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“older people and their families”, “older people and their relatives”; in all the coverage of the so called dementia tax and the spotlight on social care, older people were entirely bracketed with their family or relatives.

AWOC believes we all know what is meant when media coverage or policy reports talk about family; they mean spouses/partners, children, parents. When the newspapers talk of older people having to “sell the family home” what they mean is the home where they would have raised their children, that’s why it’s so emotive.

Numerous think pieces and blogs have been published about social care both before, during and after the election. All of them refer to older people and their families. Not a single one that we have found mentions even in passing older people without family. It remains an invisible issue as we pointed out in “Our Voices”

AWOC is often told that we need to come with solutions; don’t bring more problems we are told, bring solutions. We have offered solutions; in “Our Voices” published in 2016 we list the following

  • Ensure that central government planning on ageing takes into account that increasing numbers of people will get old without family support.

  • Require local authorities to identify how many people in their area are likely to age without children and incorporate this into their strategies on ageing.

  • Enable GPs, hospitals and social care services to identify people without family, to provide support or care at an early stage and to guarantee involvement of other services to ensure they are not left without support.

  • Invest in inter-generational programmes and activities so that people ageing without children still have the possibility of engaging with other generations.

  • Offer advice and assistance to everyone over making plans for their later life that take into account what will happen if they do need care or lose capacity to make their own decisions.

  • Develop a national strategy for people ageing without children that brings together individual people and Ageing Without Children, along with national and local Government, the NHS, housing providers and key bodies from civil society.

  • Create social awareness around the issues of ageing without children.

  • Provide education and training to service providers who will be working directly with older people without children. It is vitally important that those who write policy, plan services and work directly with older people understand all of the issues associated with ageing without children.

  • Campaign for the National Census to collect childlessness data for men, as well as to record the reasons why both men and women are ageing without children.

  • Explore the feasibility of creating a national online hub and telephone service that would link all the currently available services (both government and independent) that are available to adults ageing without children.

  • Look into currently existing advocacy services for older people and see how they might demonstrate best practice in creating a national network of advocates for people ageing without children.

However, it is not just AWOC’s job to do this. Everyone working in the age sector should be thinking about it and ensuring that people ageing without children are incorporated into all that they do.

We are told that AWOC has been very influential which is really good to hear but being honest it doesn’t seem to have translated into much change on the ground. Reports regularly refer to older people and their families and don’t acknowledge the existence of older people without family. It’s not covered on conference agendas, the data on people ageing without children remains difficult to find e.g. why when the role of family is acknowledged as crucial in hospital discharge for example, is it impossible to find the numbers of older people discharged who don’t have family?

AWOC can propose solutions but has zero resources to implement them and we have to rely on others to take them up.

If AWOC is unable to find funding it will close in September and we are thinking about our legacy. We hope that if we don’t survive, others will take up the banner but at the moment it feels that people ageing without children are still very much on the periphery. We hope that this will change; helping people ageing without children is an issue for all the age sector, not just AWOC.

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