Rose Jackson, SPF Chairperson welcomed the delegates to the Conference and introduced Provost Ian Borthwick to deliver the formal civic welcome which would open conference proceedings. In his address Provost Borthwick warmly welcomed delegates to Dundee and called on those in attendance to work together to campaign for better pensions and services for older people in Scotland. Following the Civic Welcome, the Conference was addressed by Lesley Irving, Head of the Scottish Government Equalities Unit, who was there to represent Jeanne Freeman MSP, Minister for Social Justice who was scheduled to speak but was called to an urgent meeting in Strasbourg. In her delivery to conference, Lesley referred to the ‘Great Get Together’ which had taken place recently in memory of murdered MP Joe Cox. Lesley then highlighted the problems associated with loneliness and isolation for older people in Scotland . Under formal conference business, delegates adopted the SPF Annual Report of Work, The Financial Report, and the Auditor’s Report and went on to endorse the SPF draft policy on The Dignity and Rights of Older People in Scotland. The document points out that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. The SPF believes that this right should not diminish throughout an individual’s natural life cycle as, all too often, when people age, there is a common misconception within society that their contribution becomes less valuable than that of their younger counterparts.
Two motions to conference were then submitted for consideration by delegates.
• Motion 1. ‘We move that the Executive Committee of the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum conducts and supports a campaign to release surplus funds from the National Insurance Fund and to set the Basic State Pension, for all, above the official poverty level and linked to average male earnings.’ This was moved by Sam Gibson, Unite Retired Members Branch Lanarkshire. The Motion was defeated. • Motion 2. ‘This Conference is aware of the loneliness and isolation experienced by many pensioners. It therefore urges the STUC to encourage its affiliates to set up retired members’ branches and regional committees where these do not already exist. We believe that union members will benefit from this type of contact which can have a social as well as an educational and business function.’ Moved by Maureen Gardiner, Individual Pensioner Member. The Motion was carried.
The next speaker was Derek Young, Senior Policy Officer at Age Scotland, who emphasised the need to change society’s perceptions of what it means to grow old. Derek spoke on Age Scotland’s campaign to tackle loneliness and isolation and delivered a presentation on some of their recent work. of Age Scotland was the next speaker
In the afternoon session, Helen McFarlane, Programme Director of ‘Our Voice, a project of the Scottish Health Council highlighted how it was necessary for more people and organisations to work together to improve health and social care conditions across Scotland. Helen emphasised that in order for people to be able to make decisions on their own care and treatment, local authority health and social care providers must involve them and the wider community in the design and development of local services and Helen emphasised the importance of several key elements for example openness, flexibility and inclusion to ensuring a strong working partnership, thus affording people control over their own treatment.
The final speaker of the day was Erik Cramb of Dundee Pensioners’ Forum who spoke on the many issues surrounding funeral poverty and the collaborative work being carried out in Dundee involving Dundee Pensioners’ Forum, the churches, the local authority, CAB and the Scottish Government to create a social enterprise company limited by guarantee, that will, provide services such as cars, flowers, catering etc. and will challenge current costs. A comparison website on funeral director’s charges was also being established,