From education to employment

Government Department Launch Local Communities “One Stop Shop” Programme

Exclusion: the action of excluding somebody / something, writes Jethro Marsh for FE News. Alternatively, it can be a person or thing that is excluded.

That is what the Oxford Dictionary has to tell us about exclusion; there can be little doubt that either the active or passive version of this cannot be acceptable in a 21st century society. In a bid to prove that third term New Labour is as committed as ever to fighting exlcusion on any terms, it has been announced that a new scheme is being launched in eight pilot areas to offer older people help and advice in their communities.


The scheme is entitled LinkAge, a series of pilots that form a central plank to the Government’s Opportunity Age strategy for older people. This was launched in March 2005 and is spearheaded by John Hutton MP, the Government’s Older People’s Champion. This continues the work of the cross ““ Government action plan to confront exclusion amongst older people which was published in the report from the Social Exclusion Unit earlier this year. LinkAge will benefit from £10 million over two years from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The programme is being led by the DWP and features contributions from older people themselves, local government partners, national and local organisations, and contributions in addition from the voluntary sector. These partners include the Social Exclusion Unit, Age Concern, Help the Aged, Citizens Advice, the Department of Health (DH), and the Local Government Association (LGA). The pilot areas that have a LinkAge one stop shop operating there are Tower Hamlets, Devon, Gateshead, Gloucestershire, Lancaster, Leeds, Nottinghamshire and Salford.

Ministering in the Hamlets

Speaking at the Tower Hamlets launch of LinkAge, DWP Minister James Purnell MP said: “We have lifted over two million pensioners out of poverty since 1997 and this has helped us make good progress in tackling the exclusion of older people in society. We know, however, that there is still more that we can do. We are launching eight LinkAge Plus pilots today which will work at the heart of local communities to support older people where they live. The pilots will be one-stop-shops for people aged 50 and over.

“They will enable people to access a whole range of services such as help with housing and access to transport, health services, employment advice and information about volunteering opportunities,” Mr. Purnell continued. “People who find it difficult to travel will benefit from the outreach activity which will bring the services to them, whilst for others there will be drop-in centres for socialising as well as getting the information and support they need.”

Partner Pleasure at Positive Progress

The Tower Hamlets Cabinet Member for Older People and Health, councillor Abdul Asad, had this to say: “We believe that our borough has been chosen to pilot this important programme by the Government, because of our outstanding record of providing joined-up local services ““ and tackling social exclusion of older people. A recent Government report, heralding the Link Age programme, cited more than a dozen examples of best practice in Tower Hamlets, and we are delighted that this puts us in the vanguard of this new approach to meeting the needs of over 50s.”

Another partner in the scheme was represented. Kate Jopling, the Senior Manager for Equality and Public Affairs at voluntary organisation Help the Aged, said: “Its fantastic that the LinkAge Plus pilots are now up and running, and can start to make a real impact in the community. Help the Aged has long argued that, if we are to reach the most disadvantaged older people, then we need to change the way we provide services so that we no longer force people to jump through hoops just to have their most basic needs met.

“Older people’s services should be about breaking down the barriers which get in the way of people achieving their aspirations in later life,” she concluded. “They should be about offering something positive – not forcing people to catalogue their problems and then access a different service to solve each one. The LinkAge Plus programme is about making this shift, and thats why Help the Aged is proud to be working with Government in partnership on the project.”

The scheme seems to represent a positive initiative; depending on the success in the pilot areas, perhaps a national campaign may be forthcoming. However, the issue of how to make the older people in the community aware of the facility is a difficult one. After all, the older people being targeted are at least at risk of exclusion, and as such may not be au fait with the programmes on offer. If the elderly are not aware that this resource is available, it is hard to see how it can help them.

Jethro Marsh

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