Access to information and advice

Good-quality information and advice is essential to facilitate people in later life to access services, make informed decisions, exercise informed choice and play a full part in their community and society (Age UK).

Older people and their carers often have distinctive needs for information and advice as a result of life changing events and the ageing process. Such needs may include information and advice on social contact, care, financial matters, housing, health and practical support. Not being able to access good quality information and advice can have detrimental health and wellbeing impacts for older people.

There are many forms of information and advice - some of these include:

  • Information:
    for example guidance materials that are not tailored to a client’s specific needs;
  • Information Services:
    providing clients with information they need in order for them to take action on their specific situation;
  • Advice Services:
    ordinarily these services involve receiving an enquiry from a client; giving information and explaining options; identifying actions that the client can take and providing some assistance in doing so (for example contacting third parties or form filling);
  • Advice with casework:
    includes all the elements of an advice service (see above) and also involves taking action on behalf of the client;
  • Signposting:
    similar to information services, signposting gives clients information about providers of services appropriate to their needs;
  • Referrals:
    requires an adviser to select an appropriate provider of services for a client based on their needs. The adviser will make contact with the provider and where possible will secure an appointment for the client.

The local picture

There are over 36,000 individuals aged above 65 in Calderdale (Office of National Statistics (ONS), 2014).

It has been suggested that the specific requirements for and access to information and advice are compounded for three particular groups of older people:

  1. Those affected by poor health and disability;
  2. Those living in rural areas; and
  3. Those from ethnic minority communities. (Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU), 2010; Benson and Waterhouse, 1998)

Calderdale has areas in which each of these factors are more prevalent:

  1. According to the 2011 Census, the following wards have a higher than average % of people living with a ‘limiting long term illness or disability’: Todmorden, Rastrick, Town, Illingworth, Sowerby Bridge, Park (Public Health England (PHE), 2015);
  2. Ryburn is classified as the most rural ward in Calderdale followed by Calder and Luddenden Foot (ONS, 2011);
  3. According to the 2011 Census, Park, Warley and Skircoat wards had a higher % of people stating their ethnicity as Black and Minority Ethnicity (BME) (compared to the Calderdale average).

Current provision

There are numerous sources of information and advice for older people in Calderdale including:

The majority of these are located in and around Calderdale. However, there are many more organisations such as the Royal Voluntary Services, Red Cross, Independent Age, Age UK (national) etc that provide information and advice on subject areas relating to older people’s concerns and issues.

The evident issue here however is that sometimes the amount of information and advice from varying sources can be the cause of confusion; the task of finding information and advice can appear daunting and knowing who to speak to in the first instance can often be unclear.

User views

Local citizen’s views on accessing information and advice have been gathered by AgeUK from a variety of sources, including: older people, carers, relatives and Age UK’s ‘Information and Advice for Older People Evidence Review’ document.

Comments from older people:

  • “I was completely bewildered and overwhelmed by my mother’s situation. I was retired myself - though I had a good career and considered myself to be reasonably intelligent - when my mother needed help and support I had no idea where to go. The system seemed confusing and complicated. I had no previous experience of this and didn’t know where to go";
  • “I don’t want speak to someone on the phone with long explanations of my problems I want to be able talk to a person”;
  • "I don’t do computers I just want someone to tell me what to do";
  • “ It makes us feel ill sometimes when we think about our problems”;
  • ‘”I would prefer to be able to see someone nearer my home as I have to get the bus into town”.

Comments from some current providers of information and advice:

  • “Older people come to us because they are struggling and feel lost”;
  • “People come to us for face-to-face appointments on a number of issues and are so grateful because we can usually deal with their problems there and then”;
  • “Often at crisis point, people are requesting which care homes they can use for their wife or husband - as there is little guidance about which or how to choose financial planning and entitlements as well as a need to talk to a ‘person’ who understands their situation”;
  • “Relatives (eg sons or daughters) who live away are often confused by the Health and Social Care system and are anxious that someone can ‘look after’ their relatives giving them the correct advice, information and support. A person they can connect regularly and who will know the background to their relatives problems or issues, familiarity I suppose”;
  • “Mr B came to us in a distraught state, his wife had dementia and he had health problems. Mr. B was having problems with his telephone provider and he had no connection. He was really worried - given his wife’s health - and he had called them on a number of occasions but nothing had been done. I called them while he was here and we got the telephone company to restore the connection. Mr. B has phoned us and sent us a letter of thanks he is so pleased his problem has been solved. He also received £25 compensation from the telephone company.".

Unmet needs

Locally some potential areas of unmet need suggested by Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees include:

  • No comprehensive directory of locally specific activities and services;
  • No easy single point of access for information and advice;
  • No clear easy access pathways to health specific issues such as Dementia, Stroke, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), easy to understand and reliable nutritional advice;
  • No clear opportunities for choosing housing, residential and nursing care;
  • A lack of supportive technologies for our oldest older people;
  • A lack of information regarding employment opportunities/advice for older people;
  • Retirement and older age: reliable financial information and advice including good quality retirement planning;
  • Volunteering, social activity/exercise information/advice;
  • Ethnicity specific issues and equality issues for a growing number of older people and their relatives who experience barriers from the usual areas of provision;
  • Experience/knowledge/learning around the growth in technology especially in relation to how the Health and Social Care sector is/will be utilising online facilities and resources in the future. Getting online for older people. (But not at the expense of good quality face to face provision).

Projected future need

Current estimates suggest 18% of the population in Calderdale is aged 65 or over. By 2037 the ONS estimate 25% of Calderdale’s population will be over 65. This will equate approximately to an additional 21,000 people over 65. Such a large rise, in a little over 20 years, will undoubtedly increase demand on services and the prevalence of conditions pertinent to older people. (ONS, 2014)

Key considerations linked to the known evidence base (what works?)

According to Age UK’s ‘Information and Advice for Older People Evidence Review’ general barriers to accessing information and advice include:

  • Becoming aware of available information and advice;
  • Gaining access to appropriate and comprehensive information and advice;
  • Receiving practical assistance to act on the information and achieve a solution.

Additional barriers may also be present for:

  • Those who are housebound and or/those with mobility difficulties;
  • Those with sensory impairment;
  • Those living in rural areas.

References and further information

References

Further information

More information on older people can be found in the Further resources .

Authors

Anne Cuthbert, Age UK Calderdale & Kirklees;
John Lomas, Public Health Intelligence Team, Calderdale Council.

October 2015.