Older people’s organisations across the UK call on the Prime Minister to take further action to support older people affected by war in Ukraine
Key organisations working with and for older people throughout the UK1 have come together to call on the Prime Minister to take further action2 to support older people in Ukraine, and those seeking refuge in other countries, and ensure that our response to the escalating humanitarian crisis takes account of the specific impacts and challenges older people will face.
In a joint letter setting out the action required, they have highlighted that many older people in Ukraine will be trapped and isolated in their homes, with limited support available from families, friends and neighbours, as they will be unable to make the treacherous journey towards safety due to limited mobility or ill-health.
The letter also outlines concerns that older people will be unable to access crucial supplies, including food and medicines, as well as basic utilities and clean water, which will put their health at even greater risk.
Alongside calling for action to ensure that humanitarian agencies are able to provide supplies and support to older people, the letter also calls for the UK Government to take further action to remove visa restrictions to ensure that more older people are able to find safety and sanctuary in the UK.
The letter has been co-signed by a number of key organisations working on behalf of older people throughout the UK and internationally, including the Older People’s Commissioners in Wales and Northern Ireland, and Age International.
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:
“Many of us will have felt powerless as we’ve watched news reports highlighting the ways in which people’s lives have been torn apart by the Russian invasion, which is why it crucial that we take action where we can in order to support older people in Ukraine and those fleeing to safety.
“I am greatly concerned that many older people in Ukraine who are already trapped, isolated and vulnerable will soon be unable to access clean water, food, medicines and utilities, and that older people who need to escape to safety will be unable to do so.
“That’s why I’ve brought together key organisations working on behalf of older people to call for more action from the UK Government to ensure that additional support is provided to older people in Ukraine and to make it easier for older refugees to escape and find safety and sanctuary in neighbouring countries or here in the UK.”
Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, said:
“It’s vital that the UK takes into account how the escalating crisis in Ukraine specifically impacts older people, many of whom are unable to make long and dangerous journeys to safety due to failing health or mobility issues, making them particularly vulnerable.
“For those older people who cannot flee, access to essential supplies such as fuel to heat their home in falling temperatures will also become increasingly difficult. It’s crucial that humanitarian agencies get access to these vulnerable older people to supply them with all the resources they need.
“I hope that by coming together with other older people’s organisations across the UK, our unified voice will be heard loud and clear by the UK government and that they will make urgent preparations to ensure that we are ready to welcome older refugees when they arrive on our shore.”
Chris Roles, Managing Director at Age International said:
“We know from our work in the conflict zones of eastern Ukraine since 2014, that older people are incredibly vulnerable in these terrible situations. Many older people and those with disabilities will be unable to flee the violence: they may be housebound or unable to walk without support. Some can’t make the long arduous journey out of the country because their health is bad, or because they are suffering from osteoporosis or heart disease, and so won’t be able to make the trip.
“We are working with our partners in Ukraine providing emergency food and water kits, medical, hygiene and dignity kits, and support in response to the trauma that so many will be experiencing. And for those older people and their families crossing into neighbouring countries, we want to provide all these things and shelter too.”
1. Full list of Signatories Below:
- Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
- Chris Roles, Managing Director, Age International
- Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director, Age UK
- Eddie Lynch, Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland
- Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive, Scottish Care
- Brian Sloan, Chief Executive, Age Scotland
- Linda Robinson, Chief Executive, Age NI
- Victoria Lloyd, Chief Executive, Age Cymru
- John Palmer, Director of Policy and Communications, Independent Age
- Carole Easton, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better
- Chris Lynch, Deputy CEO, Alzheimer’s Disease International
- David Sinclair, Director, ILC-UK
- Sir Myles Wickstead
- Andrew Purkis OBE, former Chair of Action Aid
- Marissa Conway, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy
- Signatories of the letter are calling for the following action from the UK Government to support older people in Ukraine and those seeking refuge in other countries:
- Use all possible avenues to ensure that humanitarian access is given to all civilians in Ukraine, including older people.
- Ensure that explicit attention is given to the needs and rights of older people in Ukraine and surrounding countries in preparing and implementing the humanitarian response with other national governments and international organisations.
- Ensure older people in Ukraine or those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries have access to appropriate medical supplies, medication and mobility aids through donations, funding or the sharing of technical expertise.
- Remove the visa requirements on Ukrainians fleeing the war to ensure that older people without relatives in the UK are able to seek refuge here.
- Consider the needs and rights of older Ukrainians who are seeking refuge in the United Kingdom and what support they may need upon arrival.
- Continue to provide support to charities involved in the humanitarian response including HelpAge International and Age International to ensure that they and their partners can provide the crucial support that older people in Ukraine desperately need.