Wisdom of old age deserves a place at Cabinet
There are ministers for children, women and the disabled, there are ministers who are pensioners and there is a shadow minister for older people.
But the Government does not have a dedicated Minister for Older People, even though the pensioner population is around 11 million.
But a growing campaign aims to change that, culminating in a Commons debate last night (thurs), secured by a petition of 137,000 names.
The oldest Cabinet Minister is Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who will shortly be 72, while Commons Leader Sir George Young is a year younger.
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Lord Howell of Guildford, a Foreign Office Minister, is 76, and several other Lords Ministers are in their 70s. By contrast, Treasury Minister Chloe Smith, who shot to fame on Tuesday’s Newsnight, is 30.
The Grey Pride campaign, which assembled the petition, points out such a move would not be unprecedented – Canada and Ireland both have such ministers.
Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of Anchor, which provides not-for-profit care and retirement housing, and launched the campaign, said MPs should listen.
“Older people’s issues have never before ridden so high on the political agenda, yet this country’s elderly population often feels invisible.
“It’s time we gave this nation’s older people the respect and representation they deserve.”
Conservative MP Margot James, who supports the move, says the average age of MPs is just over 50, and the average age of the Cabinet around the same.
Another Tory, Penny Mordaunt, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People, told the Commons: “We’ve had forums, we’ve had tsars, task-forces and champions and we’re still a long way off where we need to be; we need to try something new.”
“There are many ministers across Government with responsibilities which touch on some aspect of older people’s lives, but only with a narrow focus on one policy area.
“This is why it must be someone in Government who is responsible for the interests of older people.”
Labour’s shadow minister for care and older people, Liz Kendall, encouraged the Government to appoint someone with similar responsibilities.
“This is one of the key reasons behind Grey Pride’s campaign: to ensure the needs and views of older people are heard and understood at the highest level, so we can change attitudes about older people, challenge the stereotypes and put older people at the forefront of British political debate.”
The campaign is backed by Dr Chai Patel, chairman of HC-One, which runs 241 care homes for older people across the UK, including Merlin Court in Marlborough.
He said: “HC-One is backing the call for the appointment of a Minister for Older People as part of a wider appeal for a new social contract between Government and the country at large, to successfully address the particular set of issues currently facing older people in the UK.
“Crucially, the current uncertainty surrounding the future funding of social care must be addressed to ensure that older people are always treated with dignity.
“By appointing a Minister for Older People the Government would be signalling its commitment to addressing the concerns of older people.