The budget sparked a debate about postponing retirement and getting your pensions. Elder citizens and users who are involved in public engagement must be heard in any such debate about retirement ages and reform of the job market. They frequently form a majority of volunteers in citizen participant groupings and all too often get precious little thanks for that. Instead they are lumped under such derogatory labels as the ‘usual suspects’ with their (majority) presence seen as proof of a lack of diversity and a narrow approach to inclusion. It may be that such unworthy thoughts may even have flashed on rare occasions through my and fellow partners’ minds.
Not just valuable but vital
Only to be dismissed at once when at a recent training we did for Wandsworth NHS we met active and interested older volunteers who were a strong reminder of the value of this resource. As people often tasked to set up user panels as well as train them, we readily acknowledge that many a participative venture would collapse without the time, energy and ideas that the older involved and retired citizen brings to the table. Is the prospect of working beyond the current pensionable age a threat to this resource? We say no so long as we get the flexibility in the labour market that encourages part-time working. The new volunteer in this context would have a wider set of choices between paid and unpaid work which may well enhance the chances of their participation and at the same time increase the value of that contribution because they remain connected to the wider world through their paid work.
Eight New Laws of LINks
Certainly when we look at any form of future development for LINks, no progress would be possible without good quality people being ready and able to serve on and contribute to them. The elder community will remain an important pool of recruits. Andrew was very gung ho about LINks in his piece. He wrote that LINks must not only survive but take on a more robust role. To that end, he promulgates eight news laws for LINks – essential reading for policy makers we would say.
Reorganisation – flavour of the month
Reorganisation – how fast, how far, how good – crops up in almost everyone of our blogs. Caroline Millar writes 12 years as a parent have provided many an example of how change gets sneaked through in the summer. Leading the charge for change in education, is the new Secretary of State for Education. Glinting in the sunshine of his new powers like the granite of his native Aberdeen, Mr Gove is granite-hard in his resolve to create Academies asap. In doing so he seems very ready to dump any commitment to consultation in his rush to deliver. He is of course ready to consult later when all the important stuff has got done. Why are citizens cynical about consultation do I hear you ask?
Trust the Teachers and GPs
Having identified bureaucracy as the enemy of local change, local authorities in education and PCTs in health are being bypassed in favour of teacher and doctor power. Parents are also being urged to get involved in schools but the knowledge that entry to ‘their’ school will probably be by lottery so their own children may not get in, is a bit of a bummer. However as graduates of the consumer movement in a number of its manifestations, three MAC partners have a superstitious reverence for the power of Young and so cannot dismiss entirely the chances of success for y0ung Young channelling his dad’s influence from beyond the grave to create a new school in West London. (It is an article of faith for all consumerists and others in the field of social policy generally that ‘Michael Young later Lord Young of Dartington was the greatest British social entrepreneur of the second half of the 20th century’. Discuss using one side of the paper only).
GPs working within consortia are going to be the new commissioners of health and social care services. We have two immediate concerns. The first is the very uneven record of GPs in setting up effective and credible patient participation bodies. Secondly, our work with commissioners of long term and not so long term neurological conditions makes us very wary about GPs being able to take on this complex and often neglected area of clinical and social care practice. Andrew discusses his reservations in a head to head with Lynn Young of the RCN here.
More substantively, his piece Neuro Knees Up or Knockback? raises important questions on how best the Third Sector and in particular neurological organisations can safeguard what we know is a considerable investment in making the best of the commissioning system in place now. Reform threatens to waste this effort and set back their work in improving care for people with neurological conditions.