“Older people at Home in Wales”
This is the fourth of my series of comments on the report entitled “Our Housing Agenda: Meeting the Aspirations of Older People in Wales”. (You can see my earlier posts by clicking Welsh Housing in the TAG CLOUD).
As I’ve said in my earlier blogs, this is a very ambitious report with a lot of very good ideas. If they could all be followed up at a significant scale they would certainly have the power to transform the lives of many older people in later life.
- There are 37 separate threads requiring action which are identified in the report. Not all of these are new ideas, but each one has merit. They can also be inter-related and have greater potential power in combination, for instance, new housing should be a hub for wider community interaction and a base for outreach work into the community. However, it is not realistically possible to pursue all these avenues with the same vigour. The report acknowledges this by proposing that the actions are defined as either short term or medium term.
- The “lead” for most threads is seen as the Welsh Government and whilst it is true that they have to create a platform for new initiatives, it is more likely that innovative projects will be conceived from more entrepreneurial sources. The private sector, voluntary organisations and the charity sector are more familiar with incubating and developing new innovations.
- The overall vision of the report could lead to a substantial transformation of Older People’s housing and related services. Such change is probably best addressed in small steps, so that a programme of “proving projects” would be a good place to start.
- I would suggest this is best done with a three-pronged approach:-
- Firstly, Government, Local Authorities and Health Authorities should create a platform for innovation. They need to seed-fund the start-up of pilot projects and then clear barriers out of the way. The point of using pilot projects initially is that they don’t challenge the status quo too much and they allow for the fact that not all projects will be successful.
- Secondly, market research techniques should be used to determine the level of demand for services in local areas and in turn this should provide a database for potential innovation projects. This could be done based around the issues identified in the report using focus group discussions and wider surveys in potential pilot areas. Thereafter older people should participate in every stage of a project’s development and management.
- Thirdly, there should be independent monitoring and evaluation to determine in what way and how many older people have benefitted from the projects. The key performance criteria for the projects should be agreed at the outset with the sponsoring bodies.
Fulfilling the ambition of the report, would require a different and innovative style of approach. It would be necessary to harness and test the most innovative ideas, by directly involving older people; linking them to the most positive talents and skills in National and Local Government, the Health Service and the Private and Voluntary Sectors. Their work would need supporting with public and charitable funds and the results of their efforts would need to be validated by independent research.