Across Greater Manchester, there is a predicted 29 per cent increase in the proportion of people over 65 by 2032, and the proportion of over-85s is expected to double.
We should celebrate the fact that more people are living longer and the opportunities that brings.
Our Manifesto presents a positive vision of active ageing, where older people are supported fulfil their economic potential and contribute their experience to the well-being of our society and the achievement of the ideas set out in this manifesto.
Too many older people in our City-Region are living in poverty or experiencing social isolation – with a 66 per cent rise forecast in the number of people over 75 living alone. Employment rates of people aged 50-64 are lower in Greater Manchester than the UK average. There are also deep inequalities in people’s experience of ageing – life expectancy in Rochdale town centre is 74 for women, and 66 for men, compared to 82 and 78 in Whitefield.
Greater Manchester already has a strong reputation for its work on ageing and there are already some great initiatives to help older people contribute to society and enjoy a good quality of life. The Greater Manchester Ageing Hub is leading work to make Greater Manchester the first age-friendly City-Region in the UK. We will build on their excellent work, utilising partnerships in key areas such as health and social care, transport and housing.
Here in Greater Manchester we have an opportunity to respond to demographic change in a way nowhere else in the country can. Harnessing the powers of devolution, we will work to ensure that active ageing is promoted in all of the decisions we make.
Economic participation amongst older people
We will support the GM Ageing Hub’s ambition to increase economic participation amongst older people.
Key to this will be reversing the decline in access to training and skills development. We want to want to work with colleges, universities and businesses, and initiatives such as the University of the Third Age, to develop courses aimed at older adults.
Even though it is illegal for employers to discriminate against someone because of their age, many older people still find it challenging finding new jobs as they grow older.
We will work to tackle age discrimination in the work-place and work with businesses to help them upskill and recruit older people.
Access to transport
Ensuring older people have accessible transport options is vital to reducing isolation and helping people get more out of later life. We have heard from people who complained that too many of our rail stations are inaccessible or that not all our buses have sufficient space for wheelchair users.
Many older people also told us how important their bus pass was in giving them the freedom to travel round our City-Region, whether visiting family or friends, making a trip to the shops or enjoying a film at the cinema.
We will guarantee all existing travel concessions for older people, including free travel on all Metrolink trams after 9.30am Monday to Friday, and all day at weekends and on public holidays.
Many older people say they would like to volunteer more but aren’t aware of opportunities to do so. Charities likes Home-Start actively recruit people who have parenting experience and would be willing to offer families emotional and practical support, such as child-care, for a couple of hours a week.
Other cities have used community mentoring initiatives to help migrant integration. New migrants are paired with a volunteer who will introduce them to local services, businesses and community landmarks – and help them learn English.
We will work with voluntary organisations to create a new volunteering scheme for older people across the whole of Greater Manchester, focusing on school-readiness, mentoring and ESOL for new arrivals. We will make sure that we maximise the contributions of older people who want to give something back to society.
State pension inequality for women
Tens of thousands of older women in Greater Manchester are affected by the chaotic way the Government implemented its retirement age changes. Many women received little or no notice and had no time to make alternative plans when their retirement date changed. We have heard from women in our City-Region who are now struggling as a result of the changes. People who found it difficult to find new work and were forced to take up a zero-hours contract offering no financial security. And people who had retirement plans ruined and lost their independence – relying on family and friends for support.
The Government has repeatedly failed to listen to women born in the 1950s affected by these changes and act to help them. Many will be tens of thousands of pounds worse off and have to wait longer before they are entitled to vital benefits such as their free bus pass.
A future Labour Government has pledged to help 1950s-born women, including extending pension credit to provide support to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable women, but we want to see if we can do more at a Greater Manchester level.
We will look at giving women affected by these pension changes help with travel costs – at the age they should have retired - in recognition of their unfair treatment.
