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Making local voices heard during coronavirus

MP Mike Penning at Age UK Dacorum

Global issue, local experience

The coronavirus pandemic has required a local response, as well as a worldwide one. We discuss how the Age UK network has been working to influence decision-makers for their communities.

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Coronavirus, and the resulting periods of lockdown and isolation, has made it harder for older people’s voices to be heard. By collaborating with our network of Age UKs, we’ve been working hard to share the stories of local communities and how they’ve been meeting the needs of their older residents.

Local knowledge for a global problem

Coronavirus has reinforced our long-held belief in the importance of authentic, local expertise – something the Age UK network of more than 130 local Age UKs provides in spades. From food parcels to befriending, local Age UKs have been instrumental in delivering the practical support many older people have relied on to get them through lockdown. So it’s vital that politicians are also aware of the problems facing older people, and the Age UK network’s ability to support them.

Alongside local Age UKs, we've written hundreds of letters to MPs, outlining how older people are being supported at a community level. We’ve been particularly pleased that MPs have chosen to visit local services to see for themselves the work that’s being done, and to listen to the experiences of older people during this pandemic and beyond.

Making links with MPs

Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, is a long-time support of Age UK Dacorum’s work, and he has seen first-hand the work that’s being done in his local area. Over the Easter bank holiday weekend, he volunteered his time to assist our colleagues and volunteers at Age UK Dacorum to deliver advice to older people who were shielding from coronavirus, as well as Easter eggs.

We’ve also worked closely with Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington. One of their constituency MPs is Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not only did they want to be able to speak up for older people in the area, but they also wanted to call on Mr Sunak for increased voluntary sector support, and further clarity on the furlough scheme, which would be beneficial to the entire Age UK network and the wider voluntary and community sector. Many more local Age UK’s have written to or emailed their MPs detailing their services and what’s happened to respond to the increase in demand since the coronavirus outbreak.

We’d like to say a massive thank you to each and every colleague across the local Age UK network who has taken the time to get in touch with their local MP and highlight the incredible work they’ve been doing and the many challenges they and older people face.

Working with local councils

Local councils have been key to how communities have been able to respond to coronavirus. While each local Age UK will have very different relationships with their local council, it’s perhaps never been more important that councils and voluntary and community organisations come together to work in new ways.

Age UK Wandsworth and Age UK Berkshire’s online shopping services have seen massive increases in demand in recent months. Their local borough councils have stepped up to help them support older people across the local areas. Not only are the short-term effects of this welcomed, these collaborative efforts also help establish stronger working relationships for future work.

Crisis as the mother of invention

While coronavirus has placed an at times unbearable level of strain on local Age UKs, new and strengthened relationships with local decision makers mean that many have been able to secure funding crucial for their survival. Strengthened relationships with MPs also mean the real and visible difference local Age UKs are making is being seen, and older people’s voices are being heard.

At the heart of all this work, of course, are the older people the Age UK network is here to serve. As lockdown lifts, we remain committed to ensuring they are able to get the support they need on our country’s long road to recovery. Working with those who have the power to include their needs in local policy is therefore vital.

Local influencing partner pack

Age UK’s Public Affairs Team have put together a Partner Pack with resources, tips and case studies from across the Age UK network to support local influencing activities during the pandemic.

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Last updated: Jul 15 2020

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