More than 30 organisations are calling for an Older People’s Commissioner to be established in Scotland.
Led by national older person’s financial hardship charity Independent Age, the group today launched its consensus statement. They set out the need for an independent commissioner to enable better representation for older people across government policy making, whilst providing a crucial independent voice for later life.
The creation of the role would bring Scotland in line with Wales and Northern Ireland, where older people have benefitted from a commissioner for more than 10 years. Independent Age is also calling for an English Commissioner for Older People and Ageing. Scotland is currently the only devolved nation without an Older People’s Commissioner.
The call is also backed by the Scottish public. In YouGov polling commissioned by Independent Age, around nine in ten (89%) people aged 65 and over in Scotland said they support the creation of an Older People’s Commissioner1.
The role of a commissioner
Scotland’s population is rapidly ageing. There are currently around one million people over 65 living in Scotland, and this is predicted to rise to 1.4 million by 2040, which will mean older people make up 1 in 4 of the Scottish population2. Despite this group being wide and varied, Independent Age says that for too long, older people have been unfairly stereotyped as one homogenous group and tarred with ageist stereotypes, which can stop people receiving the support they need.
To support the diverse needs of older people in Scotland, the statement calls on the Scottish Government to embrace the demographic shift by establishing a commissioner who will champion the rights of, and shine a light on the issues experienced by, people in later life.
Independent Age especially draws attention to the needs of older people in financial hardship. According to the latest data, one in seven, or 150,000 older people, currently live in poverty in Scotland. This number has increased by 25% since 20123. Independent Age supports older people in financial hardship and says that an Older People’s Commissioner would ensure the experiences of people in later life living in poverty are heard by decision makers.
Debbie Horne, Scotland Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Independent Age said: “At Independent Age, we often hear from older people who tell us they feel invisible, undervalued and ignored by wider society.
“The dangerous stereotype that all older people are financially secure is common, and too often older people are not given the opportunity to voice their experience about what they need, including better financial support. This is wrong.
“We all deserve to look forward to our later years and an Older People’s Commissioner could help. If introduced they will be an independent champion standing up for everyone in later life. We urge the Scottish Government to establish an Older People’s Commissioner and bring Scotland into line with the other devolved nations to ensure no one feels left out of the conversation as they age.”
Issues impacting on older people
An Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland would ensure that older people in Scotland are no longer the only older people in a devolved nation who are not represented by a commissioner.
If created, a commissioner in Scotland would encourage collaboration and joined-up thinking to deliver long term policy solutions that benefit everyone as they age. They would make independent recommendations and have the power to launch inquiries to resolve issues for older people now and in the future. They would represent and amplify different views on the problems that older people say they are struggling with.
Currently these include:
- Poverty – Scottish pensioner poverty has increased over the last decade. There are now 150,000 pensioners in poverty – a 25% rise in the last decade. That’s one in seven pensioners living in poverty. In a recent report from Independent Age, Heather in her early 70s said: “You expect to get to this age, and you think you are going to sit back. And everything’s going to be warm and cosy here and that’s really not what it is…”4.
- The cost of living crisis – increasing prices are having a devastating impact on older people. When surveyed, 1 in 4 (26%) said that the cost of living had made their physical health worse5. The same number said it had made their mental health worse6. The charity’s YouGov polling also found that over half (55%) of low-income older households are worried they won’t be able to pay for food in the next six months7.
- Health and social care – many older people frequently suffer from diminishing health and mobility. Yet the delivery of health and social care services to older people so often fails to adequately meet the needs of older people.
- Inclusion – digital, social and economic. Many older people still cannot access the internet – either due to cost or simply through lack of knowledge or confidence. At the same time, older people are seeing local transport services being reduced. This is leading to increased feelings of isolation.
- Housing – Recent research by Independent Age revealed issues older people across Scotland, in both owned and rented accommodation, are experiencing with property upkeep, fear of unexpected costs and energy efficiency. Statistics show that for older people in the private and social rented sector the poverty rate after housing costs is significantly higher (39% and 32% respectively)8.
- ENDS –
Notes to editor
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 531 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st - 24th November 2022.
The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 65+).
1 – YouGov polling
2 –Scottish Government, Health and social care strategy for older people: consultation analysis – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
3 – p. 5, Not Enough to Live On: Pensioner Poverty in Scotland, Independent Age, 2023
4 – p. 19, Not Enough to Live On: Pensioner Poverty in Scotland, Independent Age, 2023
5 – YouGov polling
6 – YouGov polling
7 – YouGov polling
8 – HBAI Stats, DWP, 2023