Monday, 04 January 2010

Informal care and older people: time for a campaign? News of the year? The importance of neighbourly informal support for older people has been recognised in the Department of Health. From yesterday's press release: With many older people living alone and more than 180,000 saying they have gone for a whole week without speaking to friends, family or neighbours, Care Service Minister Phil Hope is asking the public to make a New Year’s resolution to visit older neighbours more often. Social interaction can protect older people’s mental health, helping to do their shopping will prevent falls and injury and keeping an eye on their health will stop them developing serious health problems and ending up in hospital. What are the chances of this recognition being turned into some kind of strategic initiative, exploring ways of both stimulating and measuring levels of informal support (without booby award schemes for innovation, please) and promoting interdependence? A year ago we had the results of some work on meaningful interaction (admittedly it all went quiet from the moment of publication). But against that, I have not forgotten that older people were short-changed in the report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. Would a change of government help? Will the recession cause people to revert to a more localised way of life? At the risk of seeming naively bubbly at the start of a new year, would anyone care to join me in working out what is needed under the broad heading of a campaign? Previously: Copenhagen for the ageing crisis
Community contracts Community contracts (sometimes called neighbourhood or community agreements or charters) are voluntary agreements between residents, local service providers and elected representatives that aim to improve conditions in a defined area. Here's the first evaluation of the idea based on a pilot programme, with management support from the National Association for Neighbourhood Management, which covered eleven areas. (The evaluation included six cases study areas, two of which were not from the pilot programme). Among the findings that caught my eye: for contracts to be successful, neighbourhood or locality based working needed to be in place a history of partnership working contributed to the development of contracts (frankly if a local service provider has not got a history of partnership working by now, you have to question whether they should be in business) the absence of accessible and smooth running routes for reporting by residents of service and neighbourhood issues to service providers presented a barrier to the effective operation of contracts (er, if you need a big chunk of public research money to tell you that, I have to question whether you should be in government) a core group of active residents was needed to develop and deliver contracts (alright I'll shut up now) there was a clear correlation between effective governance and effective contracts. The report notes that there were plans for extending contracts 'to tackle other service and policy areas, including health and education'. And, not the least important insight: 'the evidence strongly suggests that this is not a policy for less affluent areas only, as it could contribute towards the management of expectations in more affluent areas, add to allocative efficiencies across an authority, by better matching services to citizens’ wishes, and play a role in discussions about distributive efficiencies.'

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