Project Story

“When I first heard the term citizen engagement I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. At first the term citizen conjured up images of Robert Lindsay as Citizen Smith raising his fist in the air shouting “Power to the People!” once I found out more I realised that, essentially, that is what it is, or aspires to be” (Project Stakeholder)

The Welsh Assembly Government, through its Making the Connections policy, places people at the centre of public services. We now have, as citizens, rights AND responsibilities to play our part in improving the services that we and others use. However, many people would like the chance to be involved but don’t know how and many of the “officials” with the responsibility for developing and running services struggle to engage with older people.

In January 2007 the Caerphilly 50+ Positive Action partnership, which operates under the framework of the Strategy for Older People in Wales, was considering some of the above challenges. The partnership wanted to look at ways local services could involve more older people. The idea was mentioned at a Strategy for Older People Coordinators meeting and the national 50+ Citizen Engagement Research project was born.

As well as a fairly big name, the project has big aspirations. It aims to ensure that people aged 50+ are at the heart of decision making processes around the commissioning, planning and delivery of services for older people. To achieve this various stakeholders from across Wales came together to work on the project.

This included 11 local authorities, Age Concern Cymru, Better Government for Older People, the Older People’s Advisory Group Cymru, the Welsh Institute for Health & Social Care (WIHSC), Care & Repair Merthyr, Health Alliance Caerphilly, Caerphilly Local Public Health team, Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations and the Caerphilly 50+ Forum. The project was also supported and resourced by the Welsh Assembly Strategy for Older People and Making the Connections.

The project was done in two parts. Part one consisted of a review of current research on barriers to engaging and involving older people as citizens, as we did not want to reinvent the wheel.  The Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care undertook this work for the project and compiled a comprehensive report that set the scene for part two.

Part two was the piloting and toolkit stage of the project. The aim was to develop and test some different and innovative methods of getting people involved. The pilot projects grew out of ideas and feedback from older people in focus groups in Bridgend, Carmarthen and Conwy and Denbighshire. Workshops were held across Wales involving professionals and the various stakeholders that made up the project board.

Five pilot projects took place across Wales; in Denbighshire, Caerphilly, Merthyr and Cardiff and the Vale. The pilots were a great success. It was a pleasure to work with each group, watching them develop successful methods of involving people. Details of the pilots are in the toolkit. The aim of the toolkit is to provide a web based and printed resource that can be used by older people wanting to get their voice heard AND by professionals who want to engage more effectively with people aged 50+. We hope you will find it useful and that the information and ideas in it help you to ensure that older people’s voices are heard loudly and clearly.

The project team would like to thank everyone who has been involved over the last year. It really has been a team effort and we hope that the toolkit proves to be a valuable resource for older people, professionals and organisations alike.