This is my first post on the Opinion Exchange of 2016! We welcome another year with hope and optimism but will things change? Have things changed?
We are downsizing our office so I have been going through the filing cabinets and archive boxes for the Greater London Forum for Older People – GLF – and was struck by the campaigns undertaken since 2002:
- Heat or eat – any change? Have we made progress to resolve this? No – this is still an issue highlighted each year.
- Fuel poverty – any change? Have we made progress to resolve this? No – 15 years later there are still newspaper articles on the effects of fuel poverty not just on older people but on many communities of all ages.
- Rip-off energy suppliers – any change? Has progress been made to resolve this? No – the only advice given is that people must spend their lives changing suppliers and even that may cost people more than they were paying before.
- Scams – any change? Has progress been made to resolve this issue? No – in some ways it appears to be even worse with our data being sold to who knows who without our permission and the ease of hackers into government, council, medical and other personal information.
- Abuse – have we made progress? No – it appears that the abuse and neglect in hospitals, care homes etc. is getting more frequent and more horrendous but is this because people are speaking out and it always has been at this level or has the level of abuse increased due to the withdrawal of resources? It is difficult to tell whether any progress has been made in this area. One thing that has been changed for the better is that adult safeguarding is now a statutory duty – the same as children and young people.
- Bank ID – any change? No – have we made progress to find an alternative to driving licences and passports only as acceptable ID for banks and other institutions? The short answer to that is ‘no’.
- Housing suitable for older people and what they want with freedom of movement – any change? Have we made progress? No – in fact there is more pressure on older people to downsize to free up family homes, but unfortunately there is not the sort of accommodation available for older people to move to. Why should older people have accommodation that is not in line with their needs or wants? Why can’t it be made easy for people to move across borough boundaries to be near family who can help care for them?
- Loneliness – any change? Have we made progress? No – the only progress we have made is that there has been more publicity in respect to the effects of loneliness – but again it is something that affects all ages and if you have been something of a loner throughout your 20s, 30s or 40s – you are not going to change because you are 65+.
- Closure of day centres, lunch clubs, services for older people – have we made progress? No – in fact, over time things have got much worse with day centres and a variety of services being closed over the years. Services are now a postcode lottery with virtually no choice.
- Access to health services – any change? I’m not sure if there has been enough to be positive – yes some screening such as breast screening has increased its age range but, on the other hand, older people are being blamed for the many ills of the health service and certainly do not have access to some treatments and many surgical procedures, such as hip replacements, are the first to go towards the end of the financial year meaning that people have to wait many months – even a year and in considerable pain – before receiving their operation.
- Freedom Pass – remember when Joan Bakewell said few older people really needed it? Is it any safer than it was 10 years ago? One thing that is good is that means testing is very expensive so that DWP and Councils are not keen to waste resources on this.
- Lighting and seating at bus stops – in places there has been some improvement but outer boroughs seem to still not have the same services available as in central London, nor the frequency of services.
- Cycling on pavements – has progress been made? Will Boris’ cycle legacy improve matters? Early days but certainly the new road space outside our office is not being used by cyclists as it is easier for them to use the pavement.
- Malnutrition in Hospitals – any changes? Yes, there was the introduction of the Red Tray System which has helped in some hospitals but due to lack of staffing and volunteer supervision it is not always available in all hospitals.
- Toilets – well yes there has been some progress as many boroughs implemented the Richmond Scheme or something similar but it is noticeable that in many places outlets previously enrolled into the schemes have now withdrawn sometimes due to abuse of the premises. There is of course a cost to the local council at a time of tightening budgets.
- Devolution – how many different names has this been called over the last 10 years or more and now a so called new concept with pilots in respect to some health and care services. Many historical problems remain – i.e. health, council, transport all have different boundaries and funding often stipulates that services cannot be provided for people who cross the invisible boundary line. Have you heard that funding practices are going to be changed? Historically everyone has jealously guarded their boundary. Will this change?
These are just some of the issues that come to mind and I am sure that there are many more, so why are we still talking about the same issues? Most of them are not restricted to older people but to many within the different communities. Do you feel we have made real progress – if so what differences do you think has been made over the last 10-15 years?
What or how do you see that we can make a real difference in 2016 so that in January 2017 I can say, ‘We did this!’ or ‘We changed that!’?
Happy New Year to you all and every success in all your endeavours – let us know what you are doing.