Last week I was announced as the winner of the latest ballot for non-Government legislation with my proposal for an Older People’s Rights Bill.
My Bill will aim to: promote ageing well; place a duty on public bodies – such as the Welsh Government, local authorities and health boards – to have regard to the rights of older people when making decisions; to further enshrine the rights of older people into Welsh law; and place a duty on the Welsh Government to promote knowledge and understanding of the rights of older people.
I have been calling for older people’s rights to be enshrined in Welsh law for a long time. In 2012 I brought forward a short debate on older people’s rights and two years later I called on the Welsh public sector to abide by the UN Principles for Older Persons.
In 2011 the Assembly legislated to enshrine the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Welsh law, forcing Ministers to pay regard to children's rights when making decisions. Although Wales has the highest proportion of older people in the UK, with almost one in four people over the age of 60, and the worst rate of elder abuse in the UK, no such legislation exists to recognise the rights of older people.
It is a sad fact that often older people feel overlooked and marginalised. Indeed, for too many older people in Wales, growing older is simply not what it should be. Too many live in poverty. Too many are victims of abuse. Too many feel isolated, vulnerable, lonely and afraid. Too many don't have the information they need to make important decisions about their lives. And there has been some appalling evidence relating to a lack of dignity and basic care for the elderly in our hospitals. Legislation on the rights of older people could go some way to addressing these issues.
Legislation would clearly enshrine the standards that older people should expect in society and help ensure they receive the services and rights to which they are entitled. It would also send a very powerful message to providers of care and services as well as older people about their position in society.
When I first called for Older People’s Rights to be enshrined in law I was backed by the Older People’s Commissioner, and other organisations such as Age Alliance Wales, the WRVS and Age Cymru. Such a coalition of support highlights the pressing need for legislation on this issue .
It is important to remember that older people have rights too and introducing legislation would be a major step forward in recognising the important and valuable contribution that older people make to life in Wales. Whether it's in terms of their economic contribution, their volunteering or the hours of childcare provided by grandparents, older people make a huge and positive contribution to Wales.
I look forward to putting my proposal before the Assembly for a debate and vote on whether it can proceed for further consideration.
With the percentage of Welsh people aged over 65 now the highest since census records began, it is more than clear that the needs and views of older people have got to be placed at the top of the agenda.