Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  The Third Age Trust is pleased to have an opportunity to submit its comments on the above consultative paper on behalf of some 80,000 individual members of 386 Universities of the Third Age in the United Kingdom.

  1.  The Trust views the formation of the Inter Ministerial Group to Co-ordinate Government Strategy for Older People as a very important initiative which we expect to make a positive contribution to a general improvement in the lives of approximately one fifth of the UK population.

  2.  The Trust endorses the view that "all government departments must work together to make sure they complement rather than contradict each other". However, as some of the following points may show not all government departments are "in step" where older people are concerned.

  3.  The areas of concern identified by the Group are considered to be about right and our specific comments on some are given below:

    (a)  Health Living—The Departments of Health and Social Security should be much more aware of the benefits to the State of encouraging third agers to join participative organisations such as the Universities of the Third Age or similar bodies. In so doing third agers keep themselves physically and mentally active which has the effect of delaying the onset of the "fourth age of dependency" and, as a result, saving state expenditure on care services.

    (b)  Travel—clearly rural bus services must be significantly improved if a concessionary bus fare scheme is to make a real difference to country dwellers. Furthermore, because the ability of older people to "get out and about" has an important effect on their quality of life, and hence their health and welfare, all transport policy issues cannot be left solely in the hands of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

    (c)  Active Lives—while it is true that many older people have the time, the expertise and the enthusiasm to become involved in "volunteering" there does not appear to be a co-ordinated encouragement from the Government. As examples we cite the following: (i) the recent DSS publication "A New Contract for Welfare" did not include "self help or volunteering" in the list of eight principles; (ii) the recent Home Office paper "Compact", while acknowledging that "the voluntary and community sector have a vital role in society", the department will only now begin to work with the Local Government Association to encourage the adoption of the principles stated in Compact; (iii) the DfEE, in its Green Paper, did not acknowledge the importance of self-help learning arrangements, and (iv) in the DETR White Paper "Modern Local Government" the department does not appear to know of the existence of the "Better Government for Older People" project!

    (d)  Active Lives—in 1998 the DfEE has issued a revised "Strategic Framework to 2002" which sets out three specific objectives. One of these (on page 6) states "To develop in everyone a commitment to lifelong learning, so as to enhance their lives, improve their employability in a changing labour market and create the skills that our economy and employers need." However, when set against the subsidiary aims on the same page which make no reference to learning beyond the end of a working life, this objective is clearly too narrowly defined. It is not in accord with "Promoting lifelong learning for all ages" as stated (on page 10) in "Building a Better Britain".

April 1999

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