Earlier this year, I released a report calling for the preservation of community services which are essential for helping older people to maintain their health, independence and wellbeing.
The report, entitled ‘The Importance and Impact of Community Services within Wales’, outlines the importance of provisions including buses and community transport, public toilets, pavements, public seating, outdoor areas, libraries, leisure facilities, community and day centres.
There is real concern among many older people that these vital services are disappearing, which will have a devastating impact on their lives.
The evidence in the report was drawn from a series of focus groups that took place with older people around Wales, as well as from a range of partners with expertise in specialist areas.
Many of these older people are housing association tenants and I meet them at home, in their residential complexes and schemes, as well as at the various clubs and groups which they are members of, through my ongoing Engagement Roadshow.
The community services that older people consistently talk about are not luxuries, but are lifelines to helping them stay independent, healthy and connected to their local communities, their friends and families.
I understand the current budgetary pressures being placed upon Local Authorities and that difficult decisions on expenditure and savings must be made. It is vital, however, that as spending decisions are made, essential community services are recognised as being as impactful and as important as statutory services and that older people are able to continue to access them.
Building on the report, I will publish a toolkit later this year to help housing association residents and all older people to engage with Local Authorities and influence the decisions that affect them.
I am also planning a number of seminars for key local authority staff, to present the case for the retention of community services, facilities and infrastructure in Wales and to discuss and agree an effective way forward.
For a copy of ‘The Importance and Impact of Community Services within Wales’ or to find out more about my work across the country, visit www.olderpeoplewales.com or call 08442 640670.
Older People's Commissioner for Wales