Cold homes, fuel poverty and healthy lives

It may be measured in baby steps, but at last the Department of Health (DH) is acknowledging the importance of cold homes, and living in fuel poverty, to the health debate.

Age UK’s lobbying and campaigning on fuel poverty issues is strongly grounded on the health implications – the ill-health arising from not keeping adequately warm, measured both in terms of human suffering and costs to the NHS – so this engagement by the DH is a significant advance.  Two short reports from Age UK have looked at recent public health initiatives to assess their impact.

aOne is concerned with the Warm Homes Healthy People programme.  This was announced as a ‘one-off’ in 2011, then repeated in 2012.

It was a £20m prize pot to which local authorities were invited to bid, provided their proposals were to address ‘winter pressures’, and provided they were doing so in partnership with the local voluntary and community groups.

It stimulated a remarkable range of varied activities, from clearing snow and going shopping in adverse weather, to providing hot meals and issuing ‘winter survival packs’, to checking electric blankets and checking benefit entitlements.

It drove a wave of local, community activity, and local Age UK partners were substantially involved. This report looks at their experience of the project, and it is overwhelmingly supportive. Continue reading “Cold homes, fuel poverty and healthy lives”

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 “The impact of bus cuts on older people in rural areas”

Queen announces landmark legislation for older people

We have repeatedly called for improvements to the pensions system and for urgent changes to the shambles that passes for our system of social care and today in the Queen’s Speech two of our proverbial buses arrived at once. The speech contained two pieces of landmark legislation: A Bill to simplify the legislative framework and funding of social care, and a Bill introducing a flat rate State Pension. Both these measures are very much welcomed by Age UK.

440x210_queens_speech_2012_copyright_uk_parliament_flickr_May2012Improving the care and support system in England is long overdue. The complexity of the legal framework, the raft of regulations to plug gaps and the confusion many people experience when trying to navigate the existing care system tells us that care and support need reform. The Care Bill is a vital part of the changes that are necessary. However the current and future funding of adult social care is likely to be the elephant in the room throughout the progress of this Bill. Social care funding has declined by £710 million in real terms since the Government came to power in 2010. This is at the same time as the population of over 85, who are most likely to need social care, continues to rise. Budgets are falling while demand is rising. Continue reading “Queen announces landmark legislation for older people”

Meeting the challenges of an ageing population

Each year, Age UK stands back and takes an overview of how society is meeting the needs of people in later life and sets out our agenda for public policy in the year ahead. In our Agenda for Later Life 2013 report we track changes in a range of key areas including money matters, work and learning and health and social care.

A couple smile at each other in the garden.

Public attitudes, policies and the economy all impact on people’s experiences of ageing.  This year, as the economy bumps along the bottom, it would be all too easy to concentrate on the challenges we face. However, we strongly believe in the need to focus on the opportunities as well.

The publication of a White Paper setting out plans for a new single tier State Pension brings hope of better provision in future for those with low incomes and interrupted working lives. Continue reading “Meeting the challenges of an ageing population”

Ready for ageing?

Reablement photo by Philippe Leroyer

All too often, our ageing population is represented as an unmitigated disaster for the nation and the words ‘ticking timebomb’ appear with monotonous regularity.

A new report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change offers a refreshing change of perspective. It recognises that ‘longer lives represent progress, and the changes do not mean a great economic or general fiscal crisis’. But it also sets out a number of challenges facing us – and some thoughtful solutions for change.

The Committee, chaired by Lord Filkin, called the nation ‘woefully unprepared’ for the changes ahead and recommended a number of actions for all of us. The Government is challenged to set out its vision for public services in an ageing society in a White Paper.

In particular, the report rightly recognises the increased strain on health and social care and calls for greater integration and much more focus on prevention, early diagnosis and managing long-term conditions, with patients fully engaged in decision-making. Age UK agrees. Continue reading “Ready for ageing?”

Government responds to the Francis Inquiry

The first inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust  catalogued extensive examples of neglectful care and appalling patient experiences. Stories of people being ignored, dehydrated, abused were visible signs of an organisation that had forgotten basic principles of care and at worst, wilfully put organisational considerations ahead of patients. Many, if not most, of the patients involved were older people.

The second inquiry reported in February and included 290 recommendations
that could help to avoid the same situation arising again, not just in Staffordshire, but throughout the NHS. You can see what we said about it in our blog. 440x210_care_home

The government yesterday gave its response to the report in a paper titled Patients first and foremost, and there’s much to be positive about in what it says.

The paper outlines changes to how services are regulated, reflecting an on-going review by the health and care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It describes much wider use of expert inspectors in hospitals including members of the public that bring expertise derived from their experience of care. Continue reading “Government responds to the Francis Inquiry”