As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ageing and Older People, I have been conducting an inquiry into the rights of older people in Westminster.
Through the many discussions I have had with people across the city, it is evident that barriers do emerge as we get older if policies don’t deliberately factor in the different challenges we face.
Of course, the issues faced by older people are also experienced by others across the community, and the synergy I found with my work on Family Friendly York would provide testimony to this.
By taking a Human Rights approach – and York is the UK’s only Human Rights city – we would be able to hardwire better access, better services and better facilities into all policy matters.
From the meeting I held in York just a couple of weeks ago on this topic, York residents told me how there needed to be better seating throughout the city. The scale of cracked paving slabs is a trip hazard and while I campaigned to see A-board’s removed, the amount of street clutter, from waste bags to curb parking makes it difficult to get around the city.
Every meeting I hold, the issue of public toilets is among the first to be raised. In my view, public toilets provide an essential service and this is a public health issue that the Council must address. People have told me that they don’t come into the city because of this, and as a welcoming city to visitors too, we need to ensure that we have all the right infrastructure in place.
The cuts to bus routes and times have also had a profound impact on people’s ability to get around the city. That is why Labour has made it clear that we believe local authorities must have the ability to determine the routes that are provided, rather than allowing bus companies to cherry pick the most profitable routes. Buses are a service, after all.
When it comes to social care, too many people are confronted with very difficult decisions to take at their most fragile state. Planning for later life can take away the anxiety around this, and I for one support a free social care service, like and integrated with the NHS. This would be transformative and put into practice how we support people at their time of need.
Social isolation and loneliness were also concerns raised by older people. It is vital that the Council provides the appropriate opportunities to help older people stay connected.
Of course, we want people to be able to live full and active lives in later life, and want to ensure that people are able to fully participate in society.
Interesting developments have been taking place in Manchester, where the rights of older people are being embedded into all decision making, to ensure that their city belongs as much to them as anyone else.
In Wales, they have set up the world’s first Older People’s Commissioner who has powers to advocate for older people and ensure they are not left behind.
The All Party Group in Parliament will report in the next couple of months on its findings, but in the interim there is an opportunity for Council’s to step up to the mark.
Labour is ambitious to see a real change here in York. It is time our city is judged by how it treats older people.