Does your councillor deserve an award?

Sue Cooley
Sue Cooley from Manchester City Council, who won the Age UK Councillor Award in 2012

Do you know who your councillor is? Councillors are elected by all of us and can have a big impact on our community, but do we appreciate and acknowledge what they do?

Councillors really can have a huge impact on our communities. They are key players when coordinating people from the public, private, and voluntary sectors and they can provide a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard.

In recognition of this important role, Age UK is working with the Local Government and Information Unit (LGiU) to sponsor the Age UK Councillor Award as part of the 2013 C’llr Achievement Awards.

The Age UK award will be given to a councillor who has made a significant contribution to improving services or neighbourhoods in the area they represent, so as to benefit older people. It could be campaigning for better lighting, arranging more seating or increasing the number of public toilets.
Continue reading “Does your councillor deserve an award?”

Disarray in fuel poverty policy

In their consideration of the Energy Select Committee report on Energy Prices, Profits and Fuel Poverty (published 29 July), the media focused on the opacity of the energy companies’ accounts, the lack of transparency, and the apparent weakness of the Regulator, Ofgem, in looking after consumers’ interests.

Elderly woman trying to keep warm by the firesideBut the media failed to comment on the trenchant observations made by the Committee on fuel poverty. Here, the Government came in for a lot of flak. The Committee found it disappointing that so much of Government fuel poverty policy centres on short term help with bills when improving the thermal efficiency of the UK housing stock should be the priority. It commented on the hiatus in fuel poverty policy whilst thrashing out a new definition and a new approach, and observed that policy has effectively been frozen at a time when energy price rises have made energy costs increasingly unaffordable for vulnerable and low income households. Continue reading “Disarray in fuel poverty policy”

Making it easier to manage direct payments

This blog was contributed by Barbara Limon, Policy Programme Manager – Consumer and Community. 

Increasingly older people who are in receipt of funded social care are choosing to take this funding as direct payments, meaning they control the funds themselves.  Whilst there are advantages of being in control in this way we’ve found that the process of managing the cash could be made easier for older people.

direct paymentsIn our report ‘Direct payments for social care – options for managing the cash we look at what some the issues are and have identified potential solutions.  The report covers both the ‘traditional’ method of managing direct payments, via bank accounts, and at newer methods using prepaid cards.

Most of the problems we found are not new – they are simply the day to day difficulties which many older people experience in managing their money and paying for things.  Solving the problems highlighted in the report would also solve many of the on-going difficulties older people have in relation to financial services. For example, Chip and PIN card technology has generally been considered a success, but the need to remember and type in a PIN can act as a barrier to independent use of payments. Continue reading “Making it easier to manage direct payments”

Spending Review 2013

Older people featured rather significantly in the public spending review to 2015/16. The Chancellor talked quite forcefully about the need to address the problems in social care, and in his consideration of welfare spending, he firmly identified state pensions as remaining outside his proposed new ‘cap’.

440x210_george-osborneThe landscape for the next Government is coming into view, but what does it mean for older people beyond the rhetoric? By 2016, of course, we should be implementing the legislation currently being debated in Parliament and have in place a new single tier state pension and a new social care regime – funded in part by the ideas proposed by Andrew Dilnot. The spending plans suggest that more money will be diverted from NHS budgets into programmes jointly commissioned with social care.   If this means more integrated care and a more ‘whole person’ approach, it will be welcome. But before we get there, local government will have taken another severe cut in its budget, and there is speculation that social care support may be prioritised only for those with critical needs. This means we will remain far away from the ambition to provide the appropriate care which promotes independence and prevents people from becoming substantially or critically in need of care. Continue reading “Spending Review 2013”

Guest blog – Strengthening the Care Bill

This blog was contributed by Baroness Sally Greengross, a crossbench member of the House of Lords. Baroness Greengross is seeking to amend the Care Bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Lords, on the issue of delayed discharge.

The Care Bill that is currently being debated in the House of Lords is a vital part of the changes that are necessary to reform social care in England, by clarifying and bringing up-to-date the legal framework of the care system. A key area that the Bill must address is the delay that those needing social care experience, while waiting for a package of support to be put in place to enable them to leave hospital.

Baroness Greengross
Baroness Greengross

Facing a stay on a hospital ward can be difficult for anyone but for an older person being admitted following a crisis, such as broken hip from a fall at home, it can be particularly upsetting and disruptive.

Recent statistics show that people who experience a delay in accessing social care, go on to wait much longer for a package of support to be put in place compared to when the Government came to power. Someone will now wait an average of 27 days in hospital before a social care package is put together to allow them to go home – 12.8 per cent longer. For those accessing residential care the average wait is 30.3 days. Continue reading “Guest blog – Strengthening the Care Bill”

Who would care for my Mum? Or for yours?

Imagine that one day your Mum is at home enjoying her retirement. She has always been highly independent, fit and well. Until the day she has a stroke.

After a short stay in hospital she comes home. But life is different now. It’s much harder for her to do everyday things. She struggles getting in and out of the bath and even using the shower is a challenge. There are times when reaching the toilet is too much. You have to face the fact that she cannot manage on her own any more.

-2934You do the most sensible thing. You get in touch with Mum’s local social services. You explain the difficulties she is now having. They assess her needs. You hope this leads to some carers coming in to give Mum a hand with those things she is finding too much, like getting to the toilet, washing and preparing simple meals.

Continue reading “Who would care for my Mum? Or for yours?”

Who can I turn to? Information and advice services for older people

This blog was contributed by Lucy Harmer, Age UK’s Head of Services.

Many older people experience a complex interaction between living on a relatively low fixed income, declining health and mobility, and risk of social isolation. They need holistic, independent information and advice (I&A) from advisers with experience and knowledge of their specific issues. Good-quality I&A is essential to enable people to access entitlements and services in order to maintain a decent quality of life and to continue to live independently. Timely interventions can prevent increased pressure on health and social care services. This is especially important when people in later life and the services they rely on are experiencing unprecedented change and challenges. Unfortunately, many older people struggle to find the support that they need as they navigate a complex system, often against a background of cuts to provision or changes in eligibility.

Government policy increasingly focuses on extending choice in public services,440x210_man-woman-reading increasing independence and giving people more personal responsibility. If older people are to benefit from these developments, the government must ensure that they have access to the I&A they need to make informed decisions. Failure to access I&A when it is needed can increase the risk of long-term or multiple problems. Continue reading “Who can I turn to? Information and advice services for older people”