There are more than 620 older people’s local forums in the UK, involving more than 200,000 of us in later life. By working together in independent forums, we are making our voices heard on the issues that matter to us in later life, influencing the planning and provision of services locally, regionally and nationally.
The local forums vary in size from small groups to those with thousands of members, but they all have a number of features in common: they are independent organisations that give us in later life a collective voice, influencing decision-makers on matters that impact on our everyday lives. The forums are democratic and inclusive; they are run independently by older people, for older people. All members are volunteers.
In the local forums we in later life decide our own agenda, share information and raise issues that concern us. As well as campaigning, we often have social activities, run trips and hold open meetings: socialising, meeting new people and keeping in touch with local news.
“Are you listening?” booklet has been produced to share good practice on the effective engagement of older people by Age UK. Stemming from their work with older people’s forums over many years, it demonstrates the value of forums and a wide range of other engagement initiatives.
Speaking Up for Our Age is Age UK’s programme dedicated to supporting the independent local forums. The programme:
- works with you if you want to set up a forum
- gives practical support to your forum
- provides start-up and development grants to forums
- sends regular newsletters to keep your forum in touch with others
We have been sent information on one such forum which shows the excellent work that can be done.
Newport Senior Citizens Forum
The Forum was established in 1998 to discuss a wide range of issues including housing, the environment, transport, health, leisure and employment. Its intention was also to contribute to the determination of planning and policies which have an effect on older people.
Members of the Forum attend local and national meetings, and sit on council scrutiny forums providing a voice for older residents in Newport. They represent a wide range of interests related to older persons. Many are involved in other local organisations that contribute to the well being of older people.
The Forum is conducted by an executive committee of 15 members, elected at the annual general public meeting held at the Newport Leisure Centre.
The monthly executive committee meetings are held at the Civic Centre, except when they precede Public meetings at the Leisure Centre.
Public meetings are held quarterly on the 2nd Monday of the month from 2.00 pm. to 4.00 pm. at the Riverside Suite at the Newport Leisure Centre.
The Forum is exceptionally well supported by the Newport City Council. It provides the venues for the meetings, and is represented by an Older Persons’ Champion, nominated by the Council as well as an administrative assistant.
Several members represent the Forum on other national organisations, but invariably find that their ‘new projects’ have already been discussed locally and put into operation locally several years ago.
The Public meetings are addressed by persons with special knowledge of subjects related to the needs of older people. Frequently such speakers address also members of the executive committee.
Issues dealt with in the past year include:-
Sheltered housing, changes to Telecare, council tax grants, University training for social care courses, Bus stops and toilet provision, disabled parking facilities at the passport office, noise abatement, carers’ rights and issues, parking on pavements and dog fouling.
Let us know if you are a member of a forum in your area and what you have been able to achieve.