The 2014/15 Annual Report of the Office of the Seniors Advocate has just been released in accordance with section 4(4) of the Seniors Advocate Act. This document is the first annual report from the newly established Office of the Seniors Advocate and reports on the period of April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. The report also describes activities underway and planned for the Office for the period of April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. Below is the overview of the report as presented by Isobel Mackenzie, Seniors Advocate for British Columbia. To read the whole report go to: http://www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca
By Isobel Mackenzie,Seniors Advocate for B.C.
It is my great pleasure to provide this first Annual Report for the Office of the Seniors Advocate.
The inaugural year of this office has been one of great activity, which included getting a new office up and running, meeting with, and hearing from, thousands of seniors and stakeholders, and producing four reports.
The over 820,000 seniors of this province are unique individuals. Their desires on how to live, where to live, who to live with, and what activities to engage in are as varied as one can imagine. However, one common theme is that seniors want their voices heard and their wishes respected. The work of this office is grounded in the principle of listening to seniors and reflecting, as much as possible, their wants, needs and aspirations.
Launching a 1-800 information and referral number, website, Twitter account and Facebook page have all assisted us in hearing from over 10,000 seniors in our first year. This feedback has been essential in determining where we focus our resources to best address those issues which are most pressing for seniors.
As my office looks to affect larger systemic change, a key function is the relationship we build with governments at the local, regional and provincial levels. Throughout this past year, great effort has been made to achieve an effective liaison with a number of organizations, including health authorities, BC Housing, BC Transit, TransLink, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation. Through collaboration, we have also found that small systemic issues can be remedied with a phone call or letter, such as we did when we found an issue with the financial assessments health authorities were using to determine the client portion for payment of home support. My office will continue to build on this function in the years ahead.
Some issues require regulatory change or significant allocation of resources. This was the case when my office examined the health assessments for seniors in residential care and produced a report detailing improvements needed in three key areas: assessment for placement; use of drugs, particularly anti-psychotics and anti-depressants; and the provision of therapy both physical and recreational.
Other issues cross many jurisdictions such as housing, which was the focus of our fourth report. My office provided 18 recommendations to government which intersected with four different ministries, all of whom play a role in ensuring that seniors housing is affordable, appropriate and available.
My office has been working over this past year to gather the data necessary to begin producing an annual monitoring report. This will essentially be a scorecard for government and service providers to see how they are doing in a number of key service areas. This scorecard will be produced each year and annual progress will be measured.
This year I also appointed a 30-member Council of Advisers (COA), all of whom are seniors. The COA represent all areas of B.C. and reflects the diversity of our population. Their appointment was recommended to me by the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations (COSCO), who reviewed over 300 applications. Serving as a touchstone for my office, the COA will ensure our work is as seniorcentric as possible.
As we look to the future, my office will be examining issues related to supporting caregivers; the efficacy of the provincial home support program; the inequity amongst low-income seniors in the provision of supplemental health benefits such as dental care, eyeglasses, hearing aids and mobility aids; and challenges with Fair PharmaCare, among other issues. We will also continue the work we have begun on two major provincial surveys for all publicly funded home support clients and residents in licensed care.
The work of this office is made possible through the unique combination of a core of dedicated professional staff and committed volunteers who facilitate and support my connections with seniors throughout the province and who take the time to ensure my office is aware of their issues.
The journey has just begun for the Office of the Seniors Advocate and I continue to be optimistic that we can and will affect positive change for all B.C. seniors and their families.
To read the entire report go to: http://www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca and click on ‘Annual Report’ under the NEWS section.
The Office of the Seniors Advocate was established in 2014 as an independent office of the provincial government. It is the only office of its kind in Canada.
The Advocate is responsible for monitoring seniors’ services, promoting awareness of seniors’ issues and supports, and working collaboratively to identify solutions and make recommendations to government about system-wide issues facing seniors in key areas: health care, personal care, housing, transportation and income support. The Advocate issues regular reports, conducts surveys and travels around the province gathering feedback from seniors, stakeholders and the public. The Office of The Seniors Advocate has translation services available in more than 180 languages.
To find out more go to: http://www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca
To contact the office of the Seniors Advocate call toll-free 1-877-952-3181, Monday – Friday 8:30-4:30. By fax: 250-952-3034, or by mail: Office of the Seniors Advocate, 1st Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street, PO Box 9651, STN PROV GOVT, Victoria, B.C. V8W 9P4.