A statement by Heléna Herklots CBE Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
"During the pandemic I have been talking and listening to older people, carers, community organisations, volunteers, care home workers and many more about their experiences.
There are two things that stand out.
First, that many older people have been enduring extremely difficult circumstances which have taken their toll, and left some feeling worried about what the future holds and are not yet confident about leaving their homes and going out and about.
Second, that we have seen some of the best of who we are.
I have heard so many inspiring stories of how people have been helping each other, of the way in which community organisations and many public bodies have responded quickly to what is needed and been creative in finding new ways to reach, connect and help. In setting out what I believe needs to happen next, I have drawn extensively on evidence from 16 engagement sessions held with older people and those who work with and support them across Wales.
We discussed what the challenges are, what has and hasn’t worked, and heard directly and movingly about older people’s stories and experiences of lockdown. I am enormously grateful for the time that people took to share their experiences and ideas about what should happen next with me. A special thank you goes to ‘Margaret’ who shares her story in this report. It is clear from all the discussions that quick action is still needed in fundamental areas to ensure that older people who need to be are protected and supported, as well as to enable older people to contribute their skills, energy and ideas to how we all navigate the path ahead.
There can be no successful recovery without engaging and enabling older people to play their part in it. We need to harness the experience and expertise of each and every generation and take the next steps together. This dreadful pandemic has laid bare the systemic inequalities and discrimination that exist – especially the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on particular groups, such as people from BAME communities. It has also revealed the ageism that exists in societies and the devastating consequences that can flow from this.
In this report I set out short term actions that I believe need to be taken now and over the next three months, and longer-term actions which need to start as soon as is practicable but will take some time to be fully realised. I will continue to take action as the Older People’s Commissioner – in some cases supporting and contributing to work led by others; working together with other organisations to bring about change, and where necessary scrutinising and holding public bodies to account for the action or lack of action they are taking to protect older people’s rights.
Throughout all this I will continue to engage with and listen to groups and individuals across Wales, so that what I do is informed by the current experiences of older people and their ideas and insights about what needs to change.
A time of uncertainty and challenge lies ahead, and we need to ensure that lessons are learnt from the experiences of the last few months. Older people’s rights need to be better protected, and where they have been removed, reinstated. The exclusion that many older people have experienced and felt must not be allowed to continue. Those that have suffered loss of loved ones need to be supported as they grieve, and those who have been kept apart from loved ones re-united. As plans are made across Government and public bodies to transition from this phase of the pandemic, the pledge must be to ‘leave no-one behind’.
Click here to access the full report: