Falkirk Council: Councillors support campaign for named older person's minister
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A motion taken to Falkirk Council by Labour councillor Alf Kelly on Wednesday was supported by the SNP group as well as Conservatives and Independents.
Councillor Kelly, who is the Older People’s champion for Falkirk Council, is backing a campaign led by the charity Age Scotland, which has criticised the First Minister for replacing the role of minister for equalities and older people with an expanded portfolio that includes equalities, migration and refugees.
In his motion, Councillor Kelly said: “Whilst we totally support the importance of migrants and refugees, we should not be downgrading the importance of older people in our community by removing the role of a named minister.”
He told the meeting: “We now have a minister for the 25,000 migrants and refugees in Scotland – but not a minister for the two million-plus people over the age of 50 in Scotland.”
He quoted figures that the 67,000 people over the age of 50 in Falkirk now make up 41 per cent of the population. The numbers of older people are growing fast, with over 65s in Falkirk increasing by 38.7 per cent between 2001 and 2021. Between 2018 and 2028, the number of over-75s in Falkirk is projected to increase by 29 per cent.
Cllr Kelly urged all councillors to support the motion, saying: “Our older population is growing and facing greater challenges than ever before.”
In his speech, he also pointed out that in 2021, the unemployment rate for Falkirk’s over-50s was 42.9 per cent and said he feared that would lead to a rise in pensioner poverty in future years. People aged over 55 are also likely to have caring responsibilities while Alzheimer’s disease is becoming prevalent.
Cllr Kelly said: “We need someone to help plan how we will look after these older carers who keep our NHS and care sector from collapsing – and that’s not an exaggeration.”
The SNP’s spokesperson for social care, Councillor Fiona Collie, said she agreed that “words matter” and having an minister of older people and equalities, as was previously the case, “did give an important message about the commitment to older people”.
She said: “While the new minister for equalities, migration and refugees appears to have similar responsibility over pursuing policies to support equality for older people, we must recognise that to older people and the organisations representing them, it doesn’t feel like this.” She said that having the named minister “gives a message to older people that their needs are high up the agenda”.
Councillors agreed unanimously to instruct Chief Executive Kenneth Lawrie to write to the First Minister to ask for the reinstatement of a named Older Persons Minister.