Conn Murray, Chair of the City & County Management Association and Chief Executive, Limerick City & County Council
The policy document ‘Putting People First; Action Programme for Effective Local Government’ clearly outlines the direction we are all going in, through a number of important statements, central among those being;
“Local Government will lead economic, social and community development locally. It will be the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level…’’
This is an important statement to focus on because it has prompted us, within local authorities, to identify the functions most relevant at a local level and, in particular, the functions that Councils must take a strong lead on.
This has involved the development of a new model of local governance and service delivery.
Empowering the citizen to participate in the development of their community, both rural and urban, is central to this new model. In looking to realise this ambition, our Councils must therefore be closer and more responsive to the day to day needs of citizens and more representative of their priorities in setting policies and making decisions. It is important that no section of the community is left behind in the future delivery of our services.
The signing of the Dublin Declaration on Age Friendly Cities & Communities by all 31 local authorities represents a significant and unique national commitment to creating an inclusive, equitable society for citizens of all ages. By signing the Declaration, Councils have committed our Cities and Counties to developing themselves as places where older people can live full, active and healthy lives.
The Declaration provides a most important underpinning role for the Age Friendly Cities & Counties Programme. It is extremely pleasing to see Chief Executives and senior managers across all of our local authorities showing such strong leadership in supporting the adoption of this innovative, yet very practical programme.
These leaders will play a key role in sustaining the momentum across the long term. I would also like to pay tribute to Dublin City Council (DCC) for the lead role that it has assumed in hosting Age Friendly Ireland, the organisation which provides programme support to the participating local authorities and other key partners.
The Age Friendly Programme is proving to be a very effective model for bringing diverse organisations, groups, services and businesses together to streamline their work, with the interests and needs of older people at their core.
When policies, programmes and actions are re-framed in this way, the whole community benefits.
This is because what is essential for older people tends to be of benefit to everyone.
Very often simple things will improve everyone’s quality of life. For example, liaison between transport providers and health and social services mean that people can attend health appointments with minimal difficulty, while liaison between local authorities and health and social services can reduce the amount of time that people have to spend in hospital.
The National Positive Ageing Strategy calls for the establishment of Older People’s Councils in each authority area. As part of the Age Friendly Cities & Counties Programme, such Councils will help in supporting the voice of the local older person to be heard and for that voice to influence and inform.
The Age Friendly concept resonates closely with so much of the work within the County and City Councils and the communities that they serve.
Collaboration amongst agencies and communities has, so far, been key to delivering comprehensive and effective strategies. We know multi- agency working is complex and challenging. However, the Age Friendly Programme has shown how agencies can work effectively together and can commit in very pragmatic ways to doing things.
Working together we must deliver the type of quality services that the older people of Ireland so richly deserve.
Together with its sister publication (the Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme Handbook) this ‘Story So Far’ document provides, through a synopsis of relevant literature, a valuable sense for the programme rationale along with an overview of some of the many relevant programme practices that have emerged through the Age Friendly Cities & Counties programme to date.
Continuing to share practices will contribute much to our common goal of building a more age friendly Ireland. I would like to wish all of the programme partners continued success in the future.