London’s recovery from COVID-19: Community conversations with older Londoners
Published on 17 September 2020 03:31 PM
Older Londoners have been sharing their opinions about what the Mayor, Local Authorities, public services and others should prioritise when it comes to the long-term response to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of this, Age UK London organised discussion sessions, phone calls and surveys so that the experiences and opinions of older Londoners would be heard by those making decisions about recovering from the pandemic.There were over 150 contributions from older Londoners, which were gathered after the London Recovery Board asked charities and community groups to host ‘community conversations’ to feedback on proposed ambitions for the capital’s recovery. One-to-one phone conversations took place to ensure Londoners that didn’t use the internet could also participate.
London Recovery Board and the ‘Missions’
The ambitions are taking the shape of ‘Missions’, which provide a framework for action to address issues such as mental health and wellbeing and digital access for all. The missions have been developed and are now being finalised by the London Recovery Board, which is co-chaired by the Mayor of London and the Leader of London Councils.
New and existing challenges
The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and problems that many Londoners faced long before coronavirus. Even when there are no longer new cases of COVID-19, the economic and social impact of the pandemic will be felt for many years. The London Recovery Board’s guiding principles are that missions will address social, economic and health inequalities and deliver a cleaner, greener London. Their aim is to ensure Londoners are at the heart of the recovery.
The views of older Londoners
The overwhelming majority of participants said they supported the ambitions highlighted in the proposed missions and that the issues being addressed were important to them.
When reflecting on the mission ‘Good work for all Londoners’, participants felt that activities should aim to persuade employers of the benefits of supporting older workers. One participant said that for them the mission meant:
“An enjoyable role that suits my requirements and either uses my vast experience and competencies or where training is provided. Persuade employers of the value and commitment of older workers and offer them flexible hours so that they can support child or parent care.”
In a survey looking at the proposed mission ‘Better health for those most affected by the pandemic’, participants said that actions they thought would have the most impact for older Londoners included ‘Proactively including older Londoners in more projects promoting mental wellbeing’, ‘Ensuring all older Londoners can access social prescribing services’; ‘Ensuring changes to public spaces… to protect the public from coronavirus are dementia-friendly’; ‘Taking action in areas of healthcare provision and prevention services to tackle health inequalities experienced by older Londoners from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds’; ‘Promoting active ageing by ensuring the StreetSpace scheme and other schemes designed to promote walking and cycling are age-friendly’; ‘Ensuring older Londoners affected by malnutrition or at risk from malnutrition are meaningfully included in projects designed to tackle malnutrition’ and lastly ‘Increase access to bereavement support services’.
Participants in the community conversation activities were also asked what was lacking from the proposed Missions. On the Mission to tackle inequality and reduce poverty, some of the things identified as missing included supporting older people in debt, supporting sheltered housing residents and the need for more visible advice about benefits and available support.
The London Recovery Board met on 15th September when ‘refined’ missions were discussed. Some changes have already been made based on feedback. One example is that the mission on health has now become two separate missions; one on ‘mental health and wellbeing’ and one on ‘healthy lifestyles’.
The Recovery Board will finalise the missions before their next meeting in November and we expect announcements soon after about short, medium and long-term actions being developed to deliver the missions, along with more specific projects to take place. Age UK London are continuing to share the experiences and concerns of older Londoners with the Greater London Authority and others through twice monthly surveys, the London Age-friendly Forum, regular meetings and specific projects. We look forward to announcing new ways to engage with the London Recovery Board soon.
Further information about the London Recovery Board
• Find out more about London Recovery structures (including details of members) here.
• See the proposed ‘Missions’ for recovery here.