Meeting our Age Champion MPs

Age UK campaigner Joan Manning receives a bunch of flowers from the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Today’s blog is about Age UK’s recent parliamentary reception to celebrate the commitment of our Age Champion MPs. Pictured is Age UK campaigner Joan, receiving flowers from the Speaker of the House of Commons in thanks for her speech.

On Monday 6th July, Age UK were delighted to host a Reception in the Speaker’s House with a number of our dedicated older campaigners and Parliamentarians. The event was an opportunity for MPs to speak with older people and representatives from Age UK about the issues affecting people in later life, and what the government and communities can do today and tomorrow to make the UK and their constituencies a better place to grow older.

Age UK campaigner Joan Manning gave a moving speech about her personal experience caring for her husband. She explained:

‘I have been lucky. My husband Geoffrey was a very gracious and accommodating patient. He was not aggressive. He was funny and made jokes until the day he died. I was lucky: He did not die of Alzheimer’s.  He was ‘saved’ by his cancer. Geoffrey was eventually assessed as being unwell enough to qualify for care. Unable to get out of bed, stand or communicate, with diffuse cancer and in the depths of dementia.  This was 3 days before he died. Yes – I was lucky.’

 

Age Champions

The reception was also an opportunity for us to talk about what it means to be an ‘Age Champion’; a pledge that over 80 MPs signed up to during our General Election campaign. By signing up to be an Age Champion, MPs will work with Age UK on issues being faced by many people in later life including:

– The need to end the crisis in social care, with over 1 million older people who have difficulty with basic tasks such as getting out of bed, washing, and dressing receive no help or support.

– The urgent need for better housing and warm homes in winter. In 2012 there were over 600,000 older households living in fuel poverty.

– Loneliness and isolation, with around 1 million older people regularly going an entire month without speaking to anyone

The event was a huge success and a fantastic opportunity for us and our campaigners to meet our Age Champions and discuss our ambitions for later life.

For more information about our work with parliamentarians head to our Politics and Government website pages. You can also follow our public affairs and campaigning work, and see photos from the reception, on Twitter: @ageukcampaigns.

Do you know an amazing older campaigner?

If you know an older campaigner, why not nominate them for the Sheila McKechnie Take Action Award. This award is one of a series which recognises campaigners across the country.

The Take Action award, sponsored by Age UK is for campaigners aged 60 and over who campaign on issues important to them. Whether you want a better bus service or more playground facilities for your grandchildren, you can enter the competition.

The winner will receive a tailored package of support to help them campaign more effectively. They will also be invited to attend a special presentation ceremony.

Stephanie Warren, winner of the Shelia McKechnie Take Action Award 2012.
Stephanie Warren, winner of the Shelia McKechnie Take Action Award 2012.

Last year Stephanie Warren won the award for her campaign to save the cheque guarantee card. Stephanie said: “The problems surrounding not having a cheque guarantee card first came to my attention when we were told that cheques themselves might be taken away. I, like many others, was astonished to think the banks would stop accepting the cheque when it’s used by people from every walk of life.” Continue reading “Do you know an amazing older campaigner?”

The Take Action award: for people who stand up and speak up

At the Care and Support Alliance mass lobby of parliament a couple of months ago, I spent some time briefing Age UK campaigners before they went in to see their MPs. It was lovely to meet so many people who had taken the time and trouble to come to Westminster to make their voices heard.

Some of those I spoke to had done this kind of thing before and were feeling quite confident at getting their points across. For others, it was a new experience. I remember one woman in particular who was very apprehensive at the thought of meeting her high-profile MP. ‘I have to tell you I am really out of my comfort zone on this,’ she said, ‘But I just thought if I didn’t come down to London to tell my MP how important care is, who would?’

I really admired her courage in standing up and speaking out – which is what campaigning is all about. The really good news is when I spoke to her again after she had met her MP, she was a different person, full of confidence. ‘Yes, he really did listen to me,’ she said.

Age UK’s campaigns rely on people like her, who are prepared to take their courage in both hands and stand up and be counted. And we want to celebrate and encourage all campaigners in later life, whatever issue they are campaigning on.

That is why Age UK is supporting the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) in sponsoring the Take Action award for older campaigners again this year.

SMK was set up in memory of the legendary campaigner Sheila McKechnie, and is the only UK registered charity dedicated to connecting, informing and supporting campaigners. The Campaigner Awards are for people who want to make a difference and want some support in getting results.

Last year’s winner of the Take Action award was Kathleen Carter, an inspiring and determined campaigner from Stockton-on-Tees, who has challenged ‘payday loan’ companies who charge massive interest rates for short term loans.

You can read more about Kathleen’s experience here.

In the meantime, if you know of any campaigners who are aged 60+ and deserve recognition and the support that SMK can offer, please nominate them for this year’s Take Action award.