Chapel Union steps up fight for older people's rights

By agency reporter
June 1, 2009

A Welsh Chapel Union has stepped up its campaign for greater respect and dignity for elderly people in residential and nursing homes.

The Union of Welsh Independents (Yr Annibynwyr ) says that little attention is paid to the linguistic, spiritual and cultural needs of residents in many homes - pointing out that this contravenes principles laid down by the United Nations as long ago as 1991.

There is particular concern about the rights of Welsh speakers in both private and council owned homes.

Union leaders say they have been greatly encouraged by the initial reaction to their campaign at a Welsh Assembly Government level and by the response of Ruth Marks, Wales’ Commissioner for Older People.

“Our meeting with Ruth Marks was very constructive” said Dr Geraint Tudur, the Union’s General Secretary. “We discussed, in detail, practical means of improving the lot of older people in residential homes. The Commissioner promised to raise our concerns and suggestions at her next meeting with the Welsh Health Minister.”

Following a previous meeting with Gwenda Thomas AM, the deputy-minister for Health and Social Services, the Rev Beti-Wyn James who chairs the Union’s Family Department said: "We were very encouraged by the minister's positive response. She is personally aware of the situation through visiting people in her area, and remarked that we were the first denomination to raise the matter. It is becoming increasingly obvious that this is an issue of great concern that needs to be addressed.”

The Union is asking the Welsh Assembly to ensure that every home should be aware of its duty to provide residents who speak Welsh with equality of care and service. A home which has a number of Welsh-speakers should ensure that at least one member of staff who speaks the language should be on duty at any one given time. People should be enabled to continue to live their lives in a Welsh-speaking atmosphere, for instance, by the provision of a lounge where people can watch S4C or listen to Radio Cymru (as proposed in a Consultative Report on linguistic provision, presented to the Assembly Government in 2002). The Union holds this to be a basic human right.

Gwenda Thomas has invited Union officials to address a meeting of the Taskforce which is responsible for developing greater understanding of language sensitivity in the health field and a senior member of the Commissioner’s department will address the Independent Union’s AGM at Rhuthun next month.

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