The Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) took evidence on Wednesday, 10 January from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales and national charities during the first evidence session of its inquiry into the rights of older people.
WEC launched the inquiry in September 2023 to examine whether discrimination and ageist stereotyping, such as characterising older people as helpless or wealthy “boomers” is preventing them from participating fully in society.
During the session, the cross-party committee of MPs heard from Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director, Age UK, Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better, Joanna Elson CBE, Chief Executive, Independent Age and Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
The opening evidence session of the inquiry touched upon key issues impacting older people – including ageist stereotypes, discriminatory practices and policies in the labour market, local services, healthcare and financial services, and digital exclusion – and the extent to which they are adequately understood and being addressed effectively.
Dr Easton asked for England to follow Northern Ireland and Wales in the creation of a Commissioner for Older People. Caroline Abrahams noted that issues facing older people are not joined up and there is a structural issue in government which lacks a way to join up those issues.
Heléna Herklots the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, said the Commissioner role would help develop and facilitate training and learning across the government on ageism and noted that Wales already has a cross-cutting strategy for older people which the UK government lacks.
The subject of digital exclusion was also discussed with concerns being raised regarding the number of services moving to digital first delivery and although some older people may be online, they may not have a smart phone which is becoming more and more central to daily life. Caroline Abrahams raised an important point, saying that anything essential should have both an on and off-line option.
Employment was another area of discussion and as Joanna Elson noted that although it is important to get older people into work, there are also some older people who shouldn’t be working but cannot afford not to.
The call for an Older People’s Commissioner for England and Scotland is one of our key focuses in this, an election year and is an issue we will be following closely and campaigning strongly for.
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