Many older people experience a complex interaction between living on a relatively low fixed income, declining health and mobility, and risk of social isolation. They need holistic, independent information and advice (I&A) from advisers with experience and knowledge of their specific issues. Good-quality I&A is essential to enable people to access entitlements and services in order to maintain a decent quality of life and to continue to live independently. Timely interventions can prevent increased pressure on health and social care services. This is especially important when people in later life and the services they rely on are experiencing unprecedented change and challenges. Unfortunately, many older people struggle to find the support that they need as they navigate a complex system, often against a background of cuts to provision or changes in eligibility.
Government policy increasingly focuses on extending choice in public services, increasing independence and giving people more personal responsibility. If older people are to benefit from these developments, the government must ensure that they have access to the I&A they need to make informed decisions. Failure to access I&A when it is needed can increase the risk of long-term or multiple problems.
Although government documents refer to the centrality of access to I&A services, local authorities, who are primarily responsible for making access available, are facing cuts in their expenditure. Local authorities are the largest funders for almost half of Age UKs I&A services and contribute to the funding of many more. The abolition of PCTs that provided some funding, together with the change to GP commissioners, has also led to an uncertain outlook for funding from health bodies. Local Age UKs have found that where their I&A funding has decreased, cuts have meant longer waiting times for clients, reduced service hours and home visits, loss of experienced staff, as well as simply not being able to support as many clients or support them in as much depth. This trend is set to continue into the foreseeable future, with consequences for vulnerable older people, unless a change of policy is adopted to provide for one of the fastest-growing demographic groups
The Age UK network is the largest provider of good-quality I&A to older people in the UK. Last year it reached some 7 million people with high-quality I&A resources and services. There is always a need among older people for independent, dedicated, holistic I&A services. However, local Age UKs’ I&A services are experiencing significant increases in I&A enquiries. At the same time they report difficulty with funding.
Age UK’s newest campaign report Who can I turn to? explains why I&A services tailored to the specific needs of older people are essential and why now is the time prioritise, not cut back on, these essential services.
Our free and really useful information and advice catalogue also provides an overview of our free information guides and factsheets specifically designed to provide advice and answer questions on issues affecting the over-50s around key life issues.
Find out more about Age UK’s Information and Advice service