As part of the LGiU and CCLA C’llr awards, Age UK sponsors an award to recognise Councillors who support older people in their local community.
This year the winner was Cllr Janet Burgess from Islington council.
Janet has been a vocal advocate for Islington’s older people throughout her time as a Councillor. Her main achievements include establishing the council’s first Older People’s Champions giving older people a high profile voice within the Council, fighting to provide free swimming for over 60s in all Islington council funded leisure centres and defending the £100 council tax discount for all pensioner households who pay council tax.
Through her efforts lobbying the Mayor of London and Transport for London, she saved the 812 PlusBus – a ‘hail and ride’ service used mainly by older people to take them to the shops.
Her efforts to tackle fuel poverty, an issue that disproportionately affects Islington’s older residents, has seen Cllr Burgess co-lead a delegation of pensioners to City Hall to campaign on the issue.
Islington’s Seasonal Health Interventions Network (SHINE) has won European wide recognition for its work to tackle fuel poverty and reduce winter deaths through services including heating and insulation improvements, advice, safety assessments and befriending.
Perhaps most significant is her work to improve the quality of care for older people. Islington became one of the first local authorities in the country to sign Unison’s Ethical Care Charter.
The Charter sets minimum standards to protect the dignity and quality of life for people who need homecare. It commits councils to buying homecare only from providers who give workers enough time, training and a living wage, so they can provide better quality care for thousands of service users who rely on it.
Islington Council has protected social care for people with moderate needs meaning more older people are entitled to access the care they so desperately need.
By committing to paying the London Living Wage in all new council contracts, Cllr Burgess has lead the way in an effort to improve quality in a challenging sector notorious for low pay.
Ruth Rose, a member of the South East England Forum on Ageing tells us what it was like being a judge for this year’s C’llr awards.
‘Now in its third year, this event is growing in importance and prestige. It is done in the style of the Oscars, but as yet, there is no red carpet, no flashy limos and no glittering low-cut figure hugging dresses! Who knows? Someday it might be just that.’
‘I considered my selection to be on the judging panel as much an honour as getting one of the awards. I diligently perused the nominations and their truly inspiring achievements and wondered how we could select just one winner in each category. As I represent older people, I needed to judge mainly from that viewpoint.’
‘All the judges voted by show of hands to select winners of each award in turn. One of us would start by giving our choice and why. My turn was first – the Age UK award for services to older people. Two of the nominees were outstanding and I spoke about them both, giving my personal choice for one. The other judges were of the same opinion and, after discussion, Janet Burgess of Islington was selected mainly for her work in eliminating 15 minute care slots and ‘zero hour’ working practises for care support staff.’
‘We spent an intense afternoon deciding on all the awards. Sometimes our votes were equal for two deserving nominees and we justly allowed for both to receive an award.’
‘The event itself was held a couple of weeks after the judging. We met in the Mayor’s parlour in Westminster City Council with a wine and canapés reception. Nearly all the nominees came from councils all over the country, It was a pleasure to meet some of them. The winners were announced and deservedly praised. The most prestigious was presented by Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles MP after a short address.’
‘I realise that this event does much to publicise what is best about public service. It shows councils around Britain what can be achieved for good in one place can be followed in another.’