Video: Commissioner meets Margaret Morgan, Chair of the Welsh Senate of Older People
MARGARET MORGAN: I’m Margaret Morgan and I’m the chair of the Welsh Senate of Older People and I’m here interviewing Sarah Rochira, the new Commissioner for Older People in Wales – on her first day at work.
What are you most looking forward to about being the Older People’s Commissioner in Wales?
SARAH ROCHIRA: Well, there’s an enormous amount that I’m looking forward to and I’m really proud to have been appointed to represent and to be the champion of older people in Wales. But I think there are three things that stand out for me.
The first is just getting out and about and meeting with older people across Wales, talking to them in their homes and their communities to find out what I can do that will make a difference to them, and that starts today as I travel across Wales and will continue over the next four years.
The second thing I’m really looking forwards to is giving a voice and some control and power back to older people. Because, while many older people are more than capable of standing up for themselves, there are all too many whose voices have been silenced and who don’t feel they have voice, choice and control anymore and I as their champion absolutely intend to make sure that they are listened to, their voices are heard.
And the third thing that I’m really looking forward to is making a difference, because for me that’s what this is all about. It’s about making sure that less people have to choose whether to eat or heat their homes, it’s about making sure that less people live with fear or feel vulnerable or are afraid. It’s about making sure that less people feel isolated. You know, there’s much that we can and should be proud of in Wales, but for all too many people as we get older life is just too challenging. I want to make sure – and I’m totally committed to making sure that Wales becomes a good place to grow old for all of us.
MARGARET MORGAN: So what are the biggest challenges facing older people in Wales?
SARAH ROCHIRA: Well I think there are many challenges facing us, aren’t there? But before I focus on those, can I just say a little bit about what we should celebrate in Wales? You know, it’s great isn’t it, that we are a nation of older people. There are more older people in Wales than any other part of the United Kingdom proportionally and that is something that we should celebrate. The wealth, the knowledge, the expertise, the compassion, the caring that older people bring to us in Wales. It’s just phenomenal. We couldn’t cope without our older people. But for too many people in Wales, there are challenges that we need to be addressing. Challenges around poverty, around isolation, concerns over public transport, concerns over access to public toilets, concerns over access to social care and so the list goes on. We’ve got to be focussed within Wales, as I will be as Commissioner and addressing those issues. And although the issues are hard and they are complex I’m really firm in my conviction that they’re never as hard as the lives of the people sometimes that we’re here to support. It’s got to be about making a difference to older people and making a difference that is felt by and valued by older people as well.
MARGARET MORGAN: And how will you address the challenges?
SARAH ROCHIRA: Well, I’m going to be working in a number of ways. The first and most important thing I’m going to be doing is working with older people themselves. For some people I will need to be their voice and be their champion. Actually I want to empower older people across Wales, so I’m going to be establishing a network of older people’s champions across Wales who will be working directly with me as Commissioner to help make that difference. Because I come from the background of working with older people and I know just how powerful we can be when we stand up and do it for ourselves and I think that’s what most older people want. I’m also going to be working in partnership with many people because, particularly in public service, there’s a huge degree of consensus across Wales about what we want to achieve. So working together is going to be important. But also, and really importantly, I’m going to be scrutinising, reviewing and I’m going to be holding to account. I’m going to lay out standards that I expect to be met and where those are not met I’m going to be very public in terms of my scrutiny and my views about what we need to get better at. The issues we’ve got ahead of us are quite complex. Together we’re going to be stronger, but at the end of the day we need to see change taking place – and that’s my role as commissioner, ultimately, is to make sure that across Wales we deliver.
MARGARET MORGAN: So, do you have a message for older people in Wales?
SARAH ROCHIRA: My message to older people across Wales is really simple. I’m your commissioner, I’m here for and because of you. You are the greatest strength and asset that we have in Wales, you will be my greatest strength and asset in terms of facing and addressing some of the challenging issues that we have ahead of us. Please come and engage with me on our road show. Please email me your comments, your thoughts about what I could and should be doing as your commissioner. Help me make the difference, not just for old people today but for those people who are going to be older tomorrow and almost as importantly, for our children because one day they’ll be older people too.
MARGARET MORGAN: Thank you, and can I on behalf of the Senate and all older people in Wales wish you every success in your new post.