Headlines: January 27th, 2006

Eight local authorities are to trial a system of one-stop shops for older people, based on the model of Sure Start family services as part of a 10-million pound Government programme to deliver key services to disadvantaged people aged over 50. The Local Government Association has welcomed the idea of increasing older people’s independence, choice and well-being, but is warning that local communities must have the freedom to decide how it should be done.The programme is part of a 30-point cross-government action plan contained in a report from the Social Exclusion Unit at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Called Link-Age Plus, it will test the Sure Start approach in selected areas of England. It will be funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and aims to provide a single gateway to services provided in the community.

The LGA says the pilot has the potential to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society, but creating a one-stop shop for older people’s services will work only if local communities and not Whitehall decide what is on the shelves. The LGA’s adult social care spokesperson, David Rogers, said local authorities would work with the Government to ensure the success of the pilots but he added, “We are, however, concerned that local government’s role in planning, commissioning and delivering services is not fully recognised in this report. The Government’s national ageing strategy, Opportunity Age, recognised councils have a central role to play in planning for the ageing of communities. That message is missing from this report.”

The eight local authorities that will take part in the pilot programme are Devon, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire County Councils, Lancaster, Leeds and Salford City Councils, Gateshead Metropolitan Borough and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The projects will adapt the Sure Start principles of independence, choice and prevention to tackle poverty, social exclusion, disadvantage and deprivation. Programmes published in the report, “A Sure Start to Later Life: Ending Inequalities for Older People”, include plans for all people over 60 to get a free smoke alarm with the most vulnerable being given sprinkler systems, greater efforts to tackle poverty with new action to ensure older people know about and receive the benefits they need and steps to tackle age discrimination.

Steps towards more flexible and appropriate transport for older people will include more support for local authorities to offer alternatives to a free bus pass for people who cannot use the passes. Directors of Adult Social Services will also be given a stronger role in tackling social exclusion and isolation among older people.

Link: http://www.socialexclusion.gov.uk/downloaddoc.asp?id=797