Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart
Helping older people to stay in their own homes and giving them greater control over their own lives and the care they need is central to our aim of supporting independence.
Without doubt, the coming generation of older people will want services to be delivered differently in the future by local authorities. We are all very much aware of the changing expectations, and the reasons for this have been well documented – including changes in population, communities and attitudes. We must be highly responsive to these new demands.
So how will local authorities address the promotion of the well–being of all older people in the future?
Local authorities will develop a different form of engagement with older people. We will see the development of “localised” and “neighbourhood” means of involving older people in decision-making, such as described in the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Social Services All Our Tomorrows document. Indeed, in Warwickshire, the County Council has joined forces with the Borough Council to support the Silver Surfers Project, which is a community wide engagement of older people through the internet. This has made it possible for older people in that area to tell their councils what they think and how they wish to be engaged. Similarly, an initiative such as Better Government for Older People has shown that there are many different levels for local authorities to engage people. It is often not just in the delivery of services that this input is required, but in the planning and the review of them.
Easily Accessible Services
Older people will be provided with better and improved access to a whole range of information and services. They can expect to be given timely information that meets their personalised needs. Contacting your local council will only take a single telephone call to be put in touch with all kinds of services. Many local authorities already have, or plan to develop, 24 hour one-stop Contact Centres as a single point of access to make information available on all their services. Improvement in this area will go a long way in helping to overcome the feeling that some older people have of being excluded from their communities.
Local authorities will strive to make better use of public money by investing in preventative services (to reverse the trend of simply responding to crises and costly services) that provide support and care at an earlier stage. Increasingly people will become familiar with, and use, technology based services such as Telecare and Telehealth. This will enable many older people to be able to look after themselves and will thus put them in control. Of course this will not suit everyone, but it will form part of the available choices. For instance, the technology associated with Telehealth will make it possible for people living alone or in isolated parts of the country to have daily contact with their GPs. This will be most welcomed by those who for a number of reasons cannot leave their homes. It will also make it possible for carers who live some distance away from their relatives to keep in contact, which is an important part of people’s sense of wellbeing.
Older people should be able to expect, and be provided with, a wider choice than they have available today. Through Self-Assessment, they will be offered the means to make their own care decisions; and assistance will be where it is needed. Many services will be provided through “personalised budgets” across a variety of services of local authorities. This will encourage some older people to “buy” or arrange their own care and support. Already, there are examples of (Purchase Cards) this being piloted by local authorities in Hertfordshire and Kent. Independence, Well-being and Choice, the Adult Social Care Green Paper, proposes that “individualised budgets” could also be used for services such as leisure and transport.
The important role played by carers in general, and older carers in particular, will be given further recognition by local authorities and they will respond by providing appropriate support such as training, support and services. There is clear case that the introduction of “individualised budgets” should be made available to carers.
The future holds many challenges in delivering services effectively for older people, which the scenarios above begin to address. However, what is clear is that by involving older people in the development of their services, improving access and choice and by investing in preventative care, local authorities will be better able to respond to local demand. By then offering greater “personalised” delivery and control of services we can further help to promote the independence and well being of all our older residents.