Seanad debate on older people
Following its public consultation and subsequent report, the Seanad debated the situation of older people in the country (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 13th June 2012, 912-931)(for report, > http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/michelle/FinalReport1.pdf). The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Kathleen Lynch, told senators that she and other ministers and departments would require time to absorb its contents and implications, which would also inform the forthcoming national positive ageing strategy. She hoped to publish the strategy this autumn, it would be subject to consultation and it was hoped that it would map the way to the future.
Maurice Cummins (FG, labour) pointed out that older people were the subject of the first report undertaken under the Seanad’s new public consultation procedure. There had been widespread consultation with stakeholders and experts had spoken to members across the floor of this house. Submission were received from a diverse range of organizations and he was confident that they would work their way into policy and legislation in the future. He complimented senators Zappone and O’Keefe on their work in its compilation.
Katherine Zappone (ind, Taoiseach nominee) expressed her disappointment at the lack of sense of urgency in the comments of the minister of state. Work on the national positive ageing strategy had begun in 2006 and a coordinated, coherent approach was needed sooner rather than later. Older and Bolder had described the official approach as lacklustre, while the cross-departmental group of civil servants and non-governmental organizations to assist the minister was simply not functioning.
Marc McSharry (FF, industrial & commercial) likewise said that there was no mystery about what needed to be done: let us publish it. No one was stupid in not realizing that there were constraints on the public purse. Nothing was surer than if the plan were not published, then nothing would ever be achieved. The consultation on the strategy had ended in November 2010. Since then, civil servants had been passing it from one drawer to another for fear that it might be published and increase their workload, re-organize things and connect boxes that are not connected in order to help the elderly. Let us try to move it forward quickly, he urged.
The minister of state explained that the reason that the report had not been published yet was because the Taoiseach had asked her to concentrate on the carer’s strategy first: ‘when the boss asks one to do something, one must do it’. The plan for carers was now completed and it was hoped to publish it during the summer. A huge amount of work had already been done on the positive ageing strategy. She denied that departmental officials had been simply shuffling the plan around. When the strategy was brought to cabinet, departmental officials ‘will then do the concentration piece’ in pulling together the consultation that is necessary. She was convinced they would be in a position to publish it in October. She was anxious it be published in 2012 but she did not want to run into the end of November and coming into the Christmas period, which might suggest that it had been rushed, which would not be accurate and not do it justice. The intention was to publish early in the last quarter.