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Royal Voluntary Service blog
Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.

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Local councils that cut social care will only push up costs in longer term

WRVS today responded to the House of Commons Health Select Committee report’s conclusions that a funding gap remains for providing social care.

The evidence is clear that if local councils do choose to move more older people out of social care support in the next year they will only push up costs in the longer term.

The committee are right to commend the stronger lead that ministers have given to expand joint working between the health service and local government and WRVS will closely monitoring how local decision makers deliver on this objective.

However, it is clear that we need real accountability at local level. We and others will also be asking ministers to report back at a national level on the picture that is emerging across the country.

Further info on the Health Select Committee here parliament.uk/healthcom

Posted by at 00:00 Wednesday, 15 December 2010.

Labels: Social care, Health Select Committee

Give us a Lift! - Third Sector's Digital Campaign of the Week

This week the Give Us a Lift site is featured by Third Sector as their Digital Campaign of the Week. Anyone who watches Harry Hill's TV Burp will be tempted to sing that last bit (and the rest of you will just have to watch the programme to satisfy your curiosity).

Visit Third Sector's site to see what they have to say about the campaign and add your comments.

Take a look at giveusalift.org.uk to see what the campaign's all about. Find out how WRVS volunteers provide transport for older people across Great Britain and how you could help in your local community.

Posted by Julia Cook

Posted by at 15:31 Wednesday, 08 December 2010.

Give Us a Lift

WRVS is asking people across Great Britain not to leave older people stranded - Give Them a Lift!

For most people getting where you need to go every day is as easy as jumping in the car, grabbing a bus or riding a bike. But, according to new research commissioned by older peoples charity WRVS, for a third of people over 65 in Britain, increasing to nearly half of people over 75, it’s not that simple. Without a decent bus service, a car or help with mobility problems, many older people are stuck at home. Thumbing a lift may be the only option for many but it’s not the answer. WRVS wants to make sure every older person in Britain can get where they want, when they want.

Having the ability to go shopping, meet friends and family and do a range of things most of us take for granted is vital for people to feel independent and in control of their life. Nearly three quarters of people over 65 say they’ve had to stop doing things they enjoy as they’ve got older. Nearly half of the people surveyed said one of the three most important improvements to quality of life would be a better range of transport services, ahead of better social services and financial advice.

WRVS has transport services in 100 communities, we’d like more but need volunteers and money to make it happen. We need more than 20 volunteers right now to be able to respond to every older person who phones up for a lift. With more volunteers we could help even more people get out and about and give older people a lift.

Posted by Julia Cook at 13:49 Thursday, 18 November 2010.

Ministers must be ready to force the pace of change in social care

Today, 16 November 2010, sees the release of the government’s social care vision, set out by Care Services Minister Paul Burstow.

WRVS accepts that social care is not simply something that resides with government, it is also about the contribution we can all make within our communities to help make Britain a great place to grow old. We welcome the level of ambition that ministers have shown in defining the direction for our social care system.

Nonetheless there is a huge gap that remains between ministerial ambitions and the daily experiences of hundreds of thousands of older people.

In the next two years we will await local decision makers response to the ambitions set out in this Vision. Ministers must be ready to force the pace of change if we do not see an expansion in the services that will enhance older peoples’ well-being.

Posted by at 09:00 Tuesday, 16 November 2010.

Labels: Social care, preventative care, Government

Social care: The crunch beckons

I’ve spoken to many people who feel that the system is not working for them and that their family members fall between hospital care and local council social services. We need to get better at anticipating the health and well being needs of older people, rather than patching individuals up when their health has deteriorated to the extent that they need hospital admission.

I think that a good place to start would be planning services by looking at peoples’ lives as a whole, such as bereavement or the loss of mobility. Many of WRVS’ services provide an ongoing connection with older peoples’ lives and allow us to detect changes in individuals’ mood, physical health or wider circumstances that may impact on their health and well-being weeks or months later. Central to our model of care is the deployment of our volunteers, who use their local insights to make the delivery of this care personalised and sensitive to individual needs and circumstances.

Local decision makers, such as councils and local authorities, now need to make the investment in services and support for people with low care needs, given the growing evidence that these services can make a substantial difference in avoiding or delaying major health problems. The House of Commons Health select committee concluded that the existing system of social care is unfair to carers; too variable and failed to sufficiently prevent or delay ill-health.

