The Commissioner for Older People, Claire Keatinge, has published Advice to Government which calls for modernisation and reform of Adult Social Care legislation in Northern Ireland to better support the changing needs of an ageing population.

The Commissioner's report, Prepared to Care? Modernising Adult Social Care in Northern Ireland, reviews law and policy on Adult Social Care and includes findings from engagement with older people on their understanding and experiences of Adult Social Care.

Speaking at the event, Claire Keatinge said:

"Adult Social Care enables thousands of older people to live dignified and independent lives within the community every year. Arranged by the Health and Social Care Trusts, it provides support such as community meals, home or domiciliary care, respite care, home adaptations and aids as well as nursing and residential care.

"My research has found that current legislation around Adult Social Care is outdated and overly complex. Too often older people do not know what Adult Social Care services they are entitled to or how to access them. The provision and availability of these services can also vary from Trust to Trust, leading to a sense of "postcode lottery" at play. This confusion is compounded by the fact that many older people and their families first need these services at the point of a crisis or sudden illness, leading to important decisions being made at short notice and with little information.

"It is clear that reform is required and I have called upon the Minister to prioritise the need for a new single legislative framework for Adult Social Care, either as new or a consolidation of existing legislation. It must have older people at the heart of it, providing clarity on eligibility and entitlement to services, and it must have funding and resources prioritised to support the implementation.

"Government needs to adequately prepare for our ageing population in a way which ensures that older people are enabled to live independent and dignified lives, receiving all of the support they need. Without reform of Adult Social Care legislation, the full needs of older people cannot be met and planned for.

Speaking at the event about the financial imperative to plan for an ageing population, Mr Raphael Wittenberg from the London School of Economics said:

"Increasing numbers of older people will need care, but resources will remain constrained. It is crucial that the legal framework should promote care which provides value for money in achieving maximum outcomes for users and carers from available resources."

Concluding the event Claire Keatinge said:

"Older people deserve to have the information to make informed decisions about their future, and they don't have time to wait for government to catch up. Reform needs to happen now and I am calling on government to act so as to give older people the best chance of living independent and dignified lives."