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Problems and Purpose
Without a single body to represent seniors, advocacy for issues they find concerning is difficult. The Parliament is meant to fill that void; to empower older people (those aged 60 and above) in policy making and implementation in Northern Ireland.
Goals for Deliberation Taken Directly from the Pensioner's Parliament Pamphlet
- Increase the opportunity for older people to have their voice heard on issues that matter to them
- Connect older people to key decision makers within government and service providers
- Increase the confidence of older people to make their voice heard and to uphold their rights
- Increase older people's knowledge of their rights and entitlements
- Increase awareness and access to services that can improve the quality of life for older people
- Enable older people aged over 60, and especially those over 75, to become actively involved in influencing decisions that affect their lives.
- Ensure that older people remain active and engaged citizens and are not excluded from decison making
- Enable older people to utilise the experience and skills they ahve amassed over their lifetime and use this to develop solutions on important issues
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Organizing Entities and Funding
The Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament (NIPP) was organized by the Age Sector Platform charity and launched on February 23 2011 by the First and deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland. Due to its early success, the NIPP continues to be held yearly.
Due to the fact that the Parliament was designed for seniors, the participants were all seniors. They were delegates from the local parliaments.
Methods and Tools Used
Deliberation, Decisions and Public Interaction
The Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament (NIPP) is a participatory innovation organized by the Age Sector Platform charity and launched on February 23 2011 by the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland.The key aim of the NIPP is to increase the influence that older people (defined as those aged 60+) in Northern Ireland have on how policies affecting them are made and implemented. There are three different stages of the Pensioners Parliament.
The First Stage is a survey distributed to pensioners. For the first parliament in 2011, between January and February 1200 surveys were completed. These surveys were important because they set the agenda for what was to be discussed at the local parliament as well as the expert panel that would be at each parliament.
The Second Stage was local parliaments. Between March 4 and April 13 seven “local parliaments” were held across Northern Ireland (in Belfast, Enniskillen, Ballymena, Armagh, Omagh, Derry/Londonderry and Newry). A total of around 500 older people took part in these local parliaments.
The Third Stage was a National Parliament. 180 Members of the Pensioners Parliament (MPPs) attended the first Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament in Belfast on June 8th-9th 2011. There were six different sessions and the sessions went over issues such as: energy, food, fear of crime, health and social care and pensions and benefits. Following each session, participants voted on different motions. members of the parliament voted on whether to pass. 24 motions were passed at the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament 2011.
Top 3 Issues Pensioners Cared About:
The First issue that Pensioner's voiced concerns about was keeping warm during winter and the rising energy prices. According to the 2011 Pensioner's report, 75.8 percent of all pensioner's listed in a study conducted prior to the event that the high price of energy was their biggest concern. Due to this high percentage, the first session of the Parliament was dedicated to discussing the problem of energy prices. The key note speaker during this session was Sarah Brady, the leader of the Social and Environmental Branch at the Utility Regulator. During her speech, Brady conceded that North Ireland had, "the highest rate of fuel poverty in the United Kingdom, " a trend was according to her was increasing. Brady in her speech noted that the average annual household bill in Northern Ireland amounted to 496 Euro's. After Brady's speech, delegates to the parliament were given the opportunity to ask energy-related questions to a panel of experts that had been assembled.
The 2nd issue that Pensioners in the study were concerned about was the issue of poverty- not having enough money. According to the Pensioner's Report, in the pre-parliamentary study 65.5 percent of pensioner's shared their concerns about money. Recognizing the large number of seniors concerned, the second session of the Pensioner's Parliament was dedicated to the issue of food. This session consisted of a panel of experts and a question-answer session. One panel expert, Seamus Lynch, highlighted the reason why seniors were so concerned about the cost of food: Since 2007, the cost of food has increased by 25 percent.
The 3rd issue that Pensioners in the study were concerned about, with 63.5 percent of participants listing it as a concern, was the Issue of crime. The third session at the Parliament was dedicated to crime and the keynote speaker for the event was Superintendent Alan Skelton of the Police Service of North Ireland. Skelton began the session of by highlighting the fact that the 2010-2011 year had 4,099 fewer crimes. After Skelton's speech, there was a panel of experts- and a crime-related question and answer session.
All the Issues Mentioned:
- Keeping Warm During Winter/Energy Prices
- Not having Enough Money
- Issue of Crime
- Rising cost of food prices
- Loneliness and Boredom
- Information on Benefits
- Access to Health and Social Care
- Lack of Respect
- Issue of Transport
- Age Discrimination
- New Technology
- Elder Abuse
- Access to Education/Training
- Employment Issues
Influence, Outcomes and Effects
After each session, the Parliament deliberated and made recommendations on how to solve the problems discussed. For the first session, the Parliament issued four recommendations. The First recommendation was the Parliament advocated that the North Ireland Assembly should create social tarriffs in the energy industry so seniors could have reduced costs for energy prices, like seniors in other parts of the United Kingdom. The Second recommendation was for the creation of a country-wide oil stamp program designed to reduce pensioner's expenditures in relation to heating their home. The Third recommendation by the Parliament dealt with the Winter Fuel Payment. The Winter fuel payment was a sum of money that families and individuals received that is meant to help reduce the cost of heat and energy during the winter. As part of austerity measures, the UK government cut the annual Winter Fuel Payment by 50 euros for 60 to 80 yar olds and by 100 euros for those over the age of 80. Instead of having reductions in the Winter Fuel Payment, the Parliament recommended that the UK government implement a way to link Winter Fuel Payments to energy prices. The final motion for the first session was a statement arguing for greater regulation on the oil industry.
The second session of the Parliament dedicated to Food offered three different recommendations. The first motion was for food retailers to provide more discounted offers on products to help reduce costs. The second recommendation by the Parliament was for food retailers to produce smaller portions on items that would be sold at a more reasonable price. The final recommendation of the second session called for food retailers to introduce a "Pensioner's Discount Day," which would provide seniors with a chance to buy products and food at a reduced cost.
The third session of the Parliament dealt with crime. After the session, the Pensioners made five recommendations on how to reduce crime. The first motion passed called for more visible policing on the ground. Pensioner's argued that if policing were more visible, seniors would feel more secure. The second recommendation argued that there should be an increase in Community Safety and Policing Partnerships and that seniors should have adequate representation in then. The Parliament then stated in the third motion that with the new creation of those partnerships, tackling crime should be a priority. The fourth recommendation advocated for intergenerational projects and an improvement in recreational facilities for younger people. The final recommendation of the Parliament called for more accountability in the media. The Pensioner's coveyed their believe that North Ireland media organizations should report crimes against older people in a way that reflected the senior's high level of concern.
The final session of the Parliament is important for in it, the idea of organizational advocacy was brought up. The session was titled, “Campaigning Together-Sharing Experience on Westminster Issues.” In it a panel of leaders from senior advocacy groups addressed the need for participants of the Parliament to remain active. On the panel, there were leaders from the National Pensioner’s Convention, the Welsh Senate of Older People, the Scottish Senior’s Alliance, the Civil Service Pensioner’s Alliance and Age Sector Platform. Bill Carson representing, Age Sector Platform, explained the way forward best. His message to seniors was to spread awareness among the groups that unity on the recommendations stated above was absolutely necessary if any of the motions were to be successful.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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"Age Sector Platform - Ni Pensioners Parliament." Age Sector Platform - Ni Pensioners Parliament. Age Sector Platform, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.
"First NI Pensioners Parliament Is Held." BBC News. BBC, 03 Apr. 2011. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.
North Ireland Pensioner's Parliament Report 2011. Rep. N.p.: Age Sector Platform, n.d. Print.