Final Report by Chris Walsh (Chief Exec – Wise Age ) on Resourcing Older People’s Employment Support ( ROPES) Project, delivered by Wise Age Ltd, funded by Trust for London.
This is the end of the 2016 – 2018 ROPES project contract which was generously funded by Trust for London (TFL) . It is also the culmination of 2 year’s previous contracted work funded by TFL in 2014-2015. This is my Chief Exec’s summary of the project and should be read in conjunction with our Independent Evaluators report on the project.
The aim of the ROPES programme was to run a ‘Training the Trainers’ programme to help develop the awareness, expertise and ability to deliver support by London Voluntary and community organisations, in the fields of Age and Employment support to over 50s needing employment and self-employment.
This programme has proved to be a great success as we have been able to actively train and support over 80 voluntary and community sector organisations and individuals that included organisations from every borough that the programme targeted. They were given 3 days training, covering all aspects of the situation and barriers facing older people; the ageist myths that employers hold; plus the benefits that older workers bring and the benefits that age diversity brings to employers. We provided templates which each beneficiary organisation could use and customise to help them evaluate, register, update and monitor client progress. We then used and passed on our 20 years of experience in working with older people needing employability training and support and explained the specific and necessary requirements that older learners need, offering templates for delivering training and support.
In addition, we covered best practice examples from around the UK and in Europe both with age friendly businesses and in helping older people back to work, plus facilitated learners in carrying out local research into the Employment and unemployment situation by age in their boroughs and in lobbying councils for change to help older people in their area.
We received positive feedback from the vast majority of our beneficiaries.
To continue accessing this information and support we set up a ROPES special members only section of our website which features 5 different elements to our library allowing people to use and access all this online support.
We also continued our support after the training to include newsletters, regular network meetings plus 121 support.
The other area of practical follow up work we did was to encourage local partnerships between beneficiary organisations and facilitated organisations applying for funding and setting up consortia.
As a result of our work there has been greater community and voluntary sector awareness around issues of older working age, the incidence of institutional ageism and ways to overcome these barriers.
There have been a number of organisations, including Housing Associations and smaller specialist agencies who have now got contracts to deliver DWP contract for the over 50s , both at regional funding levels for specific boroughs and also for larger pan regional ESF funded 50+ support for DWP clients that was led by Redbridge CVS.
We have been able, through ROPES, to research and develop best practice examples in order to produce 2 brochures around Age and Employment – one for Unemployed Seniors and the other for employers. These booklets are being used to help other CVS advisors and unemployed over 50s access best practice to help older job seekers find employment or self-employment. The Employers booklet is being used as part of wider campaigns to a educate and persuade employers of the benefits of retaining and employing over 50s employees and why an age diverse workforce improves their business performance. These booklets in pdf format have now been sent to all ROPES members and is available to be downloaded by site visitors. In addition, as part of our ROPES legacy programme we have printed off and are disseminating both brochures, which have received positive responses from both senior clients and C&VS agencies
We believe that as a result of this project we have been able to build a network of knowledgeable organisations and individuals able to help older people out of poverty and into employment and in the process overcoming social isolation, as well as helping the CVS to engage with the DWP and other agencies in a way that is effective for older people.
The indirect impact has been to help hundreds of over 50s Londoners who are out of work into employment or self-employment (50% of our Wise Age clients have been helped into work as opposed to the UK average for the 50+ of 15%). This has been as a result of ROPES beneficiary organisations both obtaining contracts for the local DWP 50+ employment support contracts, local borough 50+ programmes and being sub-contractors for wider ESF 50+ and allied programmes. The over 50s have been a key demographic in wider employment support programmes aimed at single parents, BAME and women unemployed clients and in particular Carers and ex- carers (as 50% of all carers in England are aged 50- 65). The members of our ROPES networked helped others along the road to employment, through volunteering and in so doing reduce their social isolation, loneliness and poverty.
All of the research, presentations, best practice examples and templates for seniors, employers and advisors has now been transferred from our Wise Age members only section to our home page of our www.wiseage.org.uk website ( to be found under Seniors, Employers and Advisors and Researchers sections).
We also held a final conference in 2018 around the issues of age and Employment – focusing on the situation in London. This was attended by DWP reps who were interested in our research, work and approach, which has further strengthened our relationship with the DWP who increasingly recognise the importance of supporting older unemployed seniors, especially those who are long term unemployed.
