Flexibility versus protection – the new social care outcomes framework

Last Tuesday the nation might be forgiven for thinking that the news of the day was the royal marriage announcement.  Only the sharp-eyed will have caught the news about the Department of Health’s ‘vision for social care’ and outcomes framework.

The Department of Health steers the tricky course between the nightmare icebergs: over-regulation leading to a stunted, over-bureaucratic, box-ticking system where the service user is a long way down the list of priorities; or under-regulation where the service user is left to arrange care with no confidence about the services available, relying on their personal tenacity and energy of family and friends to check that services are going OK.  Continue reading “Flexibility versus protection – the new social care outcomes framework”

Cold comfort

It’s going to be a cold winter. Or at least that’s what I’ve read in the papers – based on varying predictions to do with cold wind from Siberia or lots of berries on holly trees. Or maybe just memories of last winter.

Age UK campaigners outside Parliament for Spread the Warmth day of action

Whether those dire predictions come true or not, I’m going to make another which will sadly almost certainly come true: tens of thousands of older people will die this winter. Those deaths aren’t inevitable. But they’re probably going to happen anyway unless we do something about it.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics released this morning showed 23,100 excess winter deaths of people aged 65 and over occurred in England and Wales last winter.  This rather clinical phrase refers to the number of extra deaths over the four winter months (December to March) minus the average of non-winter deaths (from April to July of this year and August to November of last year). The figure averages about 30,000 deaths every winter. Continue reading “Cold comfort”

Big Cuts, Big Society, Big Changes

Age UK and 71 local partner organisations met this week in the Royal Mint near the Tower of London.  It was an apt location given that we met to discuss, among other things, the impact of the spending cuts. Public spending, the Big Society and health and social care reform are some of the many challenges and opportunities third-sector organisations like Age UK face.

Who would have predicted two years ago that we would have a coalition government, £81 billion cuts package, the most radical reform of the NHS since its inception and far-reaching reforms to the welfare system?  I certainly don’t remember any of the popular pundits painting this picture of the future. The ‘shock and awe’ tactics of the coalition government has provoked two challenges – what does the change mean for us and how do we seize the opportunities that it presents?  Continue reading “Big Cuts, Big Society, Big Changes”

‘P’s in our time – a vision for social care

There are 7 of them, and they all begin with P. They are the Government’s principles for social care, as presented in the new ‘Vision for Adult Social Care; Capable Communities  and Active Citizens’. The 7 principles are; prevention, personalisation, plurality, partnership, providing protection, productivity and people.

The vision is accompanied by an outcomes framework and by a number of supporting papers. These are ‘Practical Approaches’ to building stronger communities, market and provider development, co-production, and safeguarding and personalisation, one called ‘Personal Budgets, checking the results, and one which doers not begin with P, called , ‘Enabling risk, ensuring safety – self directed support and personal budgets’.  Together they represent a continuing roll out of existing policies on personalisation, rather than a revolutionary new direction.  Continue reading “‘P’s in our time – a vision for social care”

Phasing out the Default Retirement Age

After many years of campaigning by Age UK and our predecessor organisations, the Government announced in July that it would be phasing out the Default Retirement Age (DRA) in 2011. This is great news for people approaching State Pension Age, as the choice of when they retire is effectively being handed back to them, with their employer no longer able to tell them to leave simply because of their age.

The Coalition Government made it clear that they would end this unfair practice, with a commitment to ‘phase out the DRA’ appearing in the Coalition Agreement. This was good news indeed, but nonetheless as the DRA is abolished there will undoubtedly be other issues that arise. The Government ran a consultation over the summer on how to achieve this aim, which raised some issues that will need to be faced by both businesses and employees. They did, however, offer a fairly firm timescale, with an end to retirement notices being issued after April 2011, and therefore no forced retirement at all from October.  Continue reading “Phasing out the Default Retirement Age”

No less Atlases

Along with thousands of people, I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard on the train the other day (9 November). But unlike those thousands, as I read it I recalled a lecturer of mine who used to say, mantra-like, that half-baked evidence is no evidence at all.

What prompted the memories from my cherished years as a university student was an article by Russell Lynch on the so-called ‘Atlas generation’ – i.e. people in their 20s and 30s. Lynch claimed they would be ‘sagging’ under the burden of the concessions for older people announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review (eye tests, concessionary fares, TV licences, and winter fuel payments spared from the cull plus the linkage of pensions to average earnings, and so on).  Continue reading “No less Atlases”

Repeating history: Floods hit Cornwall

Cockermouth floods, 20 November 2009
Cockermouth floods - 20 Nov 2009. Photo: TheNeoplanMan via Flickr

Almost a year to the day after floods devastated Cockermouth, today we see Cornwall facing a similar fate. News reports are showing all-too-familiar scenes of people trapped in their homes and closures to roads and rail cutting off access to Cornwall, because of heavy rains and gale-force winds.

Whatever your age, flooding significantly affects people’s lives. Older people are likely to face particular difficulties during and after floods. For example, floods can prevent people getting access to medicine, care and support which they are reliant on. Continue reading “Repeating history: Floods hit Cornwall”