An advice service for older people that aims to tackle a massive information gap has been launched by four big older people’s organisations.
Counsel and Care, Elderly Accommodation Counsel, Help the Aged and NHFA have set up FirstStop in response to estimates that more than 600,000 older people and carers are in need of advice each year but a small fraction receive it.
By 2011, they want FirstStop to reach 250,000 people in England, and possibly the wider UK – 100,000 through its phone line and the rest through FirstStop’s website.
Lack of advice
A survey of 1,100 people, published to coincide with FirstStop’s launch, found 44% of those who had recently made a decision about care for themselves or a relative struggled to find help and advice.
Its creation follows three years’ planning, sparked by the Office of Fair Trading report on the care home market. This found a “confusing multitude of different sources of information, and no single clear reference point for people to consult” and urged the government to create a “central information source for people to get information about care for older people”.
EAC chief executive John Galvin said that, besides filling this role, the four bodies wanted FirstStop to help English councils deliver on the government’s Putting People First initiative to personalise care services over the next three years. This requires them to set up a “universal advice, information and advocacy service” for all users and carers, including self-funders.
Galvin said this would involve forging partnerships with local voluntary bodies, such as Age Concern branches, who would provide face-to-face and advocacy services to complement FirstStop’s provision.
FirstStop, a separate charity, is backed by a £500,000 three-year lottery grant from 2008-11 and investment by the four charities, which will co-own it. Galvin also said they were hopeful about obtaining government funding.
The service will be promoted in London and the South East during its first year, with Help the Aged staff handling all initial phone calls and referring on complex cases.
• Go to www.firststopcareadvice.org.uk