Sarah Rochira named as new Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
THE director of the Royal National Institute for the Blind Cymru has been named the new Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
Sarah Rochira will take over from Ruth Marks for the next four years as the champion for older people and their representatives across Wales.
Ms Marks had been in the £91,000-a-year role since April 2008, but following her first four-year term the role was re-advertised in an open recruitment process.
Last night it was unclear whether Ms Marks had reapplied for her job. Both the Welsh Government and the Commission’s office said it would be inappropriate to comment, while Ms Marks herself was not returning calls.
Ms Rochira, from Whitchurch, Cardiff and also chair of Age Alliance Wales, had been director of RNIB Cymru since 2008.
She also established the partnership of the Wales Vision Strategy and has had more than a decade of experience in health commissioning, clinical governance and health development at Caerphilly Teaching Local Health Board and Gwent Health Authority.
A statement from the Older People’s Commission for Wales said: “We would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to Ruth for her hard work, commitment and support during the past four years, acknowledging her achievement of taking forward the world’s first older people’s commission.
“The Commission will continue to deliver for older people in Wales.
“We look forward to welcoming Sarah Rochira as the new Commissioner.”
The role was the first in the world when it was established in 2008, having been included in Labour’s 2003 election manifesto.
Its remit included reviewing and monitoring the effect on older people any act of the National Assembly, examining cases of particular older people receiving services and giving advice and information to any person.
Deputy Social Services Minister Gwenda Thomas said: “We must value older people more, and tackle discrimination on the grounds of age by challenging unfair and outdated stereotypes, attitudes and practices that adversely affect older people.
“The new Commissioner will define her own role in her own way, but I am sure that she will live up to all of these aims and more.
“I congratulate Sarah on her appointment and warmly welcome her to this important role.
“This is the second appointment to the post of Older People’s Commissioner in Wales since the office was established in 2008. I would like to thank the outgoing Commissioner, Ruth Marks MBE, for establishing the first Commission and for laying the groundwork for the future.”
Ms Rochira said he was honoured to be appointed to the role.
“As Older Person’s commissioner I will be accountable to older people across Wales and look forward to working with and for them, ensuring that their voices are at the heart of what we do,” she said.
“There is much in Wales that we can be proud of but many older people also face real challenges particularly in the difficult times in which we all live.
“I look forward to working with my team and together to making a real and tangible difference to the lives of older people across Wales.”
Ms Marks’ period in office may well be best remembered for a damning report, ‘Dignified Care?’, which exposed shocking examples of how older people had been stripped of their dignity, respect and privacy while sick.
The commissioner’s first review, published last year, highlighted a series of breaches of patients’ human rights and distressing shortcomings in their overall care.
Ms Marks, who as Commissioner had legal powers to effect change, gave health boards and NHS trusts three months to draw up plans to respond to the 12 recommendations she made.
Three months later Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said unannounced spot-checks would be used to assess whether older patients were being treated with dignity on Welsh hospital wards.
Although she also found good examples of care in Welsh hospitals, Ms Marks called for a fundamental change of culture in the way older patients were cared for in the NHS.
She said at the time: “It is never acceptable for older people to feel ignored or ill-treated while in hospital, and I am committed to ensuring that they feel respected and are treated with dignity.”