Reaching out in Gloucestershire to get older people’s voices heard

Representation of older people nationally, regionally and locally has become increasingly difficult in recent years as forums have been starved of support and Covid has discouraged meetings. Here is how one county is looking to fill that void. By Matt Fellows, CEO Age UK Gloucestershire

There are some 150,000 older people across Gloucestershire – but how to get their voices heard by the bodies and institutions whose decisions affect their lives remains an unaddressed challenge.

This disconnect prevents a number of public sector bodies and (importantly) organisations in the Integrated Care System (ICS) from realising their own aspirations: engaging with, listening and responding to, a patient/client group which makes up almost 20% of the county’s population – and then identifying opportunities for co-production and collaboration.

Moreover, this is a population that is growing at a pace and disproportionately draws on spending across health and social care services. 

So, what is the answer?

At Age UK Gloucestershire (AUKG) we are proud to currently act as an informal representative of older people. We believe, though, that to realise our mutual aspirations we need to more formally constitute our role and approach to better materially represent “The Voice of Older People” locally.

But what might that look like in practice?

The diagram below illustrates an augmentation of the informal role and the arena we already operate in: 

· engaging a variety of ‘Health’ related partners, 

· supporting patients and their families through our delivery of services, 

· convening formal and informal groups to consult and listen, 

· carrying out surveys and seeking opinions around arrange of topical issues, 

· curating involvement and participation in seeking input and feedback, and 

· managing and developing relationships with a number of community partners who share our vision. 

The next stage would be to formalise these roles. That way we can be more strategic and dedicate committed resources to generating proactive and reactive input alongside the valuable insights represented by our partners. 

Our ambition is to constitute a panel of older people (in contrast to limited representation where voices can be inhibited or lost amidst a sea of competing agendas) to act as the authentic, representative voice of their community is critical. This panel would fulfil the important role of the interface between the recipients of the insight, for example the ICS and the wider community of older people, their families and stakeholders.

Their role in refining, building upon, testing, evaluating and structuring the views and input of the community of interest and then working alongside the ICS would be the enabling element in overcoming the challenges highlighted above. 

Achieving these aims through collaborative working

Realising such a proposition would require the commitment and investment of a number of parties. We believe we have an important role to play as an enabling partner in this space and stand ready to further the conversation about how we might bring such a proposition to life through collaboration, refinement and continuous improvement. 

If anyone reading this would like to part of that collaborative process, I’d love to hear from you.

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