Legislation that provides people with more control over their lives
for longer, such as that proposed in the adult social care green
paper, is more than welcome. But such independence cannot be
delivered by social services departments alone. The government, and
indeed, all of us, must aim wider than social care and focus far
more on the role of other key players such as housing, leisure and
health. Steps are now being made in the right direction, with a
joint health and social care white paper now on the horizon.
Older people are deemed to be disadvantaged solely by virtue of the
ageing process. But people in later life are the same people as
when they were young. They want to continue to enjoy life in the
same ways as they have always done, with the same opportunities to
live, love, work and play. But as people grow old, barriers often
prevent people from living life to the full, whether they are in
the shape of limited finances, dodgy pavements or baffling
The green paper plans should improve older people’s quality of
life. But it is not the only step the government is taking to end
their plight. For a start, there is the proposed Commission on
Equality and Human Rights, which could be the foundation stone for
a revolution in attitudes and practice.
Also, Opportunity Age, the government’s older people strategy,
calls for a new approach to learning and work, as well as better
homes and buses. It even calls for well being and possibly even
some fun. Never have 107 government pages been so exciting.
It is right that social care and social work are centre stage in
the green paper, but it is only in conjunction with these other
initiatives that the proposals can come to anything. And this will
only happen if stronger partnerships are developed, particularly
between the statutory and voluntary sectors. The government needs
to involve charities in providing the kind of low level, high value
services that are often squeezed from current statutory provision.
Finally there is the most important partnership of all – with older
people themselves. Without actively involving older people we risk
returning to the patrician, hand-out culture of the past.
Paul Cann is director of policy at Help the Aged