Author Archives: Greg Lewis

The impact of bus cuts on older people in rural areas

We have heard a lot lately from various politicians about the need to examine the universal benefits received by older people and in particular the concessionary bus pass. It seems that in the age of austerity, even something that has been so successful and proved so popular, is subject to review.

But it is not just the threat from government to withdraw the bus pass from all bus cutsbut the poorest, there is also the threat to bus funding from the imminent spending review. Cuts to bus services will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Older and disabled people have hugely benefited from free bus travel and often rely on public transport to do their shopping, get to their GP and hospital appointments and visit friends. Continue reading

Prepare for the flood

North Wales has become the latest area of the country to suffer severe floods; about 500 homes were hit by floodwaters in St Asaph when the river Elwy burst its banks, breaking through defences and turning streets into rivers. Tragically a 91 year old woman died as a result.

It is three years since Cockermouth experienced devastating floods and two years since Cornwall was hit. Once again this year the South West has been adversely affected by unseasonal rainfall causing rivers to breach natural and man-made defences.

Of course Local Age UKs can help and were able to make a real difference in Cockermouth where flood support workers played their part during the evacuation. For older people, flooding can cause particular difficulties, preventing them from reaching essential services, such as hospitals, GP’s or just the local shops. And the problems do not end when the flood waters recede; many homes remain uninhabitable for months afterwards. Continue reading

Police and Crime Commissioners

In terms of elections, this week’s chance to vote for Police and Crime Commissioners in your local police force area may not be up there with deciding the next leader of the free world, but in their own way the elections are significant.

This will be the first time that voters will have had the opportunity to elect Commissioners, who will be accountable for how crime is tackled in their area. Apart from London, where the Mayor has taken on the powers of a Commissioner, every police force in England and Wales will gain a new elected leader.

Crime is a major cause of concern to older people and fear of crime can increase isolation. But there is also evidence that older victims often experience ill health and reduced wellbeing, particularly if they are subjected to crimes such as distraction burglaries, which often target older people.

Photo: elliott.bledsoe (Creative Commons)

At present, older people’s experiences and views do not adequately inform crime reduction, so if Police and Crime Commissioners are to ensure their community safety and crime reduction services tackle crime affecting older people, they need to take time to find out their views and act on them. Continue reading

Prison is not the preserve of the young

Amid all the discussion following the recent riots in England about how to punish those responsible, there appeared a footnote from government about the need to ensure prisoners released from jail without a job are fast-tracked on to the government’s work programme.

This would seem sensible, certainly in comparison with calls to evict families of convicted rioters from social housing. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke also weighed in by suggesting that locking people up without reducing the risk of them committing new crimes against new victims the minute they get out does not make for intelligent sentencing.

The backdrop of recent disorder and the relatively young age of many involved, means that once again, a national debate about penal reform has failed to acknowledge what many in the prison estate know only too well; that the older prison population is growing.

It is also clear that the increases in numbers are not a one off, but part of a trend as a result of changes in attitudes within society and the criminal justice system, coupled with an ageing population.

However, to date no additional resources have been made available to meet the needs of this particular group of offenders, either within or outside prison. And according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons in a report from 2008, apart from short sections in the Prison Service Orders on disability and women, there remains no national strategy for older prisoners as such, supported by mandatory national and local standards.

While Age UK knows that many of these prisoners have been found guilty of serious crimes, it is important that this is not used as a reason for them to receive sub-standard support. In order to reduce the likelihood of these prisoners reoffending, it is imperative that those services which best aid rehabilitation – health and social care support, housing and pensions advice, education and training – be made available to them, both in prison and following release.

Read about how Age UK is advising commissioners on services that we make available for older prisoners and older ex-offenders.