Agenda for Later Life report – 12 challenges

This coming Tuesday Age UK launches our annual policy report, Agenda for Later Life 2011. The full report runs to 80 pages, but over the coming week or so, we’ll be highlighting some of the key points in a series of blog posts. The report opens with a digest of 2010 and a look forward to 2011, which will be mirrored at the Agenda for Later Life conference in the presentation of Tom Wright, Age UK’s chief executive.

We begin by celebrating the good news on public policy in 2010, thanks to the endeavours of both the incoming and outgoing administrations: sweeping age discrimination legislation, the indexation of pensions to earnings, the end of forced retirement; and cross-party commitment to radical reform of care and support. But we also predict that the prospects look much more bleak for 2011. The Spending Review announced spending cuts on an unprecedented scale. Now we have the early announcements on local cuts, we can see that vulnerable older people could suffer badly. The reality is that the genuine efforts the Government made to protect people in later life – by ring-fencing NHS spending, preserving universal benefits, and limiting the scale of social care cuts – just will not be enough to prevent hardship, especially as economic growth appears to be uncertain.

Taking a longer view, Age UK believes the scale of our national response to ageing still feels inadequate, for all the important political commitments of the last few years. There is no sustained, co-ordinated effort to address the scandal of persistent poverty that is designed into our pension system; to tackle hidden isolation and loneliness in our communities; to challenge disrespect and discrimination that erodes opportunity; or to re-focus an NHS that still does not see later life as its ‘core business’.

Age UK has long argued that the nation needs sustained joined-up leadership to help prepare for our ageing society. Despite all the recent commitments, no one is joining the dots or thinking long term. In 2011 we will work to put pressure on politicians on all sides to see this change. We hope that root and branch reviews of care funding and the state pension could open the the way to a wider cross-government programme on ageing. The alternative – in the context of spending cuts, localism and the log-jam of implementation – would be retreat from strategic planning for our ageing nation, with each new challenge written off as ‘too difficult’. Continue reading “Agenda for Later Life report – 12 challenges”