EU Referendum: one week to go

As we approach the European Referendum, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive Brian Sloan encourages everyone to use their vote.


With only a week until the European Referendum, it is vital that Scotland’s older people have their say on this historic decision for the future of our country. Age Scotland is very conscious that there is a diverse range of views on our future in Europe among older people in Scotland.  That is why we feel it is very important we as a Charity take a neutral position on the referendum.  However while we will not support either of the campaigns in the referendum or encourage older people to vote for a specific position, we certainly do encourage older people to use their vote.

Brian_Sloan

Brian Sloan – Age Scotland’s Chief Executive

There can be no doubt that big issues affecting older people have been placed at the heart of the referendum debate by both campaigns – the future of our pensions, our public services and our NHS.  It is also true that many people who are weighing up how they will vote on the 23rd feel they would still like more information from the two campaigns to help them come to a decision.

As Scotland’s charity for older people, we are keen that Age Scotland does what we can to help encourage debate on these important issues and ensure people have they information they need to come to an informed view.  That is why we invited leading figures from both campaigns to write articles for our Advantage magazine to explain how they have come to their view.  Professor Sir Harry Burns, a former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, writes on behalf of Scotland Stronger in Europe, and Tom Harris, a former MP, is now Director of Scottish Vote Leave and has outlined that campaign’s position.

You can view the articles here on pages 14-15 and I am sure you will find them interesting and informative. How you will vote in the referendum is up to you, but given this is a big decision for Scotland’s older people I do encourage you to use your vote.

From secondary school to corridors of power – via volunteering

James Dalgleish, 18, came to Age Scotland as a volunteer in February 2014 to work in the Policy and Communications department. He’s been helping Policy Engagement Officer, Hannah Lister with event planning, as well as providing administrative support to the policy and communications team.

The main part of James’ work has focused around the Age Scotland Awards ceremony which will take place at the Scottish Parliament in October. James co-ordinated the mail-out of nomination packs to 900 member groups, and the email to all the local authorities in Scotland, MPs and MSPs.

james

Hannah says: “James first started in a volunteering capacity with me in my previous job so when an opportunity arose for a volunteer to help with the Age Scotland Awards and James applied, I knew he would be the ideal person to help us.

“James is conscientious and works well with the rest of the team. He has completely blossomed in the time I have known him into a professional young man and he is providing very valuable support to our policy and communications team. He also makes a great cuppa! I hope he’s learning a lot from his time here with us!”

James showed an understanding of the importance of doing voluntary work when he was only 15. In his 3rd year at Broughton High School, he got involved with the Scottish Youth Parliament and took on his first volunteering role. He worked as a parliamentary assistant in the Scottish Parliament, carried out research, saw committees at work and sat in on First Minister’s Questions.

“I really enjoyed the experience so I went on to help out in my local MSP’s office in January 2012 and then I managed to get an internship between Feb and August 2013 as a case worker in an MP’s office. That’s such an interesting job, such an eye-opener into the way the world works because people turn up with every sort of issue at their MP’s office. I got the chance to help people – that’s what I enjoy the most.

“I’ve now got a paid part-time position working with an MP but I still come into Age Scotland to help with the co-ordination of the Awards celebrations and like doing both – helping people to love later life and working with politicians,” says James.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities with Age Scotland and the Silver Line Scotland.

There is still time to nominate a volunteer or volunteer group for the 2014 Age Scotland Awards

Energy bills. What’s your story?

Age Scotland’s Policy Officer, Greg McCracken, asks blog readers about their experiences of fuel bills, price increases and energy efficiency measures.

Gas Fire

Staff at Age Scotland have been hearing more and more about older householders across the country experiencing significant increases in their fuel bills despite having installed energy efficiency measures in their homes.  Now, we’re looking for people to participate in case studies which we can use in our lobbying work.

While energy efficiency measures – and in particular new heating systems such as Air Source Heat Pumps or Electric Wet Heating Systems – are supposed to save money and reduce fuel bills, we’ve been told that some people have actually seen their fuel bills increase to over £2,100 per year.

Just to put that in context, that’s nearly a third of your state pension going up in smoke!

A recent report by Consumer Focus Scotland revealed that, while many of these heating systems can deliver improvements, there can be significant costs for householders who are not effectively instructed how to use their new system.

Furthermore, where some modern heating systems such as Air Source Heat Pumps are installed in housing that is older, or isn’t fully insulated (including, for example, solid wall insulation), the system will not be able to operate effectively and will, therefore, cost more to run than it should.