Developing age-friendly communities is vital if we are to improve the lives of older people. Those over 70 spend at least 80 per cent of their time either in the home or in the immediate surrounding area. It became clear from the many conversations we have had with older people as part of the Our Manifesto events that it is quite often the simple things - such as fear of being unable to find a public toilet - that keep older people house-bound.
One of the simplest but best ideas we found during a consultation event was a scheme piloted in Levenshulme where local shops and businesses who were willing to let older people use their toilet facilities displayed a simple sign in the window.
We will expand this scheme across Greater Manchester, and encourage more shops to open up their facilities to older people or families with a small child.
Promoting good quality housing will be central to ensuring age-friendly communities. We want to give older people more choice – whether they are active older people, downsizers, or in need of specialist support. We need to also make it easier for people to adapt their homes when they want others, including carers, to live with them.
We will make sure that we build new homes which meet the Lifetime Homes Standard, and ensure that a greater proportion of all new-build homes are wheelchair accessible.
Following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, a group of cross-party MPs got together to set up the Jo Cox Foundation. The aim was to carry forward the work she was doing to combat loneliness and highlight the many issues she cared deeply about. Jo said she wanted to ‘turbo charge the public’s awareness of loneliness’. In her memory, we will take forward that vision in Greater Manchester.
Research by Age UK has shown that 200,000 older people across the country say they have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month. Nearly four million people say their main form of company is the TV.
We will trial new ideas for combating isolation in our City-Region, working with the Jo Cox Foundation, and support our voluntary and community organisation to promote befriending services.
We also want to mark the anniversary of Jo’s death with a special community event in Greater Manchester that enables neighbours to meet, mix and come together.
On the weekend of the 17-18 June, to mark the anniversary of Jo’s death, we will host The Greater Manchester Get Together – a series of community events across Greater Manchester where neighbours and friends, young and old, can enjoy being together and celebrate what we have in common.
National Health and Care Service
If we want to make Greater Manchester the best place to grow older, we need to make sure our health and care services are designed around keeping people healthy and at home, rather than stuck in hospital.
However, the truth is that health and care services in Greater Manchester are under intense pressure.
Our hospitals are facing record deficits, hundreds of thousands of patients are stuck on growing waiting lists and it is getting harder to see a GP.
Mental health has been neglected, health inequalities are deeply entrenched, and too many people are dying prematurely from preventable diseases.
Devolution gives us the opportunity to address some of these problems, but it also presents challenges given the scale of the financial crisis.
We will demand a fair funding deal for Greater Manchester’s NHS and social care so we can give older people the care and dignity they deserve.
The growing problems in our health service are compounded by the fact that the NHS and social care too often operate in separate silos. They remain two separate systems, with different funding models and different workforce standards.
Too many people, often with multiple conditions and complex needs, end up being treated in hospital when, with the right support, their needs could be better met at home or in the community.
We will introduce in Greater Manchester the country’s first fully-integrated National Health and Care Service, building on the work that is already ongoing across our region to bring our services together.
This will mean more people will be supported to stay healthy and live at home for as long as possible. In Greater Manchester, the home and not the hospital should be the default setting for care. Wherever possible, people should be supported by a single team providing high quality personalised care with the aim of helping them get the most out of life.
Rather than having to deal with numerous different organisations, and being passed from pillar to post, we will give people a single point of contact for all their care needs.
Integrating services means that more can be done early on to prevent illness or intervene early to stop problems getting worse.
We will build a more person-centred, preventative NHS by a new system of ‘year-of-care’ payments for accountable NHS providers, covering physical, mental and social needs. For the first time in the history of the NHS, it will have an incentive to keep people healthy and at home rather than treating them in a hospital or clinical setting.
Shifting the incentives towards prevention in this way is essential if we are to get better value out of the money we currently spend. It will also help us drive out the culture of 15-minute care visits, where care workers are increasingly forced to choose between preparing a meal for a frail or vulnerable person or helping them get dressed and washed.
As part of this move to an integrated service, we need a step change in how we support people.
