Age Concern: Sure Start for older people has stalled

Age Concern said today that the government’s agenda to tackle social exclusion among older people through a “Sure Start” approach had stalled. In its annual Age Agenda report  on the state of public policy for older people, the charity also identified a lack of cross-government co-ordination on ageing.

It said campaigners had widely welcomed the social exclusion unit’s 2006 report, A Sure Start to Later Life, which called for the creation of joined-up, local, preventive centres for older people and led to a set of pilots run by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Sure Start pilots fall short of vision

However, Age Concern said that the eight LinkAge Plus pilots had “fallen short of the social exclusion unit’s vision of holistic, joined-up support for the most excluded”, describing them as “piecemeal” and “not effectively targeted”.
And it said the government had not taken steps to promote the Sure Start for older people principle in non-pilot areas.
The Age Agenda 2008 also said that the social exclusion unit’s replacement – the social exclusion task force, set up in 2006 – had failed to focus on older people.

Exclusion task force neglecting older people

Its 2006 social exclusion action plan contained just one peripheral mention of older people and the tack force’s initaitives have so far focused on severely excluded, antisocial and young families.
Age Concern also found a lack of co-ordination between the government’s agendas for tackling social exclusion among older people, run by the DWP, and for preventive health and social care, under the DH’s partnerships for older people projects.

Joined-up government needed

It said the two departments were “operating in parallel”, adding that “joined-up ministerial leadership is now essential”.

Age Concern also used the report to re-iterate it and others’ call for radical reform of social care, through the forthcoming green paper, backed up by significant extra funding. It said the combination of existing unmet need, rising aspirations and demographic pressures had to be lodged in the public mind over the coming years to enable politicians make the case for increased public spending.

The report was launched today at the charity’s Age Agenda conference.

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