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26 January 2010



Lifelong learning is being put beyond the reach of many older people because of high fees. That’s the message from the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Employment and Learning which is welcoming groups representing older people to Parliament Buildings tomorrow.

The Committee, which has been pursuing a campaign to bring back reduced fees for college courses for older people, is hosting an event to highlight the issues affecting older people.

Speaking before the event, Committee Chairperson, Sue Ramsey MLA said, “My Committee is very committed to the issue of access for older people. It is now considered, by EU law, to be discriminatory to reduce course fees based on age. However, many older people relied on these courses to keep them in contact with their communities and each other. They often represented something to look forward to, a reason to get out of the house. Now the fees are beyond the pockets of many older people.”

Deputy Chair person of the Committee, Thomas Buchanan MLA added, “So many studies have shown the benefits to older people of keeping mentally active and these courses also allowed them to learn skills such as using the internet which meant they could keep up with their grandchildren.”

The themes of the event are the positive benefits of continuing to learn for older people, both in terms of their mental health and general well-being.

Rev. Robert Coulter MLA, Committee member and octogenarian who is speaking at the event said, “My own experience of completing a PhD at 70 is very relevant to this issue. We need to emphasise how much is to be gained from continuing to learn and have new experiences. I want other people to know that you’re never too old to learn new things.”


Notes to Editor:

1. The Older People’s Advocate, Dame Joan Harbison, will be the keynote speaker at the event.

2. Junior Ministers Robin Newton MBE MLA and Gerry Kelly MLA will also be in attendance. Both Junior Ministers will be speaking at the event.

3. The Committee intends to pursue its campaign to reduce course fees for older people through the locally elected MEPs.

4. The Minister for Employment and Learning, in conjunction with the FE colleges, is examining the issue to see how the situation might be moved forward.

5. The Minister for Employment and Learning is Sir Reg Empey MLA.

The Committee Chairperson is Ms. Sue Ramsey MLA
The Deputy Chairperson is Mr. Thomas Buchanan MLA

Committee members:
Mr. Paul Butler MLA
Mr. Trevor Clarke MLA
Rev. Dr. Robert Coulter MBE MLA
Mr. David Hilditch MLA
Mr. William Irwin MLA
Ms. Anna Lo MLA
Mr. David McClarty MLA
Mrs. Claire McGill MLA
Mr. Pat Ramsey MLA

Media enquiries should be addressed to:
Ms Debra Savage
Northern Ireland Assembly, Press Office
Telephone – 028 90 521405/521137
Mobile: 07920 864221
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