‘Difficult’ year ahead for local Age UKs, warns federation boss 

21 Feb 2023 News

Paul Farmer, chief executive officer of Age UK

The recently appointed chief executive officer of Age UK has predicted that this year will be particularly challenging for its network of 130 organisations.  

In December, Age UK announced that it would use £5m from its reserves to support its network through winter

Kirsty Gaskell-Sinclair, the main charity’s head of network resilience, also revealed that three local Age UKs closed in 2021 because of a challenging economic climate. 

But speaking to Civil Society News earlier this month, chief executive Paul Farmer said he is “hopeful” that there will be no further closures in the foreseeable future. 

“I’m sure a number of local Age UKs will find this year very difficult but our plan is to make sure we’re working as closely as possible as we can together. I’m hopeful that we won’t lose any,” he said. 

Charities are under ‘huge pressure’ 

Farmer said that the survival of federated charities depends on staff, the support they can get from the federation and the local economic circumstances.

“We know the cost-of-living crisis is having an impact on local organisations themselves as well. The sector generally is under a huge amount of pressure and the pressure is a combination of increasing demand on the needs that we’re able to provide – we’ve seen that right away across our services – and the tightening in terms of resources,” he said. 

“Charities are not immune from the cost-of-living crisis. There are a lot of organisations that will struggle. A number of local Age UKs I’m sure we’ll find this year very difficult but our plan is to make sure that we’re working as closely as possible as we as we can together. I’m hopeful that we won’t lose any.”

Upcoming strategy

Age UK’s trustees decided to extend the charity’s three-year strategy, due to end in April 2022, a further year as it remains “relevant to the current situation for older people”.

Farmer said the charity is “right in the middle of that conversation at the moment”. “I think it’s really important that when you’re shaping a new strategy for an organisation to listen to people who use our services. 

“As we’re building our new strategy, the whole issue of equity and tackling inequalities amongst older people is going to be incredibly important.”

Farmer explained that the strategy will be based around five areas that matter most to Age UK’s beneficiaries: health, social care, financial wellbeing, loneliness and isolation and inequalities.

“We know that the current experience that many older people have is way short of what they need. 

“We’ve got the NHS that is really struggling to meet the needs of older people at the moment and in some cases, people’s experiences are going backwards, with people not being treated with the level of dignity you would hope for. We also need to look at social care, which is a long-standing problem.”

On financial wellbeing, he said: “Although there are some older people who are fine, there are around two million older people living in poverty and their experience is not getting any easier because of rising fuel bills and the cost of living.”

Farmed concluded by saying that more needs to be done to tackle loneliness and isolation across society. “We know how challenging and difficult it often can be in later life when you lose your partner, friendship group or people around you.

“As far as this year is concerned, 2023 is going to be all about standing up for – in what’s a very, very tough space – older people in the context of the cost-of-living crisis and the challenges on the health and social care system.” 

Read the full interview with Paul Farmer here

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