18/12/2007

Appointment Of Commissioner Recognises Older Agenda

As the Province's population 'ages' an older people's 'commissioner' is set to be appointed expressley to defend the rights and interests of the elderly in Northern Ireland.

The announcement on how the 'older agenda' is to be addressed was made today by the Assembly's First and Deputy First Ministers.

First Minister Ian Paisley - who is himself 81 years-old - and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness made the announcement during a visit to the office of Atlantic Philanthropies in Belfast.

The Ministers were joined by representatives from older people charities Age Concern and Help the Aged, as well as the Junior Ministers Ian Paisley Junior and Gerry Kelly who have responsibility for older person’s issues.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “Earlier this year we agreed to undertake a review of the case for establishing an Older People’s Commissioner. That review commenced in November and we have now received an interim report which supports the creation of the Office.

“As a society we must ensure older people are not excluded, disadvantaged or left vulnerable in anyway. The issue of establishing an Older People’s Commissioner to champion the rights of older people has the support of the Assembly, the Executive and the Committee of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.”

First Minister Ian Paisley said: “This announcement is positive news for all older people in Northern Ireland. Our hope is that a Commissioner will provide older people with a strong and confident voice. The next stage in the process is to agree on the role, remit and powers of a Commissioner. This will be carried out with wide consultation.

“We are absolutely committed to doing all in our power to help improve the lives of all older people.

"A Commissioner is one important step towards our commitment. Once the roles and responsibilities of the Commissioner have been decided we will move swiftly to putting in place the necessary statutory powers," he said.

Grace Henry, Director of Help the Aged in Northern Ireland, said the significance of the announcement could not be over estimated.

"We are living in an increasingly ageing society where many older people are socially excluded," she said.

See: Growing NI Population Becoming Multi-Ethnic And Older



(BMcC)

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