The Older People’s Commisoner Annual Report – 8th November 2011

Mark Drakeford: Diolch am y cyfle i gyfrannu at y ddadl y prynhawn yma. Yr wyf yn siarad yn rhinwedd fy swydd yn Gadeirydd y Pwyllgor Iechyd a Gofal Cymdeithasol. Yr oedd yn ddefnyddiol iawn clywed am gyfraniad Comisiynydd Pobl Hŷn Cymru yn y pwyllgor iechyd am y tro cyntaf ym mis Hydref, a chlywed am y gwaith y mae ei swyddfa wedi’i gyflawni dros y flwyddyn ddiwethaf. Nid yw’n syndod mai iechyd a gofal cymdeithasol yw’r materion sydd ar frig rhestr pobl hŷn pan maent yn mynd at y comisiynydd i drafod eu blaenoriaethau. Byddaf yn canolbwyntio ar dri pheth a gododd yn yr adroddiad, ac a drafodwyd yn y pwyllgor.

[Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this afternoon’s debate. I speak in my role as Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee. It was very useful to hear of the contribution of the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales in the health committee for the first time in October, and to hear about the work that her office has done over the last year. It is no surprise that health and social care top the list of priorities for older people when they contact the commissioner. I will focus on these issues that arose in the report and that were discussed in committee.]

The first of these is the work on dignified care, which the commission has undertaken, and the willingness of that office to use its powers to drive compliance among bodies for which this Assembly has responsibility. The second is the work that the commission has undertaken on care home closure and quality of care in residential homes. This has been especially important in the context of the collapse of Southern Cross Healthcare, and will feed directly into the inquiry into residential care of older people, on which the committee intends to embark after Christmas. The third is the issue of finance, and the impact of inflation on those on fixed incomes. We know that the change to uprating pensions by the consumer price index, rather than the retail price index, will reduce the incomes of the poorest pensioners in Wales by more than £200 a year. It is little wonder that the Daily Telegraph refers to CPI as the ‘cutting pensions index’—a development that cannot but be of concern to anyone who reads what the commissioner has to say about poverty across the course of a person’s life.

It seems to me that the unifying thread in the work of the commission is that it exists for the purpose of taking on those issues that make life uncomfortable for those who occupy positions of power in our society, whether that be major public sector organisations, such as local health boards, large multinational corporations providing residential care or Ministers here and in Whitehall.

We recognise most public services by the extent to which they generate satisfaction among their users. The commission is different. That office does best when it provides the grit that allows us to hear from those who know where things are not as they ought to be. I wish the commissioner well for the future, but most of all I wish her well in making that future uncomfortable for the rest of us.