The Commissioner is an independent champion for older people, who safeguards and promotes their interests.
Eddie Lynch was appointed as Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland and took up his post on 13 June 2016. The inagural Commissioner Claire Keatinge completed her four year term in November 2015.
The role of Commissioner for Older People was established under the Commissioner for Older People Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 which was enacted by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 25 January 2011. The full legislation can be found here.
The Commissioner's office (COPNI) is set up as a non-departmental public body. Both the Commissioner and his office are sponsored by the Department for Communities but are operationally independent.
The Commissioner's principal aim is to safeguard and promote the interests of older people, which defined by legislation include those aged 60 and over, and in exceptional circumstances those aged 50 or over.
The Commissioner has promotional, advisory, educational and general investigatory duties and powers which include:
1. To promote awareness of the interests of older people in Northern Ireland.
2. To keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of the law as it affects the interests of older people.
3. To keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of services provided to older people by "relevant authorities".
4. To promote the provision of opportunities for and the elimination of discrimination against older people.
5. To encourage best practice in the treatment of older people.
6. To promote positive attitudes towards older people and encourage participation by older people in public life.
7. To advise the Assembly, the Secretary of State and a relevant authority on matters concerning the interests of older people.
8. To take reasonable steps to communicate with older people.
1. Make arrangements for research or educational activities concerning the interests of older people.
2. Issue guidance on best practice in relation to any matter concerning the interests of older people.
3. Conduct investigations for the purpose of any of her functions.
4. Compile and publish information concerning the interests of older people.
5. Provide advice or information on any matter concerning the interests of older people.
The Commissioner also responds to individual cases relating to older people through his legal team, with issues including safeguarding concerns and complaints about care homes or hospital care.
The Commissioner's work is underpinned by the UN Principles for Older Persons (1991)2 and these international standards are important in her assessment of how well public bodies and other organizations deliver for older people in Northern Ireland.