Closure of Age Sector Platform

I am very sorry to have to advise that Age Sector Platform will close on 31st December 2019 due to a lack of sustainable funding.

Age Sector Platform was established in 2008 with funding from a private Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies. Our aim from the very beginning was to be a voice of older people and we took enormous pride in being an organisation that was managed and directed by older people.

In 2011, we held the first Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament. This became an annual event and was supported by a series of County Parliaments and latterly, a biennial programme of local parliaments held in the 11 local council areas across Northern Ireland. These events provided an opportunity for older people to engage directly with our MPs, MLAs, local councillors and civil servants along with representatives from Health and Social Care Trusts, the PSNI and other third sector organisations.

In the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly for almost three years now, the Parliaments offered rare opportunities for older people to hold our elected representatives to account and make them aware of the issues and challenges they are facing on a daily basis.

Over the past eleven years, Age Sector Platform and the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament have been at the forefront of significant successes and developments on behalf of older people. We were a key player, along with Age NI and the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) in campaigning for and securing the post of the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland.

Prominent campaigns included our Can’t Heat and Eat campaign in 2008, which highlighted the struggle of many thousands of older people on low incomes to stay warm in winter whilst having enough to eat. The ‘Hands Off’ campaign in 2013, sought to protect and maintain universal pensioner concessions.

In particular, we were vocal and visible in lobbying for the protection of the Smartpass, which is vital in enabling older people to stay active and have independence. Both of these highly public campaigns were critical in protecting vital benefits and concessions for older people which enable them to maintain their health, wellbeing and quality of life.

At successive sittings of the Pensioners Parliament, fear of crime was identified as a major issue by older people. Our Feel Safe campaign, supported by the Department of Justice, was a key factor in supporting older people to feel safer in their homes and communities.

More recently we actively and vocally lobbied our local political parties to support our call to oppose the breaking of the triple lock on state pensions and the introduction of means testing for the Winter Fuel Allowance, both of which were under serious consideration in the run up to the General Election in 2017.

Our original funder, The Atlantic Philanthropies, made its final grant to Age Sector Platform at the end of 2016.  Since 2016 we have been actively seeking alternative funding streams. We have had some success with this, securing two significant funding grants and developing successful sponsorship partnerships for the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament events.

We are also very grateful for the financial support we received from both our Group and Individual Members. Together with making significant cost savings, this enabled us to continue for approximately two years after funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies was exhausted.

Over the last three years, we have had ongoing engagement with key government departments. We outlined how providing funding for the work of Age Sector Platform and the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament would support delivery of outcomes in the Programme for Government and the Active Aging Strategy.

Unfortunately, despite engaging at the very highest level at the Departments of Communities, Health and Finance, supported and endorsed by a cross party group of MLAs and MPs, we were unable to secure any financial support or indeed future commitment to support.

We do not have sufficient funding to enable us to operate into 2020, leaving our board of Trustees with no option but to take the decision to wind up the organisation with effect from 31st December. 

The Future of the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament

Whilst we have been unable to secure the future of Age Sector Platform, we are working to ensure that our principal project, the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament, survives and prospers after we have gone. Negotiations are ongoing as this piece is being written and we are very hopeful that a key legacy of Age Sector Platform will be that the Pensioners Parliament continues in 2020 and beyond, providing a vital voice for older people across Northern Ireland.

Thank You

On a personal level, it has been my privilege to hold the post of CEO of Age Sector Platform for the last three and a half years. I would like to pay tribute to our staff team, past and present, to our Trustees and campaign committee members who developed and led the organisation from the very beginning and who were instrumental in the successes and achievements of Age Sector Platform.

Finally, I would like to thank the thousands of older people across Northern Ireland who attended the parliament events and participated and added their voice to our campaigns. The Pensioners Parliament was once described by William Hay, former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly as an excellent example of participative democracy. Amidst the sadness, there is enormous pride in what has been achieved over the last eleven years, for older people, by older people. 

-   ENDS   -


Eamonn Donaghy, Chief Executive, Age Sector Platform


028 9031 2089