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The Older Peoples Council

See related article: Impact of cuts on older people

Older Peoples Council members have successfully challenged the proposal to dissolve their organisation in its current form to save money. As committed volunteers, they were naturally upset by the proposal to dissolve their group, which addresses issues such as the following:

Recent Older Peoples Council campaigns have covered:

  • the provision of better public toilet facilities
  • more public seating in the city
  • challenging pavement obstructions
  • the introduction of a garden waste collection scheme
  • heating & energy costs, and
  • better health, housing & transport services for older people.

 

Background to their success in "seeing off the budget proposal to dissolve the Older People's Council" 

Consultation

Members of the Older People’s Council (OPC) became aware of the proposal to dissolve the OPC in a brief reference to “changes made to the Older People’s Council” made by Councillor Sykes in The Argus on the 29th November. 

The proposal came as a complete surprise as no indication whatsoever had been given to the OPC before the administration spoke to The Argus. We believe that this is extremely disrespectful towards volunteers, many of whom have been working for the interests of older people within the City for many years. We wish to protest strongly against the pro- posal concerning the OPC and also about the deletion of the Overview & Scrutiny function within the Council.

We would question whether due consultation process is being followed with regard to the proposed abolition of the OPC. The OPC was established after detailed consultation about what older people in the City wanted, unlike the proposal for dissolution. We would also point out that OPC members receive no remuneration and give their time voluntarily.

Costs

Election costs to the OPC have been cited as £30,000 to £40,000 which we believe is grossly overstated. No evidence has been provided for these figures. Over-estimating sav- ings made such as with our election fees, only builds budgetary problems for the future.

Recent elections have shown that less than half the seats were contested. It was two seats in 2011 at the time of the last election. However in the contested seats turn out by postal ballot was high, demonstrating a real interest in the process. In reality, the true cost would be a fraction of the savings specified.!

A further figure is quoted of £9,000 which would appear to be an estimate of the time offi- cers spend over a year on our administration. This will not be a saving as this figure is al- ready earmarked for our proposed replacement a non defined, non elected “consultative” forum.

Proposals for Replacement to OPC and why they will not ensure an independent voice for older people across the City

The Council’s own Equality Impact Assessment acknowledges that without mitigation abo- lition of the OPC could result in a loss of representation. But, It also suggests representa- tive/lobbying work could be picked up both other bodies such as:-

Age Friendly City Steering Group - it was the Older People’s Council that lobbied and won the support of Brighton and Hove Council to apply to the WHO to become an age- friendly city. If it were not for the OPC there would not be an Age Friendly process within the Council. However, the Steering group has only two older people representatives, one of whom is an OPC member.

Age Friendly City Forum - is not funded by the CCG as implied in the budget proposal. It was started by Pensioner Action and given a home by Age UK when Pensioner Action’s funding was withdrawn. Some members of the OPC also attend this Forum and Age UK's capacity to continue this support is unclear.

Older Peoples Forums - in localities - these are yet to be established and are perceived as user service groups not representative bodies. 

LATs - in view of OPC members many of these have lost credibility and were established around Policing matters not as forums for older people’s issues.

One of the key features of the OPC is its independence and that it is older people repre- senting older people rather than professionals telling older people what we want. We have elected and co-opted members coming from across the City, currently six men and five women across a wide age range, with links into a range of groups, issues and geographic areas across the City.

Communication with older people in the City

We have established a variety of ways to communicate with older people in Brighton & Hove.

Public Meetings
We hold public meetings during the year covering areas of the Councils activities of inter- est to older people. These are attended by Councillors and Council Officers who provide information and respond to questions about issues of import to older people. Recently they have been held at the Jubilee Library and are open to all members of the public to ques- tion the OPC members and the speakers that we invite to the meetings.


Web Site
We have a web-site created and maintained by the Chair of the OPC, which contains de- tails of issues we are involved with and information about our meetings and members of the OPC. Mapping data about older people in Brighton & Hove are also located on the web-site. The web-site is www.olderpeoplescouncil.org. Our Facebook page is www.face- book.com/olderpeoplescouncil.


Radio
We helped establish and run Grey Matters Radio for older people which has a dedicated programme for older people with a podcast of this on our website.


The Pensioner
The editor of The Pensioner magazine is a member of the OPC. It is run by a separate edi- torial group but with some members of the OPC also on the editorial board.The Pensioner is the only dedicated paper magazine for older people across the city. It is well received and circulated by volunteers of older people to older people across the City.


Annual Report & Local press
We write letters to local papers and for local newsletters and publish an Annual report which is on our website. Please see our third edition during this electoral term on the web- site and topics of our letters during this electoral term.


Communications with a wide range of organisations and older people.


We are contacted by a wide range of organisations seeking our views or support on issues relating to older people. These include,health organisations and issues, crime matters, housing, transport, dementia, carers issues, care homes and services to older people. We respond where required and provide support where needed. We can be contacted by email and post via the Scrutiny Team and have a dedicated phone line (01273) 296427 which OPC members pick up and respond to on a rota basis. 

