Reflections on the last decade
As a national older people’s organisation, we deliver information, advice and social support, and campaign on social care, support and benefits. We are also a founder member of the Campaign to End Loneliness. One of the most important recent developments has been the Care Act 2014, which we lobbied for as part of the Care and Support Alliance. It really is a landmark piece of legislation – providing a coherent framework for social care delivery, enshrining important principles of prevention and person-centred care and vital new rights for carers. It clearly states the right to information, advice and care assessments for all.
Sadly, some of its promise has been undermined by severe public spending pressures and the delay to the care cap. Imperfect as it was, the cap promised to bring more self-funders into contact with councils, giving them access to information, advice and care assessments. It could have started to allow a fairer deal when it comes to paying for care. We advise huge numbers of people struggling to navigate the system with very little idea of their rights, often having to make big decisions at moments of crisis or struggling with poor quality services.
Projections for the next decade
There is likely to be a continuing squeeze on local funding for preventive services, and those receiving local authority funded care. I am very anxious about local preventive services closing and less access to reliable, consistent and good quality home care. This will inevitably put pressures back onto the NHS and pressures downstream on residential care. We really do need a longer-term view of the funding and delivery of integrated health and care. In the meantime, there will be demand for more innovation, more collaboration and new ways to engage with individuals, families and communities. We are passionate that we don’t lose sight of older people’s contributions to new solutions and their needs, in terms of joined-up, quality support to lead independent lives.
I am pleased that Independent Age is really starting to extend its reach and impact, and helps increasing numbers of older people and their families with quality advice and information, befriending and campaigning. This year, we hope to be piloting and testing some new models of social support with older people to see how we can develop our services in future. We have been greatly helped in this task by tapping into the research and development knowledge of the Campaign to End Loneliness, of which we are a founder.
I am also very lucky to be an independent Director of Reconnections Ltd, a new social finance initiative to tackle loneliness. It has given me huge insight into the start-up of a new service and engaging the capacity of older people themselves and their community. My work as Chair of the Baring Foundation also gives me real insight into creative approaches to quality of life in older age – through our arts and older people programme.
I have always wanted to work in areas that helped improve society. With a background in policy and research, I believe that how we respond to an ageing population is one of the biggest political and social challenges that we face as a society. However, most important to me is working with older people and learning from their individual and diverse experiences.
Lessons and advice
The lessons I’ve learnt have to also be the advice I’d give to others. Be passionate and be yourself. In the workplace, share other people’s problems and help find solutions (it’s not someone else’s job). As an organisation, collaborate – most problems are too big for one organisation to solve. Listen and learn from older people and ensure that drives everything that you do. Be creative and take initiative. Enable others to flourish and revel in their successes. Play a straight bat, not politics – be an open, honest, trustworthy colleague and good to work with.
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