There are encouraging signs that ministers may wish to get to grips with this problem . At the Conservative Conference, the Health Secretary announced that the National Health Service (NHS) would be given responsibility for the care of people within thirty days of their discharge from hospital and this was backed by an extra £70 million pounds. The NHS White Paper said that the existing powers to encourage joint working between local authorities and the NHS would be simplified and that local authorities would be given a new duty to promote public health.

But these developments are taking place at the same time as councils are expecting to have to make big cuts in their care budgets. Most councils have already restricted their services for people with critical or substantial care needs and we are already hearing that councils across the country are tightening the criteria they use to decide who gets care.

Some key players within social care world have recognised that major new strategic thinking is required in order to avoid and have talked of a recasting of provision rather than crude attempts at retrenchment. The Local Government Association has called for a range of local decision makers to work more closely together to focus on ‘upstream’ prevention.

I hope that ministers will clearly communicate their level of ambition about the expansion of preventative care to health and social care commissioners. This is what WRVS thinks that ministers could do now:

  • The Department of Health could direct the release of further resources from the NHS budget to pay for preventative services, reinforcing the point that better health does not necessarily require NHS delivery
  • Ministers could issue stronger central guidance emphasising the value of preventative care services and that these should be a major focus for joint working arrangements
  • They could amend the criteria that local authorities use to decide who receive services by specifying that some people need support to prevent them deteriorating later in life.

Posted by at 00:00 Monday, 18 October 2010.

Labels: Spending cuts, Social care

Everyone's talking about the National Care Service

Gordon Brown's fightback speech has been spun as the last roll of the dice by the media. And while there's no consensus whether he's rolled a double-six or snake eyes, it's great that at the heart of the coverage has been the government's idea for a new National Care Service.

It's the first time that the general public have caught this new idea and I hope it means that Labour intend to make care a key general election issue. Then we can all put each of the big parties under the spotlight and find out what they are going to do about fixing the social care and enabling every older person to live well.

It's really important that Labour have decided to call their idea the 'National Care Service'. You can see the politics of it, it sounds like something for everyone, and aspires to be as valued as our National Health Service. The devil will be in the detail though. Who pays and how? What support can people expect? And will people really be in control of thier own care and have choices that work for them? The sense of this being for everyone means that people will be able to understand it, know it could affect them and their loved-ones and we'll have a genuine debate with every party about what they would do.

But we've got to make sure it's not a flash in the pan. Some leading pollsters said at conference that it's not likely to be a big election issue. They said that, like climate change, the ageing population and sorting care for older people is big, inevitable and needs sorting but the public have not even started to really think about it and are unlikely to cast their vote on it. I think that's pessimistic, we've got to keep coming back to the issue and keep it as high profle as possible. WRVS landed a slot on BBC News yesterday afternoon to talk about the proposals, coup - I did the honours being interviewed by Jon Sopel and I thought that at least the few thousands watching would start to think about this vital issue, but I was brought back down to earth when my partner told me that my mother-in-law's key comment on the story was that I looked like I'd put on a lot of weight.

Clearly we need to find ways to make fixing the social care crisis a story many times over before the election, and I had better get back to doing workouts with Davina.

Posted by Paul

Posted by at 07:11 Friday, 01 October 2010.

Many older people are living the life they want - but the rest of us haven't caught on

Sunday's Observer had a double page spread about some research which dispels the myth that older people face a life of decline and things are bleak for all of us as we reach 60 and beyond.

Researchers at the Academy of Medical Sciences are right, many older people are taking the opportunities that better healthcare and healthier lifestyles offer and are running with them - WRVS is all for it. We found the same in a survey we made of 1000 over-65s in Britain this summer - three quarters said life was good, but there's a quarter of older people that would like life to be better and they face barriers.

Our aim is to remove the barriers, and it starts with changing the country's negative outlook on old age. It's so easy to think that it's all downhill after 60, it's a cliche and because we think its true we limit older people in lots of small ways from doing what they want. A good start will be to treat over 65s as the adults they are, stop trying to patronise or worse ignore them - whether you're talking to your mum, your neighbour or a stranger. We've got to change attitudes to old age, that's the challenge for all of us.

Posted by Paul

Posted by at 23:10 Monday, 27 September 2010.

