REDUCED spending by local authorities on vital community, services and infrastructure could have a devastating impact on the lives of older people, according to a new report by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
The report, ‘The Importance and Impact of Community Services within Wales’, brings together a wide range of evidence to make a strong case for protecting community services, which are essential not only to help older people maintain their health, independence and wellbeing, but also to support them in making a huge contribution to the Welsh economy, currently worth £1bn a year, through continued employment, volunteering and childcare.
Sarah Rochira said: "Older people consistently raise with me the need for a greater focus on the importance of key local and community services, such as 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.
"These services are not luxuries – they are essential to the maintenance of older people’s health, independence and wellbeing. These services are also essential to the delivery of national priorities relating to prevention, citizen focus and community resilience, containing the costs upon statutory services and maintaining the wider health of the economy. These services should be seen as essential community assets."
The evidence in the report is drawn from a series of focus groups that took place with older people across Wales, as well as from a range of partners with expertise in specialist areas.
Building on the report, the Commissioner will also publish a toolkit for older people to help them to engage with local authorities and influence the decisions that affect them, alongside guidance for local authorities to improve engagement and consultation with older people.
A number of seminars for key local authority staff are also planned, to present the case for the retention of community services, facilities and infrastructure in Wales and to discuss and agree an effective way forward.
Sarah Rochira added: "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 older people are able to continue to access them.
"For many older people, community services are, quite simply, an indispensable lifeline and I look forward to working with our national and local governments and other key partners as decisions about the future of these services are made."