†The Ageing Well Programme
The Ageing Well programme provided sector-led support for local authorities in England to assist them in meeting the challenges of an ageing population. The support focused on four delivery themes, namely promoting effective leadership, encouraging a strategic approach to ageing issues, involving older people and promoting joined up commissioning and delivery of services. It was delivered by the Local Government Association and funded by DWP - £4.6m. The programme ran from July 2010 to March 2012.
DWP commissioned research to assess the extent to which the programme met its objectives across the four themes and to assess the progress local authorities have made in preparing for an ageing society. Specifically it aimed to identify the benefits of this kind of sector-led programme as a model for future support, including the production of legacy resources.
Overall the programme was successful in meeting its aim to support local authorities with a range of national and regional programme activities. Examples of this support included master classes and leadership academies. The programme was positively received with four in five participating local authorities agreeing the programme had helped them to address issues presented by an ageing society either a great deal or fair amount.
Many felt that the programme acted as a catalyst for changing attitudes within their local authority. Outcomes included supporting lead officers to champion the ageing agenda, involving older people in developing a strategic approach and more joined up approaches within councils and with their partners. However, some felt that the programme had been delivered in too short a timescale to make a real difference and there was concern about the additional staff time and resources needed to take part in this kind of programme. One case study authority felt the programme offered little new insight to them.†
A key part of the Ageing Well legacy will be to extend its reach to other local decision makers and influencers such as district and parish councils and key stakeholders such as the Age Action Alliance. To ensure this happens, DWP is funding two posts to disseminate and embed good practice and learning from the programme. Another practical aspect of the legacy will be the dissemination of products and materials developed through the programme on the recently launched Ageing Well Legacy website and Knowledge Hub.
Active at 60 Community Agents
The Active at 60 Community Agent programme was a £1m DWP fund that was administered nationally by the Community Development Foundation (CDF). Through the use of small grants (461 community groups received grants ranging from £250 to £3,000) and development of the Community Agent role, the programme was designed to encourage community groups and volunteers to help people approaching retirement to stay or become more active, in particular those at risk of social isolation and loneliness in later life. The programme ran from March 2011 to December 2011. Research was commissioned to assess programme outcomes.
Overall the programme was successful in increasing participation by older people in community activities through the use of funding and the Community Agent role. The Community Agent role was seen as important to provide local leadership and engage with older people to encourage them to participate. Surveys carried out with participants showed that 9 in 10 (92 per cent) groups attracted older people as new members and three-quarters (74 per cent) attracted those who were living on their own. Four in 10 groups (41 per cent) extended the range and number of activities on offer. Participants spoke of benefits such as improved well-being and new friendships.
One of the key findings has been to demonstrate that small amounts of money used at local level combined with local leadership in the form of a Community Agent or equivalent role, can both increase participation and improve the range and quality of activities leading to improved outcomes for older people. The main challenge remains sustaining activity beyond the life of the programme and associated funding. Early evidence is encouraging with nine in ten (91 per cent) groups saying they are continuing with the role after the funding ceased while eight in ten (81 per cent) Community Agents planned to continue in the role. Forty per cent of Community Agents surveyed said they had encouraged others to volunteer.
The majority of groups were planning to access different funding sources to sustain and expand activities. The research showed that a small amount of funding and better use of local assets could be effective to overcome common barriers to participation such as transport and venues.††
Evidence and learning from the Community Agents programme will be taken forward as part of the wider Ageing Well legacy work.
†If you require further information on either of these reports please contact me (Brian.firstname.lastname@example.org).