing an ambitious cross-government strategy and delivering significant funding for programmes and activities which connect people, such as older people’s groups and organisations, could really help tackle loneliness in Scotland.
People must be able to live independently and well in their own home for as long as they wish to. Building more accessible, affordable, and energy efficient homes suitable for older people must be central to housing and planning policy. There must also be a better mix of home types and locations so that older people who wish to move into a more suitable property can remain close and connected to the community and people they rely on. Housing must also continue to be recognised as part of the health and care landscape as it is critical to a person’s wellbeing.
Reducing fuel poverty
Up to 4 in 10 older people were living in fuel poverty in the summer of 2022, with this figure likely to have increased since then. More must be done to highlight energy efficiency programmes such as Home Energy Scotland and Warmer Homes Scotland to older households as our research highlights they are typically less aware of these schemes, despite being the demographic most impacted by fuel poverty and poor energy efficiency at home. Proactive and smart targeting of low income households, using the data available to Social Security Scotland, with offers of home energy efficiency assessments and assistance should be undertaken.
An Older People’s Commissioner
The role of an Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland should be established to safeguard older people’s human rights and hold public bodies and Government to account. We believe the treatment of older people during the Coronavirus pandemic highlighted more than ever the need for an independent Commissioner working to promote and protect their rights.
Improved dementia support
Far too many people diagnosed with dementia do not receive their entitlement to one year’s full Post Diagnostic Support. In 2020/21, only a third of people with a new diagnosis of dementia were referred to PDS. In the new National Dementia Strategy, we need a new approach to dementia Post Diagnostic Support which embraces community-based, tailored, and person-centred support, such as Meeting Centres, dementia friendly communities and peer support groups. There must also be renewed action on early diagnosis, which can help people with dementia to live well for longer.
Scottish Parliament Election 2021
You can also read a more detailed document of our asks to political parties ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election which outlines a range of ways the Scottish Government and MSPs could take action to improve the lives of older people.
Need to get in touch?
If you would like further information on our policy, research, and influencing work please get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org / 0333 323 2400