Older People's Strategy

Oral Answers to Questions — Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 2nd March 2015.

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Photo of David McIlveen David McIlveen DUP 2:00 pm, 2nd March 2015

1. Mr D McIlveen asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister for an update on their strategy for improving the lives of older people. (AQO 7677/11-15)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

The purpose of the Active Ageing strategy is to transform attitudes to and services for older people. It is important that we fully acknowledge the enormous contribution that older people make to our society and that we challenge the negative stereotyping of older people. The strategy, when published, will provide direction for Departments' policies, make connections between strategies and lead to the improvement of services for older people.

(Mr Speaker in the Chair)

In developing the draft strategy, we have worked closely with the Commissioner for Older People and the ageing strategy advisory group, which includes older people and people working for organisations that represent older people as members. Officials met the advisory group on Wednesday 25 February and plan to hold a workshop later this month to finalise outcomes and work with our statisticians to develop indicators and discuss the final draft of the strategy, which, once finalised, will be subject to Committee consideration and endorsement by the Executive. Subject to that approval, we hope to publish the Active Ageing strategy in the coming weeks. The draft indicators for the strategy, which will establish baselines on current levels of need and will be used to monitor the implementation of the strategy, will be issued for public consultation in the near future.

Photo of David McIlveen David McIlveen DUP

I thank the deputy First Minister for his answer and for the vital work that is being done for that group of vulnerable people within our society. Has any thought been given, under the Delivering Social Change network, to some sort of a cross-departmental signature project that might be particularly targeted towards the needs of our older people?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I certainly think that, in the context of developing an Active Ageing strategy for older people, it is incumbent on all Departments to recognise their responsibility and to give whatever additionality they can to supporting older people, who deserve to be supported and have made massive contributions towards the development of our economy and society down the ages. If the Member has any particular ideas or suggestions, both the junior Ministers, Jonathan Bell and Jennifer McCann, would be only too happy to speak to him. I certainly think that, if that cross-cutting work can work to the benefit of older people in a way that delivers more for them, our Department, the First Minister, myself and the junior Ministers will be very supportive of what the Member has just said.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

I wonder if the deputy First Minister shares my concerns at the fact that clear-up rates for crimes against older people are only 9% when, in fact, they are 17% for other groups, meaning that they really have less protection.

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I certainly would be very concerned about those figures. What that does is place a huge responsibility on all of us, not least the Police Service, to ensure that we continue to examine ways in which we can support older people.

Fear of crime is a big issue for older people. In all the dialogue and discussions that there have been with the stakeholders and the Commissioner for Older People and in other conversations with older people, that has come through as one of the main areas of concern. I certainly agree with the Member that, in going forward, we have to look at what more we can do, and the police have to look at what more they can do. This is a huge issue for society. All of us — the Police Service, the voluntary and community sector, local communities and politicians — have to work together to identify what need there is and to see whether we can bring forward solutions.

Photo of Kieran McCarthy Kieran McCarthy Alliance

The deputy First Minister will be aware that, on more than one occasion, this Assembly or previous Assemblies have supported the idea of help with personal care for our elderly people when they need it. Will he bring forward or help to bring forward some idea that would prevent our older people having to sell the roof over their heads to pay for elderly care in their twilight years?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

That has been a concern for a lot of people in recent times. In our view, the strategic aims will improve existing services to ensure that they best meet the needs of older people. In addition, we have worked with Departments to tackle the challenges facing older people, and those will be taken forward in phases. Obviously, the Member identifies a key issue, because that engenders concern and fear about the future in the minds of a lot of older people. It represents one of the further challenges that we have to deal with in the time ahead. The issue has been raised in conversations with the Commissioner for Older People and individual stakeholders, which include an awful lot of older people. We need to look at what more can be done.

Photo of Bronwyn McGahan Bronwyn McGahan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat. Will the Minister outline any projects that will support the Active Ageing strategy?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

As I said, the whole purpose of the strategic aims is to improve existing services and ensure that they best meet the needs of older people. In addition, we have worked with Departments on projects that will support the Active Ageing strategy to tackle all the challenges that face our older people. That will be taken forward in phases.

The first phase will involve programmes whereby resources have already been identified to make them happen. Those include things like encouraging and helping the new councils to sign up to the World Health Organization's age-friendly environment programme; a project to tackle fuel poverty; affordable warmth; tackling fear of crime; increasing the engagement of older people with policymakers; increasing digital inclusion; and a new mental capacity Bill. Additional resources will be required for the remaining programme proposals. Subject to funding being available, they will be prioritised and will subsequently form the second phase of the implementation of that strategy.