The Years Ahead annual conference was held on 19 March at the
County Thistle Hotel in Newcastle.
Years Ahead is the regional forum on ageing and aims to influence
key policy and decision-makers. It consists of a network of public,
voluntary and private sector bodies operating at a local and
regional level and is linked through a Partnership Board. The
theme was Life after the Care Act. The event provided an
opportunity for older people from across the north east to learn
more about the Care Act, via presentations from three experts on
care, health and social welfare.
The first guest speaker was the Commissioner for Older People in
Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge. She proved a formidable
speaker and obtained much applause for her independent
attitudes and encouragement of the role of Commissioner. Claire
was a director of the Northern Ireland Alzheimer’s Society and a
director of Age Concern. The post of Commissioner came into
being in 2011 and responsibilities include safeguarding, complaints
about care, residential homes, and concerns about hospitals.
Guy Pilkington, the Chair of the Newcastle and Gateshead
Alliance, was very popular and a good speaker. He described his
work as a GP in Cruddas Park and his role as Chair of the
Commissioning Group. He also indicated the health priorities of the
group and outlined how he thought the Care Act might have an
effect on future plans and how he saw it affecting Newcastle and
Gateshead: partnerships are to be encouraged between services
and an integrated and holistic method of care and carers should be
During the afternoon Murray Rose, Director of Commissioning, at
Darlington Borough Council, gave a great insight into his own
experience of care in regard to his mother, which illustrated his
professional and personal views on the topic of care and also his
frank ideas on the Care Act and the problems that might occur. He
thus illustrated the need to have funding and assessment
processes which were statutory nationwide, with assessors who
were trained to understand the context of the new act and its
relationship to care and carers.
The day ended with table discussions, members asking questions
on the topics mentioned by the expert speakers and giving
examples of their own experiences and indicating how
improvements might be made. These were noted and oral
feedback given to the audience.
The meeting gave everyone food for thought and all seemed to
agree that a Commissioner for England similar to that in Northern
Ireland would be of great benefit to all.