Last week Age UK welcomed over 300 delegates to our Agenda for Later Life conference. Our flagship policy conference has become a key date in the calendar for people who are passionate about improving later life.
As many readers will be aware, Iain Duncan Smith’s speech received significant coverage. Whilst the media widely reported a possible universal pension set at £140 a week, in reality, the Secretary of State’s speech was more about setting out the direction of travel and the principles driving this – rather than announcing concrete policy proposals. IDS appears to have taken a bold step in persuading the Treasury of the needs for a much simpler system. This is welcomed and much needed. His speech also highlighted his aspirational goals for tomorrow’s pensioners. Age UK now looks forward to hearing what plans the Government have for helping lift 1.8 million of today’s pensioners who live in poverty.
Our ‘changing hearts and minds’ session offered important perspectives on challenging ageism. Camilla Parker (the solicitor who supported Miriam O’Reilly‘s successful ageism challenge against the ) kicked off the session with an upbeat message. I hope, as Camilla discussed, that the public response to Miriam’s case indicates that maybe the tide is turning in media attitudes to older presenters. Focus on the experiences of real people, show how a change in attitudes can benefit everyone and be pragmatic about the types of ageism which can be tackled were the lessons offered by renowned campaigner, Ben Summerskill. Advertising specialist, Kate Waters, used her experience of running public information campaigns to highlight that campaigns are only successful when they reflect experiences people can relate to and we were pleased to hear business leader Jacki Connor of Sainsbury’s explain the business sense in employing older workers: customers are happier being served by staff that mirror their own age and social mix.
A highlight of the day was the thought provoking speech by Andrew Dilnot, the Care Funding Commissioner. It was great that he used our conference as an opportunity to share his Commission’s preliminary conclusions. He made clear that the Commission believe that more state resources will be needed for care – but that this is only part of a solution where everyone pays more: individuals, families and the state. In such a complex social policyarea, he reassuringly confirmed that the proposals the Commission makes will be as clear and easy to understand as possible.
Alongside the conference, we also launched our Agenda for Later Life report. Earlier blogs have discussed the indicators the report uses to track public policy on later life and our 12 key policy challenges. This year’s conference was timely. It came a year after Age UK launched and well into the Coalition Government’s first year in office. Plans are already afoot for next year’s conference. We look forward to reviewing our indicators in 2012 – hopefully tracking lots of improvements – and seeing how the Government are stepping up to those 12 challenges.