Right now, the Scottish Government is consulting on its Sustainable Housing Strategy.  We want to ensure this strategy is genuinely fit for purpose and reflects the reality of older people living across Scotland.

Age Scotland always encourages older people to undertake a benefits check to make sure they’re getting all the support to which they’re entitled, or to switch providers and ensure they’re on the cheapest tariff.  However, with bills in excess of £2,000 in some cases, it’s unlikely that either of these would be more than tinkering around the edges.

That’s why we’re extremely keen to hear if you’ve experienced a similar story to those above.  Age Scotland wants to develop case studies where people’s bills have risen despite making changes to their home’s energy efficiency.  For example, have you:

  • Installed a new heating system, only to find that your bills haven’t gone down?
  • Received a grant or advice from the Energy Saving Trust for a new system that hasn’t reduced your bills?
  • Had a new system installed but not been instructed how to use it?

If you tell us your story, we will use your experience absolutely anonymously if that’s what you would prefer.  Your personal testimony is so important to strengthening our messages, so if you’d be interested in participating, contact greg.mccracken@agescotland.org.uk, or telephone 0845 833 9332.

What do you think about the care system?

Lady with carer

The Scottish Older People’s Assembly (SOPA) is taking place in Edinburgh on Friday 2 November 2012 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC). SOPA is a themed event, and this year the day’s agenda is centred around care and caring.

Age Scotland is on the Scottish Older People’s Assembly Steering Group, and we are asking older people to give us comments and statements about their experience of care and caring, including preventative care that helps older people to remain active and connected to family and community.

As well as the challenges and difficulties faced, we are particularly keen to hear of innovative projects and what has worked well for carers.

Your comments will help shape the Assembly programme and inform Scottish Ministers, and the issues will be reflected in the Assembly report that will go to the Scottish Government and other organisations involved with SOPA.

Comments can be sent to acfaa@edinburgh.gov.uk or by post to Glenda Watt, The City of Edinburgh Council, Business Centre 1/7, Waverley Court, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh, EH8 8BG.

Alternatively, you can leave comments on this blog post and we will be happy to take them into account. Please say if you are responding as an individual or representing a group and we can help shape SOPA’s programme for November based on your feedback. Thank you!

The Scottish Older People’s Assembly 2012

SOPA Logo

Now in its fourth year, the details of the Scottish Older People’s Assembly (SOPA) have been confirmed for 2012.  The event will take place on on Friday 2 November 2012 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC).

The Scottish Older People’s Assembly is an annual event themed around topics of particular relevance to older people. The theme for this year’s Assembly is the older person’s experience of care, which could be in the person’s own home, a centre, hospital or care home, and the challenges, good practice examples and the importance of compassionate care.

The 2012 Assembly will also highlight issues around active ageing, preventative care that encourages older people to remain socially connected and the contribution older people themselves make in caring for others.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP (Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy) will be the keynote speaker at SOPA 2012 so this is an ideal opportunity to put the questions that matter to you to the Minister.

Embracing technology

This year’s SOPA plans to use video conferencing to build on the success of last year’s event. Video conferencing will be used with groups from local communities across Scotland, and will include presentations from older people.

SOPA 2012 will be streamed live on the day and will also be available as a webcast to view following the event. If you cannot be in Edinburgh on the day, why not make arrangements with friends or your local group to watch the Assembly live online? You can also follow the event on Twitter.

The details

The Assembly will run from 10.30am to 4.00pm with registration from 9.30am on Friday 2 November 2012. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. This is a free event but unfortunately transport and accommodation costs cannot be covered for those attending.

The Edinburgh International Conference Centre is fully accessible and close to local bus routes and train stations. See the EICC on Google Maps.

Want to attend?

The Scottish Older People’s Assembly Steering Group will arrange for invitations to be sent to older people’s groups across Scotland through their network arrangements.

If you are not part of a group but would like to attend, you can register interest by email to acfaa@edinburgh.gov.uk or by calling 0131 469 3806 / 3764. As SOPA is likely to be very popular, the event could be oversubscribed. Places will be confirmed in October 2012.

Why isn’t pavement parking illegal?

Pavement parking causing obstructions

Pavement parking causes obstructions for pedestrians.

In today’s congested urban environments parking can be a pain. You need only see the parking wardens marching through local communities to notice that space is at a premium.

In order to solve the problem, many motorists park on pavements. However, this is not a great solution for pedestrians trying to get about.

