The Welsh are known for their leeks, daffodils, accents and rugby not so much for their initiatives that promote the wellbeing of their older people – but maybe they should be.
While Wales has a smaller population than New Zealand (3.2 million), it does have a higher proportion of older adults aged 65 and above.
The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales in an independent voice and champion for older people across Wales. The Commissioner’s work is driven by what older people say matters most to them and their voices are at the heart of all that she does. The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales hosts and chairs a partnership of individuals, community groups, national and local government and major public and third sector agencies. Its programme – Ageing Well in Wales – is first of its kind in the UK and complements the Welsh Government’s Strategy for Older People. The Commissioner’s office also works in partnership with the Children’s Commissioner to promote the benefits of intergenerational projects and activities.
Wales also has a Future Generations Commissioner whose role is to act as a guardian for the interests of future generations. This means helping public bodies and those who make policy in Wales to think about the long-term impact their decisions have. This has come about under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which also established Public Services Boards (PSBs) for each local authority area in Wales. Each PSB must improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of its area by working to achieve wellbeing goals through Wellbeing Plans.
In these Wellbeing plans the Older People’s Commissioner has set out objectives relating to older people, with clear targets.
- affected by domestic abuse
- affected by loneliness and isolation
- living in poverty
- affected by fuel poverty.
And increases in the number of older people:
- with dementia supported to live well in their communities
- who are and feel safe in their local communities and are actively able to do the things that matter to them
- who return to employment after the age of 50
- take up of financial entitlements.
The Commissioner is clear that it is not a case of prioritising older people when developing Local Wellbeing Plans, but rather ensuring that older people receive equal visibility and attention and are considered by public services equally to other groups. The Act will make public bodies focus more on the long term, work better with people and communities and each other, and do what they do in a sustainable way.
Should New Zealand follow suit?
Maybe the question should change from “should” to “could” New Zealand follow suit? It is important to remember that housing, social care and health are all devolved to local authorities in Britain, rather than being under centralised ministries as in New Zealand. The makes a large difference to the likelyhood of policies being adopted in different areas of the United Kingdom. New legislation in Wales emphasises that these three services should be integrated, recognising how they rely on each other to provide wellbeing in the real world, as opposed to being in bureaucratic “silos”.
This intergrated approach is definately something we in New Zealand could look at adopting. The New Zealand government is looking at a more co-operative approach to information sharing between different ministries so more discussions between ministries around how to make people’s lives better is definately something we should be working towards.