Tim Whitaker on PAiL’s Executive reflects on the prospects of London’s Recovery Plan for genuinely helping older Londoners.
If London’s recovery is to be real, we need to know more about older Londoners in the pandemic and do more for them in recovery.
London’s recovery planning is proceeding at pace yet equally older Londoners expectations are increasing that the London Recovery Plan will help to make London an Age Friendly City. Covid has had a dramatic effect on older Londoners, not just the tragic death toll but the continuing acute challenges to health and wellbeing and independent living. There are growing concerns that the London Recovery Board planning has so far not been treating age as an important protected characteristic and that the various needs of older Londoners are at risk of being neglected.
This appears to boil down to the lack of a clear recognition of the way the pandemic has affected older people in London. The GLA commissioned a Rapid Evidence Review of research on the effects of Covid to be used in planning. The report’s authors rather limply admitted there was too much evidence about “age” to go through and so the review “was able to cover age to a certain extent”. Out of a weighty 80-page report less than two pages are devoted to older adults – hardly promising for good evidence-based policy making.
Positive Ageing in London in June recommended as part of its first Recovery Plan for older Londoners – There is an urgent need for research, data, and feedback from older Londoners on what has happened to them during the crisis to help frame the plan and solutions. Reviewing the impact on older BAME people is particularly important. This is still vital.
Arguably we have some growing evidence albeit incomplete. Consultation on the missions threw up lots of feedback from older Londoners, yet it’s unclear how this got fed into framing the missions. Sitting outside of the process there’s rather a lack of transparency here – we’re naturally assuming missions will be truly evidence based and crucially reflect what older Londoners fed into consultation.
But there is a raft of surveys around which flag up the difficult effects of Covid on older people – particularly intersectionality. Nationally Age UK in England and Age Cymru have produced excellent reports on some of the adverse effects which resonate with what older Londoners have said. We now have a small library of evidence which would be helpful for recovery planning, but clearly London specific data is key for the actual impact on older people in London.
So, the lack of recognition of older people in the embryonic recovery plans becomes rather worrying. Is it purely an unfortunate oversight? Or is the fact that older Londoners cooped up in their homes since March and probably viewed as all “vulnerable “, are less visible to GLA decision makers on a policy platform and we’re not quite into the mayoral election season when grand promises arrive ? What we’re hoping is that age hasn’t fallen off the GLA’s priorities and an Age Friendly London pushed into the holding tray.
What’s required for recovery planning to genuinely help older Londoners? PAiL offered to “age proof” the missions a month ago but so far this has not been forthcoming.. Every mission has got implications for older Londoners. For example, the mission “High Streets for All” needs to be about making them age friendly; “Good work” needs to address the specific needs of older workers who are second to younger people in experiencing problems and so on. But we’ve also argued there should be across cutting plan for older people both immediately in terms of survival to face the winter problems, as well as a longer-term plan. Ultimately recovery is about ensuring London is a truly inclusive city – including older Londoners.