New Year, New Voice For Older People

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Ruth Marks has been named by Wales' First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, as the new Commissioner for Older People in Wales.

The Commissioner - believed to be the first of its kind in the World - will be a voice for older people, in the same way that the Children's Commissioner has been a champion for children and young people in Wales.

Like the Children's Commissioner, the Commissioner for Older People is independent, and her role will be to ensure that the interests of older people in Wales, who are aged 60 or more, are safeguarded and promoted.

Ruth Marks, is currently Director of RNIB Cymru - a role that she has held since 2005 and prior to this was Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg.

Commenting on her new role that will commence in April, Ruth Marks said:

"It is a cause for celebration that we are living longer and healthier lives, but that doesn't mean that older people in Wales have no difficulties to face.

"Some older people may be struggling financially, others are unable to access the services they need, and many are isolated and lonely. In the worst circumstances older people are abused and neglected.

"As Commissioner I will ensure that the voice of older people is heard and that they are involved in every aspect of policy making and in the decisions that affect their lives. I am here to listen."

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First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, said Wales was setting an example for others to follow:

"Wales was the first to appoint a Children's Commissioner to give children and young people a stronger voice and now we are the first to have a Commissioner to champion the interests of older people.

"Wales is widely recognised as a world-leader in giving older people a greater say in developing services. This unique Commissioner will further consolidate Wales' reputation."

Candidates for the position were interviewed in November by a panel of seven older people nominated by members of the National Partnership Forum and representing a variety of different ages and backgrounds.

The formal selection panel was chaired by the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas and contained AMs from the other political parties and two members of the older people's panel.

The older people's panel and the formal selection panel both recommended Ruth Marks for appointment as the Commissioner for Older People.

As well as looking at the interests of older people as a whole, the Commissioner can look at the effects that public bodies, such as the Assembly and NHS, have on older people, and may publish reports on recommendations for change.

Today's appointment of a new Commissioner for Older People comes on the back of a series of good announcements for older people in Wales.

Having recently committed over 2m to voluntary organisations for older people over the next three years the Assembly Government revealed last week that it will be launching a new scheme to support older & disabled people to promote their independence.

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