Celebrating volunteering

Last week I attended the Queen’s Volunteering Award Event with Age UK volunteer, John McArthur, to celebrate the huge contribution that our 70,000 volunteers add to our work across the Age UK network. We know that like many voluntary and charity organisations, a significant proportion of the support we provide would simply not be available without these individuals. In the current climate, their support is even more vital.

440x210_woman_and_carer_laughingWe’re experiencing unprecedented cuts. NCVO estimates the voluntary sector is set to lose £3bn over the next five years with cuts to volunteering the most commonly reported theme by organisation. The belief that volunteering is free and will ‘fill the gap’ makes the situation even harder.

For those of us in the ageing sector, the challenge comes at a time when we need action more than ever before, with the number of people aged 65 and over expected to rise by 65% in the next 25 years, and the number of over 85s predicted to double. Ensuring we are able to enjoy the opportunities this presents will mean tackling significant challenges: providing decent and sustainable income in retirement, addressing inequalities in ageing, delivering dignity for older people, reforming social care and tackling isolation and loneliness. This means we need to ask ourselves not just how to strengthen volunteering in this difficult environment, but also how it can be used to help us meet the challenges of an ageing population. Continue reading “Celebrating volunteering”

EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?

This blog was contributed by Nicola Robinson, Age UK’s European Political Adviser.

2012 wasn’t just the year of the London Olympics, and the Queen’s Jubilee, it was also the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012).

Like London 2012 – recognised as happy and glorious, EY2012 leaves us with much to celebrate.

The Opening Ceremony took place in Copenhagen – a pretty good place to grow old, with impressive participation rates in employment, volunteering and all sorts of fun.EY2012

Commissioner Andor fired the starting pistol and Eurocrats were off to a flyer, producing a bumper crop of pan-European reports, including a Statistical Portrait, 2012 Ageing Report, and Eurobarometer Survey.

There are now 182m Europeans aged 50+, living longer, more active lives than ever before.

To celebrate, Age UK hosted a World Café, organized by older people, inviting 100 Europeans aged 50+ to help change perceptions of ageing.  We also celebrated the huge contribution of older people at our Volunteering Awards, supported by the European Commission and Parliament.  And we celebrated physical activity in later life, through our Fit as a Fiddle programme, which won EU and WHO plaudits. Continue reading “EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?”

Social care expenditure in the context of informal caring

The funding of the social care system is very much up in the policy and political agenda, but it is seldom related to or put into the context of informal, voluntary caring. Let’s have a look at some numbers.

Public spending on social care services on people aged 65 and over, net of any fees and charges paid by clients, amounted to roughly £7.5 billion in 2010. This includes the assessment and care management, the placements in nursing and residential care homes, the provision of supported accommodation, home care and day care services, equipment and adaptations, community meals and other community services, as well as any direct payments.

We looked into the Survey of Carers in Households in England 2009/10, which reports the prevalence of informal caring –that is, excluding people providing care in a professional capacity. In this survey, carers are defined as those people who identify themselves as having extra responsibilities of looking after someone who has a long-term physical or mental ill health or disability, or problem related to old age.

The survey shows that around 8 per cent of people aged 65-69 provide informal care for at least 20 hours a week (the preferred measure for statistical reasons), and this figure goes up to 15 per cent among those aged 75 or over. Incidentally, only 3 per cent of informal carers look after someone due to old age.

Using the population estimates from the ONS, we estimated that around 1 million people aged 65 and over are providing care for at least 20 hours a week -equivalent to 11% of all people in this age group.

If we adopted the most conservative figure of only 20 hours a week (and remember that the survey measures ‘at least 20 hours’), we would estimate that in a whole year, people aged 65 and over provide around 1.04 billion hours of informal, voluntary care.

When economists are pressed to translate voluntary care in monetary terms, we tend to use the minimum wage, which currently stands at £6.08 an hour. Multiplying the minimum wage by the number of hours of informal caring annually provided by the 65 plus, we get a grand total of £6.3 billion. That is, £6.3 bn worth of services foregone by older people. Over six billion pounds that are not computed in the gross domestic product, and that tend to go unnoticed in the current discussions about the care system.

More to the point, it is equivalent to 84 per cent of total net expenditure on social care on older people. In other words, the 65 plus are generating for free services equivalent to 84 per cent of all the public spending on social care on this very age group. 84 per cent! And that’s a very conservative estimate…

Age UK are calling on the Government to reform the adult social care system. Find out more about Age UK’s Care in Crisis campaign and how to sign up to our petition.

Plenty to give

Adrian Chiles volunteering with Age UK volunteer Faiza Kanwal and Alice Willetts
Adrian Chiles volunteering with Age UK volunteer Faiza Kanwal and Alice Willetts

Later life is a time when many people wish to volunteer and make an active contribution to civic and community life. If you tuned into ITV’s Daybreak breakfast show today you would have seen Adrian Chiles promoting the wide range of volunteering opportunities that Age UK offers.

Indeed, Age UK and our partners already work with more than 10,000 older volunteers. But there’s plenty more we can all be doing, which is why we need the government to step in with their Giving White Paper.

Across the UK only a minority of people participate and only 20% of people aged over 75 participate in formal volunteering at least once a month. Many more older people have something to offer, and something to gain from being more active in the community. There needs to be more support for older people to get involved, as well as support for those who currently volunteer.

The older population is also more diverse than ever before and will become more so. With this in mind, approaches to increasing giving need to be developed with older people themselves, to design new ideas that fit with their expectations and lifestyles.

Here are some of the challenges we made to the government to support more people giving:

  • Removing myths and burdens: There are myths and burdens to volunteering that need to be removed. For instance, some voluntary organisations believe people over 75 cannot participate because they would not be adequately insured, when in fact more flexible insurance is available.
  • Volunteer management is not cost free: Public bodies must ensure volunteer management costs within funded programmes are properly costed for the level of volunteering being delivered. While volunteering is freely given, it is not cost free.
  • Training and community development: There needs to be ongoing investment in the voluntary and community sector to give them the ability to involve volunteers effectively and in greater numbers. Effective volunteering requires well-managed volunteering. This is particularly important for more complex roles, such as in health and social care.
  • Digital inclusion: Social media offers exciting new ways for people to give time and money. However, in the UK 60% of people over the age of 65 have never used the internet. While progress needs to continue on digital inclusion, in the meantime alternative communication methods should always be provided and information must be accessible to all.

The government has recognised the potential to boost volunteering and philanthropy by connecting with and empowering older people. We need to make sure that there is a plan in place to make it happen.

We would like to hear your giving stories. If you volunteer already, what motivates you? Would you like to do more or are you struggling to see how you can get involved? Let us know.

A growing asset

Too often the debate about ageing focuses on costs and burdens. So it was refreshing to see WRVS research showing that in 2010 over 65s made a net contribution of £40 billion to the UK economy. Through taxes, spending power, provision of social care and the value of their volunteering, older people are an asset, and one that is set to grow.

The findings suggest that as the ageing population grows so does their annual contribution to public life and therefore the UK economy:

  • Taxes paid by older people amount to around £45 billion, to grow to around £82 billion by 2030, growth of 82%
  • Spending power of over 65s is currently £76 billion, to grow to £127 billion by 2030, growth of 68% (nb: see p17 for clarification of figures)
  • Provision of social care by older people is £34 billion, growing to £52 billion by 2030
  • Hidden value of older people’s volunteering reaches £10 billion per annum
  • Annual contribution of £10 billion through charity and family donations Continue reading “A growing asset”