Promoting the interests of Older People and Work Areas of the OPC

We have promoted the interest of older people and lobbied on a range of issues impacting on older people across the City for many years. Members of the OPC have been involved in a range of activities, some of which include:-

  • Lobbying for affordable housing for older people & linking with Sheltered housing resi- dents groups. Participating in the recent housing strategy discussions within BHCC and running a workshop on Housing for Older People as part of the strategy consultations.

  • Inter-generational work with University of Brighton design students whereby advice is given to students about the designs needs of older people with regard to a range of ar- eas including domestic objects, gardening tools, and medical dispensing. Meeting with the Youth Council and identifying areas of common interest with regard to, for example, the bus service.

  • Working on a Palliative care project with Kings College University Hospital & Sussex Community Trust. Participating in a range of consultations on medical issues that affect older people such as the pharmacy review, medical information and concerns about doc- tors initiated by the GMC.

  • Working with the Dignity Panel addressing how the quality of life & independence of el- derly people can be maintained and improved. Raising concerns about elder abuse at meetings of the Practitioner Alliance for Safeguarding Adults.

  • Attending and participating in Scrutiny panels. For example, on Health & Well Being,Waste Management and Road Safety.

  • Campaigning for Public Toilets, publishing information about locations of public toilets on our web-site and pressing for better opening hours and opposing reductions in access to public toilets.

  • Attending and reporting to the OPC on a range of Committees including Planning, Eco- nomic Development, Adult Social Care, Health & Well Being. Members seek to identify issues of particular import to older people across the city. We have recently raised con- cerns about the expansion of student accommodation in the city centre,the lack of af- fordable housing and the need for greater availability of sheltered housing.

  • Helping to launch Older & Out monthly programme at Somerset Day Centre for older Brighton & Hove LGBTQ residents. Past and present members of the OPC are actively involved in the work of Somerset Day Centre which has recently received high praise from Healthwatch for its activities.

  • Members of the OPC regularly participate in a range of organisations across the city . These include the Community Safety Forum, Link (now replaced by Healthwatch), Bus users groups, The Level forum to mention just a few.

  • We have participated in Transport workshops on the current policy review of Transport and ensured that older peoples needs are reflected in the consultations. We have made a range of proposals concerning the current Transport review. 

  • Holding Public Meetings 4 times a year - subjects covered include - Housing, Care Act, Planning, Public Health, Adult Social Care. Members of the public are provided with an opportunity to question both Councillors and Council officers about issues of concern.

  • Partnership working with a range of organisations that impact on older people such as Age UK who regularly attend our meetings. We are approached by a range of local, na- tional and European bodies about the work of the OPC, seeking our participation or views about a range of issues such as Dementia, Day and Residential care in the city, Age Friendly City initiative, Health & Well Being. We are also asked by different parts of the Council about particular consultations such as changes to Polling Districts, Stanmer Park Restoration, Pavilion Gardens and the Shoreham Harbour scheme to name a few where we have expressed our views.

This is not a definitive list but rather gives a flavour of the range of activities that the OPC have been involved with as representatives for older people during the current electoral term. We do not believe that the proposal from the Council will maintain an independence voice for older people and it is, in our view, dismissive of the work that OPC have voluntarily provided for many years for the City.

We are independent and have control over our own constitution which can be changed to mitigate extreme circumstances, for example, suspending elections. However, we cannot be dissolved by the Council only members of the OPC can vote for dissolution.

We provide an independent voice that can challenge the Council on behalf of Older People with regard to the type and quality of services that are provided and whether they meet the needs of older people. 

 

Older People have never been more vulnerable to cuts in services

We note that at a time of swingeing proposed cuts to Older Peoples services, particularly relating to Adult Social Care which will impact on the frailest and most vulnerable members of our community, the Council is moving to dissolve the Older Peoples Council.

The cumulative impacts on older people of this years budget proposals are described in the Equality Impact Assessment as follows:-

“If the proposals from across ASC are agreed then this will impact on the services we pro- vide to vulnerable people. This means that women, older people, older people with mental health needs and people with a learning disability who are the main recipients of service, may see a reduction in more than one service that they currently receive.”

Equality Impact Assessment

It would seem to us that there is a real need at such a difficult time for an independent voice for older people and that the proposals do not meet the needs of older people for in- dependent representation of their views directly to Councillors and Council officers.

 

OPC Officers and Members
can be contacted by email - olderpeoplescouncil@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Officers -Mike Bojczuk Chair, Colin Vincent Vice- Chair, Penny Morley Secretary,! Harry Steer Treasurer.

Members -Val Brown, Marion Couldery, John Eyles, Jack Hazelgrove, Sue Howley,! Francis Tonks, Janet Wakeling.

January 2015 

See related article: Impact of cuts on older people

This page was last updated by Ted on 09-Mar-2015
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