74. EQUAL has been a disappointment. How to extend
our active life, and to improve the quality of our old age, is
an absolutely crucial issue. Indeed, given the current demographic
trends, meeting the needs of an ageing population could be said
to be the most important issue which confronts our society at
present. EQUAL was, in concept, an admirable initiative, aiming
to use the resources, expertise and capacity for innovation of
the research base to extend the active period of people's lives.
Yet it seems to have achieved very little. This is partly the
result of a lack of impetus and enthusiasm on the part of the
OST, but largely stems from the fact that EQUAL carries no funding
of its own. The Government must face up to the fact that EQUAL,
as established, has not worked. Responsibility should pass to
whichever Government department is given lead responsibility for
ageing. Unless EQUAL can be relaunched, properly funded and managed
with enthusiasm, it should be abandoned.
75. Tackling the issues posed by a population
that is ageing will be a test of joined-up government, and a test
which we cannot afford to fail.