Twenty local partners were represented at the FirstStop local partners’ conference in Birmingham on 24-25th November, along with delegates from EAC FirstStop’s national partners, Care & Repair England (C&RE), Age UK, Foundations and Independent Age.

The conference provided an opportunity to consider the wider context within which housing and care options advice for older people is delivered and the specific relationship between such services and the priorities of local health, housing and adult social care services. The presentations and discussions focused on identifying the ways in which such services help deliver key outcomes and contribute to achieving savings for health and social care, making the case for sustaining integrated housing and care advice services for older people into 2016 and beyond.

Presentations were made by Sue Adams, C&RE’s Chief Executive (here), and Dave Arkle, Housing Manager at Amber Valley Borough Council (here). Caroline Yeoman, from Windsor, Ascot & Maidenhead CCG, dispensed with her presentation and provided responses from a CCG perspective to questions from the delegates. Her Ten Top Tips for engaging with CCGs summarises the discussion.

Kevin Cooper, whose independent evaluation of FirstStop local partners has just been published, presented a summary of his findings. These are based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 44 service users drawn from four local FirstStop partners, Age UK Northumberland, Age UK West Cumbria, Middlesbrough Staying Put Agency and City of York, as well as interviews with key local stakeholders in each of the four localities. The evaluation report concludes that local FirstStop services help to deliver on care and health outcomes, improve the wellbeing of older people and make savings to the public purse.

Further evidence of the need for flexible, personalised services comes from the Housing Group of Future North West, the regional forum on ageing. The Forum has kept a watchful eye on the integration of housing, care and financial advice offered to older people and their carers by local authorities following introduction of the Care Act 2014. They conducted a survey in September this year and have shared their recommendations in a report titled, Search Engine Failure: Housing and Care Advice in the North West.

The report notes that information and advice is key to decision-making but the provision of information and advice by local authorities to fulfil the duties set out in the Care Act is often difficult to find and in some cases, non-existent. The recommendations arising form the report include the need for information and advice that is person-centred and capable of responding to questions that do not fit existing service patterns, thus making an essential contribution to helping prevent avoidable demand on health and care services.

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