Confusion over new advice service for older people

A new service for older people similar to the Care Direct
initiative already under pilot is being developed at the department
for work and pensions, Community Care has learned,
writes Katie Leason.

The aim of the service, rumoured to be known as ‘Third Age’, is
to provide an integrated service offering information on health,
social care, benefits, housing and the voluntary sector.

However, there is concern that the new service will overlap with
the Care Direct service developed by the department of health in
2001, and that the introduction of a new service could mean the
demise of Care Direct.

“It’s not clear what the difference is between the
current Care Direct service and the Third Age service
envisaged,” said one social services source.

Care Direct has six pilot sites – Bournemouth, Bristol,
Devon, Gloucestershire, Plymouth and Somerset – and offers local
and national information on health, housing, social care and
benefits. The department of health was overseeing the pilot sites,
and the department for work and pensions took over responsibility
at the beginning of April.

There is confusion as to whether the new service would be
managed by local authorities, or commissioned out, perhaps to the
voluntary sector. There is also uncertainty as to whether the Care
Direct name and marketing push behind establishing it go to waste
or somehow be incorporated into the new tag.

Margaret Sheather, social services director at Gloucestershire,
said that the Care Direct pilot sites were “really
proud” of the service and that she was pleased they were seen
as likely flagships of the Third Age service. However she added
that the lack of clarity was worrying.

“We need to know more and soon about what that service
will look like and to get strong links established with the DWP to
achieve a smooth transition,” she said.

The DWP said that the government had given it the task of
leading “the development of a service focused on the needs of
older people in line with their 2001 manifesto

It added that the service would promote independent living and
positive ageing, and provide “better value services by
co-ordinating provision”. It would also provide an increased
role for the voluntary sector in the delivery of public

It claimed that work was ongoing with various agencies including
the Audit Commission, Local Government Association and Age Concern
to look at ways of improving government services to older

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