International Day of Older Persons and the role of the Probation Service
1st October 2016
International Day of Older Persons, Saturday 1st October 2016, is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of the issues and challenges of aging in today’s world. The theme for 2016, Take a Stand Against Ageism, challenges everyone to consider ageism – the negative attitudes and discrimination based on age - and the detrimental impact it has on older people. As a cohort, people over the age of 50 face different challenges and issues than their younger counterparts.
There are currently almost 700 people aged 50 years and older subject to Probation Service supervision in the community. This represents almost 8% of the caseload of the Service (8,000+) in the community. Fifty eight of the eighty one life sentence prisoners under probation supervision in the community are over fifty years of age. The Probation Service plays a vital role in supporting older people, subject to Probation Service supervision, to (re)integrate in their communities and linking them with support services, both specialist and informal, in their communities. Speaking of the challenges facing this cohort of Probation Service clients, Vivian Geiran, Director of the Probation Service said:
"It is well known that the proportion of the older general population has increased, and while this brings many opportunities and benefits for both the individuals themselves and society in general, it can also bring with it a number of challenges. For those with criminal histories, including those subject to Probation Service supervision and those leaving prison, these challenges can be even greater. For those with whom the Probation Service works, as well as engaging with them to address their rehabilitative and reintegration needs, issues relating to heath and social care are also critical. Many of our older clients experience poor and ailing health, social isolation and exclusion. In supporting them desist from further offending and integrate within their communities and neighbourhoods, it is important that we adapt our interventions and widen our network of community supports to ensure they we are both sensitive to and responsive in addressing the needs of this particular client group."
On 30th September 2016, the eve of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons, the Irish Penal Reform Trust launched a new report on the rights, needs and experiences of older people in prison.