Barbara Dickson, who is supporting the Commissioner plan and The Big Yin, Billy Connolly, who is heading for his 80s.

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth has today launched a consultation on a Scottish Parliament members bill to create a dedicated commissioner for older people in Scotland.

A dedicated commissioner in Scotland would ensure the voices of people in later life are heard, with the power to hold public bodies to account and take up issues on behalf of older people including carrying out inquiries into the adequacy of services for older people.

The independent commissioner would also have a key role to tackle age discrimination and ageism across Scottish society.

At present children and young people have standalone commissioners in each of the four nations of the UK, including Scotland, while Wales and Northern Ireland have commissioners for the older people. Colin Smyth plans to bring forward a bill to create a similar post for Scotland. 

Exclusive polling published today at the launch by Age Scotland, shows that 80% of people over 50 support calls for a commissioner. The move was also backed last month by more than 30 organisations, as well as Scottish entertainment legends Barbara Dickson, Gregor Fisher and Barbara Rafferty spoke last week about their support. 

The public consultation on the bill will run for three months until 12 September, with an aim to bring forward a Member’s Bill to Parliament by the end of the year. 

The Commissioner’S role would be:

·  Raising awareness of the interests of older people in Scotland and of the need to safeguard those interests.

·  Promoting the provision of opportunities for, and the elimination of discrimination against, older people in Scotland.

·   Encouraging best practice in the treatment of older people in Scotland.

·   Keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law affecting the interests of older people in Scotland.

The Commissioner would also have the power to carry out investigations into how services provide for older people in certain circumstances, working alongside existing regulatory bodies and the SPSO in much the same way the Children’s Commissioner does.

Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth, pictured right, said: “Covid-19 had a profound impact on all our lives but for older people it was just devastating.

“A day rarely went past at the height of the pandemic without a constituent raising with me their heart-breaking experiences of not having access to their loved ones in a care home.

“Older people were badly let down by failures on testing, the removal of social care packages, the pressure of Do Not Attempt Resuscitation decisions, the loneliness and isolation and the appalling death rate among those in later life. 

“An Older People’s Commissioner could be the independent voice defending the rights, services and care of older people that was missing during the pandemic.

“Beyond that, it will help challenge the negative stereotypes of ageing and celebrating the immense positive contribution of those in later life, such as older workers.

“Our older people are an incredibly valuable asset for our country, but far too often they are unappreciated. I want to see that change.

“Calls for an Older People Commissioner has the support of dozens of organisations across Scotland, as well as an overwhelming majority of older people.”

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