In addition, we have followed up this work, along with ROPES colleagues, to promote the key issues and recommendations that older job seekers and those that work with them to decision makers in London, in particular the Mayor of London. We are working with the Mayor’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team to help ensure that their EDI strategy incorporates the needs, demands and ideas of older Londoners, including those that relate to employment. This is an ongoing exercise which Wise Age and partners is actively engaged in and is working to incorporate an Employment and Skills set of recommendations and concerns within the wider project of helping the GLA to make London an Age Friendly city.
The ongoing challenges that face us include the decline of the voluntary sector. This has meant that some of the organisations we helped and who were ROPES members have since stopped operating, due largely to the lack of funding for the Community and Voluntary sector; further compounded by the massive cuts which local government has faced over the last 8 years, which in turn led to the reduction of grants and contracts available to the CVS. In addition, some of the people who were working on relevant older people’s employment support contracts for member organisations were let go as there was insufficient funding to continue their contracts. As the workload has increased for the Community and Voluntary sector while people and resources have declined it has led to a greater amount of pressure on existing staff and resources so that the primary basis for ongoing collaboration has had to be focused around trying to find new funding opportunities and contracts. However at local levels the relationships built up between members has been positive – especially between larger CVS organisations , such as Housing Associations, local Age UK borough branches and branches of national charities ( such as MIND) and smaller local specialist agencies ( who deal at a local level or around a particular client demographic such as Women Refugees, and Somali Pensioners).
Wise Age has also tried to involve local ROPES partners in other age related and employment projects in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Lewisham.
There is now a growing realisation that older working age people have a lot to offer, that age diversity really does increase employers’ profitability, productivity and staff morale and retention. As London faces a future with fewer numbers of young EU people coming to work, the importance of older Londoners joining the workforce and being re-skilled and retrained to work in a more flexible way and be able to support younger members of the workforce is being seen as a key feature in future workforce and HR development by companies of all sizes and in all sectors.
We thank Trust for London for their ongoing support and hope that our legacy will continue to help build the awareness of the importance of older working age people, of age diversity and as a result lead to even more older Londoners being employed in jobs they are good at and enjoy doing.
Wise Age Ltd,
3 Birkbeck Street, London E2 6JY
Chris Walsh - our Chief Exec is the elected chair of Age Platform Europe ( UK section) - Here is his report on the annual conference of the leading 50+ network in Europe:
REPORT ON AGE PLATFORM EUROPE ANNUAL MEETING by Chris Walsh
- The annual general meeting of Age Platform Europe (the biggest over 50s network in Europe), was held in Brussels on 12 – 14 June. There were nearly 100 delegates, staff and speakers.
- The key points that arose were that age platform is now running a number of successful projects, research programmes and campaigns.
- These include the Age Barometer – which outlines how each country and government is progressing on addressing the main elements of our ageist society and economy. We need to ensure that we research and write up how the UK govt and society and economy is supporting older people or not and to submit our findings both as individual organisations and as an Age Platform UK combined response
- The age friendly environments initiative which uses the World Health Organisation template to research and make proposals round the 8 domains or themes that address the key issues affecting older people. This is now a major intentional programme and works best only if older people are actively involved in the process. We need to keep being involved in providing our expertise to help make this a reality and to ensure we support Pail and other organisations working around Age Friendly Environments to facilitate older people are the leaders and co-producers of the recommendations, Action plans and policies that will make up London’s strategic approach to becoming age friendly. The next conference to help make this happen will be at City Hall on 1 November. People with whom I am in contact at Age Platform are available to offer examples of best practice and hopefully we can be included in future partnerships and conferences around this topic. I made contact with Julia Waddoux who is Age Platform lead and Laura Christ who is the Netherlands leading expert on age friendly environments who are happy to maintain contact and help.
- There was also a Manifesto on Ageing that was sent to many European Parliament prospective candidates and parties. This manifesto can be used and amended to be sent to British Parliamentarians to raise issues of concern to older people. It is recommended that we try to build contacts and connections with MEPs, members of the House of Commons and Lords and key people at the Mayor of London’s offices and in London boroughs to see whether we can educate and enthuse them to support these age friendly initiatives and campaigns
- There was a long discussion around their campaign to bring about a UN Charter of Human Rights for Older People as it has proved to be a useful mechanism to address discrimination and exclusion of people with disabilities and should be a helpful element to our wider campaign to overcome ageism and to make Europe age friendly over the next decade. We can play a role in supporting this campaign. I met with Emily McClarron from Age UK and Elizabeth Sclater representing the European Older Women’s network
- There were also issues raised around future membership by members from different countries and the issue of what membership will be available. There is a shortfall in income from member fees which will rise if Brexit takes place and if Age refuses to allow UK members full membership rights.
