Viewpoint: Does your councillor deserve the Age UK award?

Morgan Vine, Campaigns Officer at Age UK, blogs for LGiU on Age UK’s sponsorship of the Age UK award at the 2014 C’llr Awards

 Councillors have a huge impact on our communities, but do we appreciate and acknowledge what they do? They are key players when co-ordinating people from the public, private, and voluntary sectors and provide a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard.

In recognition of this important role, Age UK is working with the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) to sponsor the Age UK Councillor Award as part of the 2014 C’llr Achievement Awards.

The Age UK award will be given to a councillor who has made a significant contribution to improving services or neighbourhoods in the area they represent so as to benefit older people. It could be campaigning for better lighting, arranging more seating or increasing the number of public toilets.

Our winner last year was Councillor Sue Cooley from Manchester City Council. She told us a little bit about her work in the community:

‘I’ve been a councillor since 1996, representing Brooklands ward in the city of Manchester. My role as lead member for Valuing Older People (VOP), and more recently the Age Friendly Manchester Programme, began in the late 1990s. At that time I worked closely with the deputy leader of the council to develop a new approach to our interactions with older people. We knew the role of local authorities shouldn’t begin and end with its social care responsibilities, and the vast majority of older residents in our area don’t even receive social care services. Moreover, many older people faced exclusion from a range of everyday services and activities.’

‘The VOP project was officially launched in 2003. It’s developed over time and I’m really proud of how it acknowledges that older people are active and valuable members of our community who should have their voices heard.’

‘I think the key to VOP’s success has been the on-going involvement, drive and expertise of the board, a representative group of older residents who’ve met every six weeks since 2004. For me there have been many highlights over the years – too many to list – including the ‘Positive images of Ageing’ campaign, which helped to change perceptions of older people. For this campaign, we commissioned posters, calendars and other resources featuring older people in situations you wouldn’t expect, such as playing rugby and doing a radio show.’

‘We’ve also built up groups of older people and agencies like housing trusts across Manchester, to gain a better understanding of the issues that affect local areas. These forums work with our local council to get a more rounded picture of older people across Manchester.’

Age UK think unsung heroes, like Sue, should be recognised and applauded nationally for their efforts and for the excellent example they are setting in how to listen to and help their constituents.

When making our decision, we’ll be looking for councillors with a track record of:

  • making time to listen to older people, actively engaging with them and understanding the issues that concern them
  • bringing about changes that directly benefit older people, as a result of those concerns
  • ensuring that any improvements are maintained in the long term and that older people continue to be consulted and involved.

Nominations are now open so why not nominate a councillor who has helped you personally? Or maybe you belong to a friendship centre, older people’s forum or local community group, where the topic of this award could be raised? Nominations can be made by members of the public, councillors and council officers, but councillors cannot nominate themselves. Everything you need to nominate exists on the LGIU website: just go to http://www.lgiu.org.uk/cllr-awards-how-to-enter.

The deadline for applications is 31 December 2013, and the successful winner will be announced in February at an awards ceremony in London.

So if you know a councillor who has improved the local neighbourhood for older people, please nominate them for the Age UK Councillor award now at http://www.lgiu.org.uk/cllrawards/