Pavement parking causes serious access barriers, especially for people with mobility restrictions and visual impairments. Wheelchair and mobility scooter users, families with prams and cyclists are also badly affected. By obscuring dropped kerbs and raised crossings and by damaging walkways, parked cars create serious obstacles for pedestrians and often force them onto roads with traffic.

Watch this video of a wheelchair user attempting to negotiate a pavement with a parked van:

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Currently, driving on the pavement is illegal in Scotland, but it is not against the law to park on pavements. 

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP plans to address this issue by bringing forward a member’s bill on the regulation of parking. He wants to see pavement parking outlawed so that pedestrians can use public walkways unimpeded. We support this proposal and believe that pedestrians should be free from obstructions and barriers when they are trying to get from A to B.

As part of the consultation, we are asking older people about their experiences with pavement parking. Do you have any negative experiences? We’re particularly interested in your first hand accounts of trying to negotiate obstructed pavements and any images or videos you may have taken to illustrate your problems.

If you want to get involved, you can take part in the consultation by clicking on this link, or you can email our Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer, Callum, on callum.chomczuk@agescotland.org.uk with any personal experiences, images or videos you may have taken by 30th June 2012.

You are also very welcome to voice your thoughts in the blog’s comment box below – our policy team will take your views forward on the proposed bill.

If you need any more information there is an online FAQ regarding the proposed bill, or you can leave us your questions in the comments box and we will do our best to answer them.

Update – 02/07/2012

Please note that the deadline has passed for submission of comments for Age Scotland’s consultation response to the bill.

The topic has been very popular, so if you are still interested in leaving comments you are more than welcome to do so. Please just be aware that we will not be able to take them forward in an official capacity. Thank you!

Planting the seeds of better social care

Age Scotland’s Communication and Campaigns Officer, Doug Anthoney, blogs about the recent social care announcements by the UK Government.

Man gardening

Social care provisions in England could lean towards hobbies and leisure activities, like gardening.

Last week Social Care Minister Paul Burstow announced that a Government shake of social care would include help to promote leisure activities and friendships among older people.  “Simply put, it is a vision for social work that is no longer based on one that only reacts in crises,” said Burstow. “Instead we want social workers to look to people’s talents, their gifts, their goals.”

Does this herald a radical new world in which social workers help older people to release their inner gardener, or chauffeur them to a blues jam session with their mates? Not quite yet.  For a start this was Westminster, not Holyrood, and so the review applies to England and not Scotland.

And, of course, words don’t necessarily translate into meaningful action.  However Burstow’s vision of social care being about what a person would like to be supported to do is, and of meeting their social needs being a primary aim, is to be applauded.

So is Scotland ahead or lagging behind here?  The Self Directed Support Bill currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament holds out the prospect of older people being able to take control of the budget for any social care they receive.

Age Scotland’s Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer, Callum Chomczuk, gave evidence to the Parliament this week on the bill, and said:

“The Bill builds on existing provision for people to make use of direct payments for social care, however it includes new features including a right to advocacy.  This is crucial, as a knowledgeable and impartial advocate can open your eyes to the widest range of options to improving your health and wellbeing, from gardening classes to a short break with a friend.”

This all sounds great for those receiving care at home, but what about older people in residential care? No matter how good support is for people in their communities, it’s inevitable that many of us at some point will need to go into a care home.

Subjected to a drip feed of scare stories in the media, there’s understandably a high level of public anxiety that our fate is to be sat twelve hours a day in the same chair, staring blankly at the Jeremy Kyle Show while a callous care assistant feeds us dog biscuits.

While there are poorly performing care homes out there, they are under more pressure than ever before thanks to the recent introduction of annual unannounced inspections.  And with more than three in every four rated good, very good or excellent on quality of care and support it’s clear that the majority are providing a decent service.

The best, however, look for opportunities to offer something special to residents, to spark their interest and kindle their joy in life.

On 3rd July this year these care homes will be taking part in Go for Gold, a care home ‘Olympics’ involving games, walking and dance challenges for residents to mark the run up to the World Congress on Active Ageing in Glasgow on 13th to 17th August.  They will also taking advantage of opportunities including Luminate, Scotland’s first national festival celebrating arts, creativity and ageing in October, to make the care home experience rewarding and life affirming for each resident.

Do you think that the Minister’s ideas for social care should include the provision of leisure and social activities? Let us know in the comments – we’d be interested to hear your thoughts.