Archive: 2017


Old items from the News and Campaigns pages

The most recent items are towards the top of the page

Coventry, Local Democracy, and Older People

04 December 2017
 extract from dictionary showing the word 'Democracy' We reported in the last edition of the COV Newsletter that Ward Forums would no longer be held on a regular basis. These had been described by the Council as “a way of taking a closer look at the places where we live and making life in our neighbourhoods better together”.

Similarly, members of the Older People’s Partnership recently received letters telling them that meetings of this group would no longer be routinely scheduled. The Partnership was described as “bringing together older people and people who work in the private, public and voluntary sector to achieve positive outcomes for the older population in Coventry”.

The purpose of this article is not to comment on the rights or wrongs of the above decisions, but to list some alternative ways in which citizens of Coventry (and older people in particular) can be involved in the democratic process, now that the former routes are no longer available.

Here are some of the ways in which you can obtain information, compliment or complain to the authorities, exert influence, or be involved in decision-making processes:

Of course, this is not a full list of ways you can contribute to local democracy. If you want to add to it, please let us know.
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Cold Weather - A Message from Coventry City Council

30 November 2017
Winter scene Cold weather can lead to serious health problems and can kill. Older people, those with chronic health conditions and people who have a disability, are particularly at risk during the cold weather. Cold and flu viruses as well as tummy bugs such as Norovirus also start to spread at this time of year.

Two top tips for getting protected, are to have your free flu vaccination for those entitled, and ensure your home is heated to at least 18 degrees Celsius day and night.

To find out more about free flu vaccinations, if you are eligible, please contact your GP, pharmacy or midwife to book it in. See if you are eligible here.

This document challenges some of the myths around flu vaccination as it really is one of the best ways to keep well in the colder months.

To prevent the spread of tummy bugs people are reminded to wash hands and clean surfaces frequently if someone within the household is unwell, and allow until 48 hours after you last had symptoms before returning to work or school.

Winter can be a difficult time for older people, so keep a check on older friends, neighbours and relatives and help them to stay well at home by making sure they are able to take care of themselves or with some help. This could include help with shopping, cooking and personal hygiene to help prevent them from getting ill. Wrap up warm, inside and out at winter time. Several thin layers of clothes are better than one thick layer. Move around at least once an hour and don't sit down for long periods of time. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems.

Cllr Kamran Caan, Coventry City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health and Sport, said: “Be a good neighbour, check in on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be vulnerable to the cold. One in three people in Coventry are entitled to a free flu vaccination. Although flu is a mild illness in most, it can and does kill. We urge people to contact their GP, pharmacy or midwife to make their appointment today and not to delay.”

For anyone living in Coventry who needs advice and is worried about keeping their home warm, there is a free service, run by the Affordable Warmth Team at Coventry City Council. Read about it here.

The service can also help with fuel bills and benefits advice entitlements, including whether you are eligible for heating and insulation measures – please do call 024 7683 2330 or see the website above.

For information about flu vaccinations, visit this website.

For more advice about staying well this winter there are more details here.
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COV and Advertising

29 November 2017
old advert for Bisto From its beginning, COV has not charged membership fees, the Newsletter has been free, and there has been no charge for attending meetings. We want to keep it this way. Of course, all of these things cost money, and funding for both the website and Newsletter, along with clerical and administrative support, have been provided by Age UK Coventry.

We were already considering how we could contribute to the expenses incurred by Age UK Coventry, when they told us that they would have to limit the amount spent on producing and distributing the Newsletter. We have recently been producing an issue of up to 8 pages every 2 months, but they tell us they can now only fund a 4-page issue every 3 months.

We fully appreciate that charities, like all organisations (and individuals), have limited incomes, and must cut their cloth accordingly in the current difficult financial environment. We are grateful for Age UK Coventry’s continued support, and understand the need for cost reductions.

At the same time, we don’t want to curtail our activities unless we have to, so we will be looking for alternative sources of income, including advertising.

We hope you will agree that the advertising on the website is clearly marked as advertising and cannot be confused with “normal” content, and doesn’t detract from it. We only want ethical ads, so although our agreement with the company that provides them doesn’t allow us to control which ads appear, we can rule out those for the sort of products and services our members might not approve of. So you won’t see advertisements for miracle cures, get-rich-quick schemes, sex toys, online gambling, and so on.

We very much hope you support this decision. Do let us know what you think about this – or if you want to advertise!
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AGM 2017

26 October 2017

Over 100 people took part in COV's second AGM, which was held in the Methodist Central Hall on 10th October. The group now has over 500 members, and is gaining increased recognition throughout the City.

We welcomed three guest speakers to the meeting:

photo of meeting attendees sitting round tables

Michael Garrett is the recently appointed Chief Executive of Age UK Coventry. He reiterated his organization’s support for COV, but said that it was important to understand that COV is an independent body.

Councillor Kamran Caan (Cabinet Member for Public Health and Sport) gave an account of some of the recent projects launched by the Council that would benefit older people. “Older people are the most important generation”, he said.

Councillor Faye Abbot (Cabinet Member for Adult Services) said she supported COV’s view that older people are “an asset to the community – not a burden”. Reports on the year’s activities and achievements were presented by the Chair (Anne Lakin) and other members of the Management Committee, and three new members were elected.

Photo of a group of meeting attendees sitting around a table.

One of the aims of the meeting was to determine priorities for the coming year.

