Council need to do more to reach isolated older people

Lessons from best value review weren't applied, says Audit Commission.

What the Council says:

The council's approach to better government for older people is good and has promising prospects according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

Inspectors awarded two stars and found that councillors, council staff and other agencies in Hammersmith & Fulham were committed to the vision of better government for older people. The council was particularly praised for opening up the decision making process to older people.

As a result of being consulted and involved, older people have brought about lots of improvements and introduced new initiatives for the council's older customers. These include:

· Keeping the facility of paying for council tax at post offices
· BGOP reading group which 'road tests' council and health service information leaflets
· Production of the 'Guide to services for 50+ in Hammersmith & Fulham'
· Expanding the Agewell programme, which aims to improve the health and fitness of older people, on offer are Tai Chi classes (extremely effective in falls prevention), personal safety courses for older people and much more
· IT training for older people offered at the Open Learning Centre at the Sands End Library
· A targeted income support take-up campaign has led to an annual income of over £330,000 for older people in the borough
· Older people have been involved in choosing providers of home care
· Transport - a number of initiatives have contributed to Hammersmith & Fulham being named 'London Transport Borough of the Year' by Ken Livingstone, these include:
participating in bus driver training with London United;
developing new routes, for example the 220;
introducing the Snugbus which provides transport links between Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals and the north Fulham area.
The positive Audit Commission's report follows the glowing evaluation of Hammersmith and Fulham's BGOP in the Best Value Review where the initiative was described as:
"An effective local initiative with an impressive record of achievement which provides best value for local older people."


The Audit Commission has published last week its report on Hammersmith and Fulham Better Government for Older People (BGOP), targeted at over 50s. Twenty three per cent (38,200) of residents are over 50 and 12 per cent are of pensionable age. The report concluded that the council has "promising prospects for improvement", but its "aims have been very broad and lacking in prioritisation".

"We found that the council did not fundamentally challenge its approach or effectiveness during its best value review, and it did not apply the lessons of the review to make key changes. During the inspection, we raised concerns with their lack of priorities for improvement and the absence of a clearly focused strategy for delivering their priorities. The council responded by agreeing to prioritise isolated older people", says the report.

HF Better Government for Older People was ranked with two-star. Scores are on a scale ranging from no star (poor), one star (fair), two-star (good) and three-star (excellent). The BGOP vision was ‘to improve public services for older people by better meeting their needs, listening to their views, and encouraging and recognising their contribution’.

"We consider that Hammersmith and Fulham have a good approach to better government for older people. The council has opened up some of its decision making processes to the input of older people and it has responded to the views of older residents in a number of service developments with positive results. The council has been successful in building capacity for older people through the BGOP initiative but needs to do more to reach sections of the community who find it hard to participate."

The report suggests actions "to resolve a number of general, political, managerial and partnership issues". It recommends that the council should:

· allocate resources appropriately and make officer roles more focused and feasible;
· refine monitoring arrangements to measure the impact of the council's work on isolated older people;
· review management arrangements to ensure the delivery of aims that cut across departmental boundaries;
· in its role as lead partner and community capacity builder for BGOP, the council should offer to assist the older people's consultative committee to set and focus on priorities on its chosen priorities, on an ongoing basis;
· develop an inter-agency strategy with key partners to reach isolated older people;
· assist the consultative committee to spread the workload and decision-making more evenly between members and to encourage broader involvement from existing and new members;
· give greater priority to recruiting new members to the consultative committee and to the training, developing and supporting older people to take part and in recognition of their voluntary input;
· facilitate ethnic minority representation on the home care users' group;
· develop a systematic approach to ascertain the views and wishes of home care clients; and
· rationalise the council's local response to government initiatives for older people.

Audit Commission Web site

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