Writing exclusively for Living Magazines Cardiff, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, outlines some of her work to make Wales a good place to grow older
As the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, my role is to stand up and speak out for older people across Wales and to drive the change needed to make Wales a good place to grow older, not just for some but for everyone. As Commissioner, I also provide a wide range of help and support to older people and their families through my dedicated Enquiries and Support Team.
When I took up post in 2012, I made a commitment to visit communities across Wales as part of my Engagement Roadshow, to meet and speak with older people and hear first-hand about the issues that matter to most to them, ensuring that their voices drive my work.
North Cardiff has a large number of older people, with the suburbs of Rhiwbina, Whitchurch and Llandaff having the highest proportion of older people in the city. I have met with hundreds of older people in these communities over the past two years, at meetings of the Cardiff branch of Unison Retired Members, meetings of the Cardiff and District Rhondda Society, which meets regularly at the Ararat Church in Whitchurch, and information events and gardening clubs run by Cardiff Institute for the Blind and RNIB Cymru,.
One of the key concerns that older people from North Cardiff have shared with me is the impact that changes or reductions to essential community services and facilities, such as local bus routes and public toilets. Even in these difficult financial times, it is important not to lose sight of the vital role that services like these can play in helping people to get out and about, stay engaged with their local communities and maintain their independence.
Many older people from the area have also told me that they do not know how to engage with the council when proposals are made to reduce or bring to an end the essential community services they rely upon, services often described as ‘lifelines’, something that often leaves them feeling powerless. They feel that there are insufficient opportunities to express their views and that their concerns are often overlooked and given little attention when they do so.
This is something that I hear consistently from older people across Wales, which is why I have published an Engagement Toolkit for Older People, to help them to make their voices heard and influence and challenge the decisions made in their communities.
The Toolkit provides a wide range of practical information to help older people to engage with their Local Authorities, including what older people should expect from in terms of engagement and consultation when changes to essential services are proposed and how they can get fully involved in these processes. It also provides a range of other practical resources, including a set of key questions and checklist for older people to use throughout the engagement process, a sample letter to Local Authorities and a comprehensive directory of contacts who may be able to provide vital help and support.
Older people’s voices must be at the heart of any decisions that will result in changes to essential services and, as Commissioner, I want to ensure that older people across Wales have the knowledge, resources and support to have the strongest voice possible, a voice that is heard, listened to and acted upon, so they can work effectively with their Local Authorities and influence the decisions that affect their lives.
For a copy of the Engagement Toolkit, to find out more about the Commissioner’s work, or to arrange for the Commissioner’s Engagement Roadshow to visit to your group or organisation, call 02920 445030 or visit www.olderpeoplewales.com