Dozens of charities from across Scotland have backed a proposal by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth to bring a Member’s Bill before the Scottish Parliament to create a dedicated commissioner for older people in Scotland.
Many of the over 30 charities who recently signed a joint statement backing the calls for a commissioner, joined the MSP at the Scottish Parliament yesterday (13 June) to support the launch of a public consultation on the planned bill.
Exclusive polling for Age Scotland, published at the event showed that 80% of people over 50 supported calls for a commissioner. Other recent polling on behalf of the charity also showed that 70% of younger people are in favour of the proposal.
The public consultation on the bill will now run for three months until 12 September, with an aim of bringing forward a Member’s Bill to Parliament by the end of the year.
Colin Smyth believes a dedicated commissioner in Scotland would ensure the voices of people in later life are heard, with the power to hold public bodies to account and take up issues on behalf of older people including carrying out inquiries into the adequacy of services for older people. The independent commissioner would also have a key role to tackle age discrimination and ageism across Scottish society.
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.
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 in certain circumstances, working alongside existing regulatory bodies and the SPSO in much the same way the Children’s Commissioner does.
Following the launch South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “For too long the issues that matter to older people haven’t been high enough up the political agenda.
“It is little wonder that so many charities who work with older people back my plan to bring forward a bill to establish an Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland.
“There is also overwhelming public support for the plan, with 80% of over 50s in a recent poll supporting the call. There aren’t any politicians out there that command those poll ratings.
“An Older People’s Commissioner would be an independent voice, championing the rights, services and care of older people that was missing during the pandemic.
“They would challenge the discrimination against older people, and ensure we properly appreciate the valuable contribution those in later life contribute to our communities.”Age Scotland’s Deputy Chief Executive, Michelle Supple, said: “We have long held the view that a commissioner for older people would be incredibly valuable to Scotland and strengthen the rights of our older population today and in the future.
“It would have a uniquely powerful role in holding government and our public services to account for their actions, challenge ageism and discrimination, and investigate breaches of older peoples’ rights.
“It is depressing to think that only one in five older people in Scotland feel valued by society and hundreds of thousands live in poverty, low income and fuel poverty.
“The support from the public for a commissioner for older people is overwhelming. Our polling showed that nearly 70% of younger people are in favour of this role being established and our national survey of more than 4,000 over 50s highlighted that 80% were in support – this rose to 97% when those who didn’t have a view were removed.
“Now is the time for the government and MSPs to act and we are delighted that Colin Smyth is driving this forward at Holyrood.”