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Scottish Labour Unveils Plan for Older People’s Commissioner Following Pandemic

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth is to bring forward a bill to the Scottish Parliament to create a dedicated commissioner for older people in Scotland.

At present children and young people have standalone commissioners in each of the four nations of the UK, including Scotland, while Wales and Northern Ireland have commissioners for the older people. Colin Smyth plans to bring forward a bill to create a similar post for Scotland.

His plan is backed by 90 per cent of those aged 65 or over as well as more than 30 organisations, including the charity Independent Age.

There are currently around one million people it that age category in Scotland with the figure expected to rise to 1.4million by 2040. And the latest data shows that one in seven – in total around 150,000 older people – are living in poverty.

Colin Smyth said: “Covid-19 had a profound impact on all our lives but for older people it was just devastating.

“A day rarely went past at the height of the pandemic without a constituent raising with me their heart-breaking experiences of not having access to their loved ones in a care home because we couldn’t get our act together over testing; the removal of social care packages; the pressure of Do Not Attempt Resuscitation decisions; the loneliness and isolation and the appalling death rate among those in later life.

“I even remember phoning a local factory who I knew used PPE to ask if they could give some to a local care home who feared running out.

“Even now I get so many cases every day from constituents whose older relatives are stuck in hospital because we don’t have enough carers and suitable housing for them to go home to.

“I think we will look back on that dark period with a sense of shame at the way so many older people were let down. I kept asking myself that when all the big decisions were being made, who, independent of Government but with the ear of Ministers, was championing the human rights of older people and making sure their voice, their views were being listened to.

“Frankly the answer was no one and for me changing that is reason enough to bring forward this proposal.

“Our older people are an incredibly valuable asset for our country, but far too often they are unappreciated. I want to see that change.”

A public consultation on the proposal will be launched at the end of May to run for three months and hopefully to bring forward a Member’s Bill to Parliament by the end of the year.

The role of the Commissioner would be:

• Raising awareness of the interests of older people in Scotland and of the need to safeguard those interests.
• Promoting the provision of opportunities for, and the elimination of discrimination against, older people in Scotland.
• Encouraging best practice in the treatment of older people in Scotland.
• Keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law affecting the interests of older people in Scotland.

The Commissioner would also have the power to carry out investigations into how services provide for older people.