There is a range of evidence to show that taking part in social or physical activities can be good for health. And yet there is an expectation that when someone goes to see their GP, the outcome of any consultation has to be medication.
We will put in place a scheme where GPs and other health professionals can refer or encourage people to take up new activities, or join local groups – which could include activities such as outdoor activity, bereavement support, counselling, debt advice or new social opportunities.
Voluntary and community groups have a vital role to play here, providing services that can address the isolation and loneliness associated with long–term conditions as diverse as arthritis, stroke and depression.
We will introduce a new social prescribing scheme across Greater Manchester, where GPs are able to offer patients a range of non-traditional support, working with voluntary organisations to deliver more counselling and help to get active.
We also need to do much more to improve support for the hundreds of thousands of unpaid family carers across Greater Manchester. Family life is changing and more and more of us are looking after elderly or disabled relatives.
Among the population of Greater Manchester, around 65,000 of those aged over 65 will be providing unpaid care to family members. Around 5,000 of these older carers will be aged over 85. Many older carers also have illnesses or disabilities themselves, and caring may be making their health problems worse.
Often, people don’t see themselves as being a ‘carer’ – they’re just a son, daughter, husband, wife or partner, trying to look after the person they love.
But it’s not right that people who do so much get so little support in return.
Too often carers are battling a number of different services just to get the support they need and many carers who are in paid work have to give up their job or reduce their working hours. People like Lisa, who came to the Our Manifesto event in Tameside, told us just how tough it was to get the help she was entitled to, and yet without her support her mother would be in a care home.
We will champion unpaid family carers and work with the NHS and local councils to ensure they are identified and properly supported.
Looking after someone’s loved one should be one of the most valued jobs in society. Yet the social care workforce is based on a low-wage, zero-hours contract system of employment that does not provide older people with the dignity they deserve.
As part of our consultation, we were presented with shocking evidence of the poor quality of home care in Greater Manchester. A rota for a carer listed 36 separate visits on a single day. In many cases, there was insufficient travel time between them. One of the visits was scheduled to last for two minutes. A shift which began at 9am only finished after midnight and then the next working day was due to start four hours later around 4am.
This appalling exploitation must come to an end. Over time, we will bring social care staff into the NHS family, with proper training and support and more opportunities for career progression. We will require care workers to be paid the living wage and end the business models that rely on exploitative zero-hours contracts.
If we make these changes, we will begin to change the culture of social care and value those who work in it.
Too many people in our region who experience a mental health problem do not get the help they need. The situation is particularly grave for children who have to face long waits to get the right care or are left to struggle without any support at all.
We should be doing more to tackle the stigma that prevents so many people from coming forward and getting help. And we should be investing in prevention to make sure problems are spotted early and dealt with before they reach crisis point.
We will make mental health a priority in Greater Manchester and ensure that parity of esteem between mental and physical health finally becomes a reality.
Greater Manchester still tops the league table of poor health. High levels of cardiovascular disease and deaths from preventable cancers give our community some of the shortest life expectancies in the country.
To tackle these health inequalities, we need to link the NHS with the broader determinants of health – like housing, planning, leisure and education.
We want the Mayor to bring all of these functions together across Greater Manchester, take the lead on building a healthier society and reducing health inequalities.
Despite some progress over the last decade, the UK still lags behind many European countries when it comes to cancer outcomes. The situation in Greater Manchester is even more challenging with more adults smoking than in other parts of England and fewer people attending screening – meaning we miss opportunities to spot problems early on.
Key to improving survival rates is early diagnosis. The earlier cancer is spotted, the greater the chances of survival.
We will work with Greater Manchester GPs and hospitals to improve rates of early diagnosis and look at schemes which allow people to refer themselves for cancer tests, based on an individual ‘risk score.’
Alongside this we need to do much more to educate people on how to spot the signs and symptoms of cancer.
We will support public awareness campaigns so that people know how to spot the signs and symptoms of cancer, and know when to go see their GP to get it checked out.