- We in the UK have argued that if there is a deal then UK membership should remain the same, just as other affiliated members from countries such as Switzerland, Norway are able to join as full members.
- This doubt over our future rights makes it very difficult to recruit new UK members at present
- These issues were raised by myself in my capacity s as chair of Age Platform (UK) at the meeting which was well received and we obtained support for the agreement that unless we left without any deal at all then we would continue as full members with full rights as either an ongoing member of the EU or with a deal making us a partner with the EU in a similar position ( though with different terms) to other partner countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. If we do have a no deal Brexit it was agreed that Age Platform would wait until it was ratified and if necessary, wait on a General Election or 2nd Referendum before we left full membership. Both the Secretary General of Age and the Chair of the Exec contacted me to assure me of their continued commitment to working in partnership with all UK members
- There was a motion for members to put forward additional funding to cover the possible costs of Brexit leading to the loss of UK members, which was narrowly defeated and which therefore strengthens our had as they now have no way of covering the costs of UK members leaving
- I suggested that Age Platform consider making the members section much more attractive by having more info on research, projects, partnerships and campaigns advertised as being available only to members, as it transpires from my meeting with the British Institute of Gerontology that Universities who should be members are accessing nearly all the info they need without joining and paying membership dues
- Key links to find out about projects and campaigns being run by Age Platform can be found on their website https://www.age-platform.eu/
- On the final day there was a very interesting discussion around campaigning and how best to do it, so that the excellent policy and research work being done and the campaigns are better taken up by governments, employers, the media and older people themselves. It was pointed out that the reason that the UN Declaration of human Rights for those with disabilities happened because they actively campaigned with media releases, research, demands for changes to policy and legislation plus direct action ( by groups like the Belgian ‘ Gang of Angry Seniors and a Swedish group entitled Angry Older Women ( or witches) which led to these progressive changes being made. It was noted by me that we need to combine different forms of resistance and education and that without a mass mobilisation of older people there would be little change but that the impact of being actively engaged in campaigns and struggles for a better life for older people also increases the likelihood that people will feel more empowered, less socially isolated and thus less reactionary
- People we have relations with and with whom I made contact include – members in Italy ( including ADTAL40+ who are past partners), France ( including past partners and the international age and gender expert who spoke at one of our joint conference with Pail), Spain( including past partners), Netherlands- particularly Laura Christ who is a lead partner in a network around age friendly environments), Sweden ( whose rep made common cause with myself over emphasising the double discrimination faced by immigrants and refugees who are 50+), Scandinavian network, Finland and Denmark, plus Germany, Portugal, Austria, Cyprus, Croatia and Malta.
- I had a long discussion with reps from Greece, and I agreed our membership as a partner with them in a bid they are making to Horizon to carry out research into how best to attract the grey pound or silver economy tourists and visitors for Greece, with particular emphasis on UK travellers. I also discussed how we maybe able to partner them in a network bid around Introducing IT, internet and communication skills to older people with whom I am in contact.
- I also sent out an email to all 80+ attendees at the conference thanking them for their support for us over Brexit, our commitment to working in best practice networks and partnerships and asking that they all consider us as potential partners in future bids and programmes.
- I will also circulate a report on the conference by the rep from the Civil Service Pensioners Association.
Chief Exec – Wise Age
Chair Age Platform Europe ( UK section)
We are completely opposed to the government's attempt to deny older people aged 75+ the right to free access to BBC services.
This is a government decision which breaks their own Manifesto commitment. They should not be allowed to pass the buck on this to the BBC who have their own cuts and needs to consider but should instead take responsibility to maintain the support given by the state to help older people access transport, heating and TV.
As many older people are increasingly socially isolated the TV is often their main company and entertainment and it is cruel to remove this. Also the majority of pensioners live on under £11,500 per year, with millions actually in poverty therefore the amount they will need to find to pay for their licence will be a significant drain on their very limited resources, unlike the situation of those in government and Parliament for whom such an amount is a drop in the ocean.
We are also very opposed to the attempts by government and sections of the media and politicians to try to create an artificial division between the old and the young. Attacking the rights of the old will not lead to increasing the rights and benefits of the young. What is required is intergenerational solidarity so that those at both ends of the age spectrum - particularly the majority who are facing insecurity in income, housing, health and community facilities - are supported through an end to austerity, an increase in local services and increased wages and benefits for all.