RECOVERY PLAN FOR LONDON: PRINCIPLES TO PROTECT OLDER PEOPLE AND SHAPE LONDON’S SAFE RECOVERY
We believe that the London’s recovery plan needs to recognise some key principles for recognising older people’s needs as we enter recovery.
OLDER LONDONERS HAVE BEEN SEVERELY AFFECTED BY THE PANDEMIC
The effect of COVID on older people in London has been dramatic and will still present challenges during recovery. We know that for example their health and wellbeing, financial security, employment, independent living, and social connectedness have all been affected. It is important for policy makers to understand the short- and long-term impacts on older people and their changing needs to be able to be utilised in recovery planning. At the same time there have been some positives during the crisis – the practical and emotional support from the community, local services and families has been immense and this needs to be sustained as we enter recovery.
A RECOVERY PLAN FOR LONDON
Recovery from COVID is of a much larger scale than disasters we have experienced and affects all parts of London. It is complex, the knock-on effects are significant, and we do not yet know all the impacts of COVID, which of course could re-emerge. We recognise that recovery must be flexible and may take some years. Recovery is a phased approachandshould recognise the different stages of recovery and understand the effects on older people, as well as the different needs evolving. Our view is that any recovery must
- address the urgent problems faced by some older people,
- restore services and deal with any backlogs,
- tackle any key problems that have emerged because of the crisis,
- set long term plans to achieve positive outcomes for older people,
- but also use the opportunity to do things differently.
To use a well-worn cliché – this will be a marathon not a sprint.
NINE KEY PRINCIPLES TO PROTECT AND ENHANCE OLDER LONDONERS IN A RECOVERY PLAN
- Preventing age discrimination. One of the unfortunate features of the pandemic was the rise of age discrimination, notably stereotypes of older people “being a burden”, particularly in some media. We need to resist and challenge ageism where it exists both conscious and unconscious.
- Older people are not all the same. Over 70s are not all vulnerable and in need. The risk is that stereotypes exist and are unconsciously used in planning. Older Londoners are a truly diverse group with different needs, interests, and activities – who work, volunteer, and support the community. And they are all individuals and vary like in any age group.
- Need to identify those most at risk. We do though recognise that there are many older people who have suffered during COVID and the system needs to ensure that the right support is given to meet urgent needs, but also anticipate changing needs during recovery.
- Using the right evidence. Plans need to be based on evidence, not assumptions about what older people want or may be thought to need. Research needs to be used to assess these needs in tandem with engagement with older people to hear their views and interpret findings.
- Assessing the impact of plans on older people. Any plan needs to know what the impact will be on older people rather than based on untested assumptions. This goes beyond the normal equality impact assessments. Will plans create barriers with negative effects, will they affect older people’s attitudes and most importantly their behaviour?
- Engaging and listening. Key is ensuring that older people can contribute to London’s recovery having high-quality conversations with policymakers – we have valuable experience to give. But this needs to right at the beginning of planning rather than consulting over plans that are in an advanced state. In short, recovery needs to be done with and not to older people. Transparency is an important principle in achieving trust and support.
- Achieving an integrated approach to public service reform in recovery. Recovery plans need to be integrated across all public services to ensure they are joined up for older people and changes in one area do not negatively impact on others.
- Communicating effectively. Information needs about recovery to be tailored to the needs and interests of older people using all trusted channels. One size communication doesn’t work. And with the digital divide deeply affecting older people hard copy information also needs to be available and distributed to those older people who need it.
- Helping support organisations for older people and local initiatives that have helped vulnerable older people. One of the benefits from the crisis has been the way that groups came together to help older people particularly those in need and this new infrastructure needs to be maintained.