Archbishop Nichols says: 'the elderly are not a burden but a gift'

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

A major new report outlining services to older people provided by the Catholic community was released last night at Archbishops House, Westminster,  by Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN).

The study, undertaken by Middlesex University’s Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), explores the level and quality of care provision offered by the Catholic community to older people in England and Wales. Latest demographic projections indicate there will be over 11 million people aged over 65 within 10 years.

The report, which surveyed 30 residential care homes and 28 providers of outreach services, found that the  number of places in care homes and the number of hours for home care will both need to rise by nearly 150% to cope with the needs of this ageing population.

The main problem identified by residential providers was the lack of funding, with two thirds of the homes surveyed affected by rising costs and few sources of funding.

Isolation and the lack of a sense of community were identified by respondents as the main issues facing older people today.

The report calls for more innovative forms of care for older people; measures to tackle loneliness and isolation including opportunities for older people to engage with the local community; the development of inter-generational work to bring older people and younger people closer together for their mutual benefit; and  clearer information about entitlements for older people and their carers. It also called for Catholics to have more of a say in deciding policies affecting older people.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “Age is something that comes to us all. It brings its joys and its diminishments but ‘It’s still me!’  This is the critical message in providing care for the elderly by the Catholic community. It enables us to see that behind all the political, economic and social questions of growing old is a human face, a life, a person – a mother, a father, brother or sister who is part of us and has helped to make us who we are. The elderly are not a burden but a gift – without them our lives and our society would be impoverished and diminished. They have a right to our resources and our care. I thank CSAN for their work but I especially thank all those who work and care for elderly and the many family and friends who are the ‘hidden carers’ to whom we all owe so much. I hope that together with the Government and other agencies, the Church and the Catholic community can work together to support and cherish the elderly, honour their rights and celebrate their gift.”

Philippa Gitlin, Director of CSAN, welcomed the findings and recommendations of the report: “We are pleased to have evidence of the support being provided by the Catholic community for older people of all faiths or none.   The report confirms our view that we need to raise our profile as a significant voice in the sector, and together with other faith providers lobby to influence debate and policy decision-making on the care and provision of services for older people.”

Dr Louise Ryan of Middlesex University’s Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) said: “As we head towards a society with an increasing number of older people, a whole raft of issues gain greater importance – knowledge about dementia, information about funding and maintaining quality of care being just a few examples. In this research we have highlighted examples of good practice within this group of Catholic-based care organisations, and suggested areas where CSAN can grow its influence. We hope that this report shows clear ways that CSAN can make significant contribution to the wider debate on care and collaborate with other sector groups to improve care for older people.”


Tags: Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Caritas Social Action Network CSAN, Director of CSAN, Dr Louise Ryan, Middlesex University's Social Policy Research Centre SPRC, Philippa Gitlin

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