Last week I joined the Grey Pride campaign to deliver a petition of 140,000 signatures to No 10 Downing Street that ask for a Minister for Older People to be appointed. This should not be a new post, but an extra duty for a minister already enjoying the view from the Treasury panopticon and the Cabinet table.
We have an ageing population and almost all departments have responsibility for some element of older people’s lives. Yet there is often no inter-departmental (or even intra-departmental) consideration of how older people are affected by policy. Someone should take charge – and it should be someone important.
Most unmet need in our communities is among older people, thousands of whom require access to basic services from dementia care to bathing to social contact. In Portsmouth 1,000 such people are known to exist today, but the council has only budgeted for an extra 200 adult social care clients over the next five years.
Reports from the Care Quality Commission on hospital care, the EHRC on domiciliary care, and the Centre for Social Justice on quality of life all found too much poor practice and too little compassion.
Local government has considered how to protect services for older people and national government has marked older people’s health and care as ‘too tricky’.
It is not just structural problems, but what one might call casual ageism: the difficulty faced by ‘grey entrepreneurs’ when they ask the bank manger for funding; the couples who want to downsize their homes but are told that the residential home does not take pets; or the older people who are active and mobile but can no longer use rail services because of inadequate seating and the removal of the loos.
Righting these ills will help today’s senior citizens and make a contribution to getting UK plc back on its feet.