Labels: Changing attitudes, Observer, Older People, Research

"Boom, Boom Boom, Boom, I'm Gonna Turn 65!"

The Department of Work and Pensions this week released figures showing that, surprise surprise, we're set for a huge rise in pensioners over the next couple of years as 1946/47s coterie of 'baby-boomers' turn 65. By the way, as far as I can see, depending on which set of stats one is looking at; the baby boomer generation stretches from the point at which Operation Barbarossa saw the Nazi's invade Russia (1941) to the beginning of the inexorable decline in quality of the Rolling Stones' output in the early 1970s, which I find a bit wierd, I thought a 'generation' was about 20 years long. Anyway, 'whatever', as folk say nowadays. These new stats, while interesting, are of limited use since we have known about the huge rise in the population of older people for years now. What's more interesting is what we are going to do about it. I've blogged about that too much to repeat myself again - prevention is better than cure and volunteering keeps you fit and healthy is all I'll say this time - but if you check out past blogs you'll get the idea. Enjoy!

Posted by at 00:00 Friday, 24 September 2010.

Labels: baby boomers getting older, nazis, older people, operation barbarossa, pensioners, rolling stones

To be eligible or not to be eligible, that is the question

I was conducting some online research the other day about how Scottish local authorities go about offering free personal care and social care more broadly to older people. By the way, it's important to remember that those two things are not synonymous, the former is much more about the real personal stuff like hygiene, dressing and mobility whereas the latter can be about things like transport and shopping. Anyway, to cut a very long story short, basing their approach on Scottish Government (SG) guidance - newly fashioned in 2009 after lots of consultation - all local authorities use eligibility criteria to determine who gets services. Because resources are limited, those who are most at critical or substantial risk of harm are prioritised to receive services. That might be logical and fair just now but, as WRVS has pointed out, unless we, as a society, can start to move towards preventative services which mean there are progressively less and less people at that level of risk, we're very soon going to crash mightily into the buffers of unaffordability, with casualties all round.

To be fair to both Scottish central and local government they all seem committed to the idea of 'adopting a strong preventative approach to help avoid rising levels of need' (that's a direct quite from the SG guidance) but it appears that limited resources mean, in fact, that few local authorities if any can commit to providing the extensive preventative services that they would ideally like to. Reading the local authority responses to the the 2009 consultation, some of them seem very pro-prevention indeed. Unfortunately, reviewing their eligibility criteria in 2010, these two examples illustrate the spectrum of the way they are apparently obliged to function (I will spare their blushes and let them remain anonymous):

‘The Health and Social Care Department assessment prioritises assistance to those whose needs have been assessed as being within the Critical and Substantial categories. People whose needs have been assessed in Moderate or Low categories may (my italics) receive help to maintain or develop abilities or to prevent further deterioration.’

‘LOW – you or others are at low risk of harm or loss of independence. For these needs, we will not (my italics) provide services. However, we will offer advice and information about alternative sources of support.’

Let's be clear, I'm not saying this is all local authorities' fault. What I am saying is that, sooner or later, some radical funding decisions need to be made about what money goes to which bit of the public sector and to the voluntary and private sector partners that work with it. With that in mind, here's a telling quote for you from the House of Commons Health Committee Report on NHS Continuing Care from way back in 2005:

“The question of what is health and what is social care is one to which we can find no satisfactory answer, and which our witnesses were similarly unable to explain in meaningful terms."

It only takes a little dot-joining to detect the radical solution that statement might be taken to imply but I'll let you work that one out for yourselves. Happy figuring!

Posted by Andrew Jackson at 00:00 Monday, 13 September 2010.

Labels: social care, Eligibility criteria, Older people, Scotland

Preventative Services

Yes, OK, it's a Scotland-related blog again but WRVS' take on the need to shift resources and money away from acute health care and residential care and towards community-based preventative services for older people in Scotland holds good for England and Wales.

The point is this: whilst there will always be a need for services that deal with problems after they arise, the more we can grow services that stop preventable problems from arising in the first place, the better lives older people will lead. And there's now a sizeable body of evidence that preventative services are cost efficient, with the potential to save the public purse millions of pounds.

That's what's likely to be of most interest to the Finance Committee of the Scottish Parliament, to whose inquiry on preventative spending this submission by WRVS was made.

Posted by Andrew Jackson at 14:05 Tuesday, 31 August 2010.

Labels: Preventative Care