Rural living – a challenge for many of England’s older people

This blog was contributed by Alice Woudhuysen, Senior Campaigner at Age UK.

It’s a well-known fact that we live in a rapidly ageing society, to the extent that by 2083, about one in three people in the UK will be over 60 (ONS 2009).

Rural image 1This is, of course, a significant advancement and cause for celebration: longer lives represent progress and older people are big contributors to society.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that rural communities are ageing faster than their urban counterparts, with the number of people aged 85+ set to increase by 186 per cent by 2028 in rural areas, compared with just 149 per cent in the UK as a whole (Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion, for Cabinet Office, 2009). This is down to rising life expectancy, the outward migration of younger people to cities and the inward migration of people entering middle age to the countryside. Continue reading “Rural living – a challenge for many of England’s older people”

New guidance re-writes councils’ relationship with the voluntary and community sector

The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles MP has announced new guidance for councils under the banner of “a fair deal for the voluntary and community sector”.

But on whose terms is this deal fairer?

On the one hand the new “best value” guidance boasts greater financial protection for the voluntary and community sector. It warns councils not to pass on disproportionate funding cuts and to give at least three months warning of any reduction.

On the other hand, in a bid to cut red tape, the document skims over the complexity of building lasting relationships with the voluntary and community sector.

They have revoked guidance and plan to repeal statutory duties that were important cornerstones to supporting effective local relationships between councils, residents and other organisations. Continue reading “New guidance re-writes councils’ relationship with the voluntary and community sector”

Buses in the firing line for cuts

It was reported today that research from the Campaign for Better Transport shows 72% of councils are making cuts to bus provision.

London bus stop
Photo via Creative Commons by mellowynk

Councils subsidise bus services in places where they are not commercially viable but are vital to the local community.

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 shopping, get to GP and hospital appointments and visit friends.

But there is no point having a free pass if there are no buses to get on.

Cutting bus routes could lead to people losing their only independent access to transport.  If you live in the countryside you will be doubly disadvantaged because poor bus provision in rural areas already causes isolation.

Only yesterday the government was celebrating significant savings from “cutting waste, and not from cutting services”. This is clearly not always going to be the case.

The government must recognise the many benefits of accessible public transport for older people.

New ways to pool budgets or contract bus services need to be found so that we can ease the impact of cuts to the people who need them the most.

Will we know when we’re a Big Society?

Blancmange. That’s the latest definition I’ve heard for the concept of Big Society. I think the speaker at the Inside Government conference, was trying to explain that it can mean anything and everything. From wholesale public service reform to looking out for your neighbour. Indeed Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said of the Big Society: “If I had a plan, it would be the wrong plan. The big society will look a bit chaotic and disorderly.”

Photo: Peter__Brown (Creative Commons)

Despite its comparison to a wobbly pink pudding, there are some concrete activities going on in the name of Big Society that has the potential to impact all of our lives. There are proposals in the Giving Green Paper to increase philanthropy and get more people giving their time and money. More power is being devolved to local government and communities through the Localism Bill currently going through parliament (more information in our second reading briefing). Radical public service reform is being debated through consultations on modernising commissioning and supporting a stronger civil society. Continue reading “Will we know when we’re a Big Society?”

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”

Future of cities: you’re in control

When we think about the future of our cities we often imagine a dystopian, dysfunctional Bladerunner scene. With this in mind it’s not surprising that many plan for the idyll of escaping to the countryside. But shouldn’t our cities be as relevant and pleasurable to older people, as they are to the young professionals drawn there? This morning at the Future of Cities debate, speakers challenged the audience to be more optimistic: cities can change for the better if they put people in charge.

Echoing the government’s proposals for decentralisation and a Big Society, Doug Saunders (author of Arrival Cities) set out his vision for regenerating cities based on autonomous, self-governing neighbourhoods. Based on his research into immigrant neighbourhoods in cities around the world, he believes that, rather than regulation and grand plans for our cities, the people that live there should be freed to create their own social and economic paths.

Put simply, it’s the people and their networks, rather than big business and big government, that should shape cities. If you want to open a shop in your front room you can, you shouldn’t have to battle the planning and trading regulations to do so. The messages seem to point in the same direction – if you want your community, city even, to change then it’s over to you.

At the moment older people are less likely than younger people to feel they can influence local and national decision-making. But there are already ways you can take control. Our new Change One Thing campaign for instance can help you make your neighbourhood better. Take a look, we’re going to be supporting local groups of people in later life to campaign to make their neighbourhoods better.

But there was still a word of caution. An audience member at the debate reminded us that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell. The question still remains: can we all have what we want?