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Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.

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What next for Wales?

Welsh Assembly Government logoWell, after months of campaigning, the new Welsh Assembly Government has been announced. Wales will be led by a minority Labour administration (for the time being at least, according to speculation), with Carwyn Jones at the helm. For those of us campaigning on older people’s issues in Wales, the big appointments of health and social care saw Lesley Griffiths appointed as the Minister for Health, with Gwenda Thomas re-appointed as the Deputy Minister for Social Services.

 As always, WRVS will work with representatives from across the political spectrum to improve policy affecting older people in Wales. We had a very positive response from all parties to our manifesto for the Assembly election, and we look forward to re-establishing a dialogue with policy-makers in the Senedd. But given the outcome of the election, what does the future hold for older people’s policy in Wales?

The Welsh Labour manifesto contained much which WRVS could support. Annual health checks for over-50s, the retention of free prescriptions and bus passes, and a promise to improve arrangements for post-discharge care (“reablement”) all resonated with our desire for services which help older people to retain their independence. Moreover, the continuity offered by the new Assembly Government will mean that the aim of joining up health and social care (as outlined in February’s white paper) can continue. It would also be remiss not to acknowledge that Gwenda Thomas has been a very approachable Deputy Minister, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with her over the coming years.

But the next five years won’t just be about Labour’s programme. As Carwyn Jones himself has accepted, he will need to seek consensus with other parties given the tight political arithmetic in the Siambr. Like the SNP in the last Scottish Parliament, Labour will want wherever possible to get support from the other parties so that their legislation can get through the Assembly relatively easily. Plaid and the Welsh Lib Dems will both therefore have a role to play in shaping how policy develops.

This may well be a good thing – both parties (Plaid in particular) could help to strengthen legislation and make the Assembly Government go further than it might have done with an outright majority. For example, Labour have talked about encouraging social services departments from different local authorities to work together, and to work more closely with Local Health Boards; Plaid have indicated that they might go further, and force more cross-border working. This would help to provide a more consistent approach to social care in Wales, as well as making for a more efficient service. To highlight another example, Labour indicated that they want to improve reablement services in Wales, but to do so on a local level – here, opposition influence might persuade the Assembly Government to go a stage further, and create a standardised, national reablement service.

Between now and the next Assembly elections in 2016, there are huge opportunities to improve the lives of older people in Wales. Much has been done already by the Assembly, including the establishment of a dedicated Older People’s Commissioner – but if the parties in the Senedd can work together and find common ground, they really could make Wales a great place to grow old.

Posted by Ed Bridges, WRVS Public Affairs Manager for Wales at 00:00 Friday, 13 May 2011.

Labels: Assembly Government, manifesto for Assembly election, Older People's Commissioner

Old age is gold age

Gold Age PensionersIt’s always nice when an authority on your subject backs you up on what you’ve been saying all along.

Dr Julian Hughes, an old age psychiatrist, argues in a fascinating piece on the BBC news website that growing old is something to be celebrated, not scared of; an opinion which can be corroborated by research we did on the massive contribution people over the age of 65 still make to society.

Our Gold Age Pensioners report has shown that people over the age of 65 contribute more than £40billion to the UK economy through unpaid work. And as the overall number of people over 65 increases and people remain healthier for longer, this number will only get bigger and more impressive in the next few years.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the people highlighted in the report is that they don’t think the work they do is anything out of the ordinary. We disagree.

That’s why we’re asking for nominations for our 66 over 66 power list, celebrating not only the contribution of those people aged 66 and over who are already in the public eye, but those unsung heroes who make a huge difference day in, day out, without making a fuss.

These heroes might be involved in a lot of local groups that make a real difference to people in the area; or maybe they have organised an initiative that has had a big impact on the community.

We’re asking you to give these amazing people the recognition they deserve.

Posted by at 00:00 Monday, 09 May 2011.