Party conferences 2013

This blog was contributed by Angela Kitching and Hannah Pearce, joint Head of Public Affairs, at Age UK. 

It’s hard to believe that it’s September already and that in a couple of weeks’ time the party conference season will be upon us again. After an unusually sunny summer and a rather sombre silly season political discussion will soon restart at Westminster and then around the country in Glasgow (Lib Dems), Brighton (Labour) and Manchester (Conservatives).

The party conferences always provide a useful opportunity for formal and informal discussions with politicians, party members, businesses, unions and other charities to discuss both their priorities and ours for the legislative session ahead. This year the looming presence of the general election will be felt, still 18 months away and a long way off in political terms but not such a long time for policy development and decisions on spending priorities. Age UK constantly engages with the political parties to highlight the needs and experiences of older people but the party conferences remain a particularly useful occasion. Continue reading “Party conferences 2013”

Party conferences 2012

As this year’s conference season commences, we’re clear about what the Government should be focussing on for older people: A firm commitment to Dilnot and social care reform, and the publication of a white paper and bill to introduce a flat-rate single tier pension.

Care is in crisis with many of those who need help and support in later life being badly let down by a faltering system, while others find themselves having to sell their homes in order to pay for the support they need. Of the 2 million older

Age UK’s party conference stand

people in England with care-related needs nearly 800,000 receive no support of any kind from public or private sector agencies.  At the same time, the legal framework of the social care system is not fit for purpose. There is a range of legislation, case law and guidance leading to a legal maze that fails to give people the support and clarity they need at what is often the most vulnerable times in their lives.

Age UK has therefore very much welcomed the Government’s White Paper and draft Care and Support Bill which were published in July. Together, we believe they have the potential to significantly improve the quality of care available and help create a care system that is fairer and more straightforward for older people and their families. Continue reading “Party conferences 2012”

The Party Conferences and Public Service Reform

The headline stories from the Party Conferences were about the economy, and the orchestration by the organisers and managers to present their parties in themost favourable light.   Party members were a bit thin on the ground, but lobbyists were there in abundance.   Yet around the fringe meetings, the theme of public service reform was vigorously discussed.

Public service reform is one area to which all the parties subscribe with varying degrees of warmth.   The common ground is that we cannot provide services in the top-down way as in the past:  they must be more user-responsive and ‘personalised’, and we have to re-configure them to get more outcomes for less money.  

How we do this is more difficult.   Localism, enshrined in the Coalition Agreement, passes more responsibility to local government and local representatives, with a diminished role for the centre to set national targets and eligibility criteria, but local councillors attending the conferences were in two minds about having this task thrust upon them.   They will need to rethink their role:  are they the voice of the Council delivering the services, or are they the voice of the neighbourhood, demanding that the Council needs to change the way it provides services (ie place-shapers, seeking new powers for community groups and other service-providers in their patch)?  

Nowhere was this more hotly debated than in the area of social care provision, a big ticket spending item for local government, and one where there is a policy vacuum as the Government tries to draw a new map which triangulates national entitlements, local flexibility in service responses, and encouraging new service providers to enter the market.

That last was also discussed on the fringe.   How do we enable more mutuals and social enterprises, and support more local volunteering, to add to our public service offering?   At all the conferences there was willingness to engage with this issue, but a raft of difficulties and barriers was identified.  

We are spreading the word about models of good practice very poorly.   There are few immediate places where would-be providers can access good information about extant working models.   There is little resource for the consumer who is encouraged to take control of their personalised budget to find ideas and inspiration.   Whilst at all the Party Conferences there was willingness to address public services reform, there was a shared frustration with how to do so.

Find out more about our party conference activity