Members were keen to continue the current campaigns on the closure of public toilets, and on the problems caused by cycling and skateboarding in pedestrian areas of the City. Additionally, considerable concern was expressed about access to information for older people, especially for those who do not own or use a computer. While more and more sources of information are becoming restricted to those who are confident and capable of obtaining it online, less than half of COV members even use email. This can put them at a severe disadvantage in gaining essential information and services.

Feedback from the meeting was highly positive, and several members expressed the opinion that there should be more meetings throughout the year. COV will do its best to fulfil this wish.

Click here for a more detailed report on the meeting.

Click here for members' thoughts on COV's priorities.

Click here for members' evaluation of the AGM.

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Another Public Spaces Protection Order

16 August 2017

A new Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) has been proposed to replace the measures currently in operation to ban the drinking of alcohol outside of licensed premises in the City centre.

Bottle and glass in red circle - in the style of a 'no drinking 'road sign

The existing legislation will shortly expire, and it has been proposed that it should be renewed, and strengthened in some respects. If approved, the new order will allow officers to remove and dispose of unopened containers of alcohol as well as opened ones. They will also be able to seize nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”).

Also attached to the order will be powers to better enable them to deal with the problem of the nuisance caused by off-road motorcycles and scooters, etc. It will give them the authority to seize machines, even when they are not being ridden, if their owner does not have a licence for road use.
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A Public Spaces Protection Order

16 August 2017

At a meeting with the COV Management Committee, Liam Nagle (Community Safety Officer) and Simon Hutt (Street Enforcement Manager) spoke about the recently introduced Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), and how it was going two weeks after its introduction.

cartoon drawing of a busker

One of the problems the order is intended to tackle is that of cycling and skateboarding – these topics are discussed elsewhere on this website. But it also attempts to deal with a number of other issues, including begging, busking, charity collecting and street trading.

Simon explained that he manages a team of 8 enforcement officers, who deal with a wide range of offences, such as littering, dog fouling, fly tipping, and abandoned vehicles, as well as the PSPO, and their duties are not limited to the City centre.

He said that in general, people seemed to be complying with the PSPO. There had been no breaches of the order, or fixed penalty notices issued so far – but the policy is to issue warnings before such action is taken.

The question of rough sleeping was also raised. This is not covered by the PSPO, and because it is not a criminal offence, enforcement officers’ powers are limited. However, people who sleep rough are often the same ones who beg. This is an offence, and action can be taken. This is a sensitive issue, as many people feel that the use of the law is not appropriate for dealing with this sort of problem. However, the Council are considering bringing in new measures at a later date.
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Health and Social Care Summit – Reimagining Integration

03 August 2017

Bridget Harper, Vice-Chair of Coventry Older Voices, was invited to attend a “Health and Social Care Summit” which was held on 26th June at Warwick University. This is her report.

“At various stages in our lives everyone develops health problems, some more serious than others. Some are short-lived, others more long-term - even life-threatening. Looking after our health is all too often difficult and confusing. Maybe at times you are like me and not always very good at it – ignore it and it will go away. I hate being ill and in spite of two long-term conditions I persuade myself I am too busy.

If things do develop and we feel the need to seek medical advice it is so confusing. All too often we find ourselves telling our life story, repeatedly sharing personal information about why and how we came to be there. It might be a GP appointment, calling in at the chemist, an out-patient consultation, a paramedic team with an emergency admission to A&E, surgery and admission to hospital, treatment sessions, occupational therapy and numerous community health services. If as a result of some or all of this we need to access social care the list extends even more. It is never ending.

It is no wonder that we are apprehensive about negotiating the NHS Social Care “Spaghetti Junction”! Perhaps you, like me, wonder if anyone really listens to us and whether any of these “listeners” ever communicate with each other. With funding and staffing levels critically low it is essential to maximise the use of the resources that are still available, avoiding duplication, building trust and sowing the seeds of an integrated health and social care system.

Earlier this year Warwick University Medical School and Coventry and Warwickshire Councils held a joint meeting to explore ways of working more closely together, and to learn more about the current research projects in the Medical School. As a result of those discussions the Health and Social Care Summit was held, with the additional participation of Coventry University. The event was attended by more than sixty representatives from a variety of health and social care settings. I was invited as a representative from Coventry Older Voices to deliver a presentation on the theme: “Remember that real people are integrating all the time”. As well as providing glimpses of my own personal experiences, I was able to highlight some excellent examples of good practice within the voluntary sector in Coventry, including the following:

Coventry Resource Centre for the Blind

Coventry Older Voices

Collaboration between clinicians and the voluntary sector (in and out of hospital):

It was a very interesting day!"
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Ward Forums Discontinued

01 August 2017

We reported last year that ward forums appeared to be coming to an end. We wrote to Councillor Linda Bigham, the Cabinet Member for Community Development, who said that the matter was under consideration, but that a decision had not yet been made. (You can read the article here). We promised to let you know the outcome of her deliberations, so we wrote to her again, and here is her reply:

Dear Coventry Older Voices

Thank you for your email.

Following the review of ward forums last year, the Council took the decision to end them as part of its budget setting process for 2017/18. As a result of this decision no further ward forums are being arranged.

As I explained in my letter of last year, Ward Forums did carry a cost to the Council and were an expensive way of engaging with a tiny minority of Coventry residents and it is important that we use our diminishing resources effectively. The Council will continue to run consultation and engagement events on specific issues, for example the series of drop in sessions that have been arranged in the city centre and across the city during August and September on the planned changes to bin collections.

If you want to contact the Council to report something, request a service or make a complaint you can do so via the Council’s website at: http://www.coventry.gov.uk/contactus or by telephone on 08085 834333.

There are many alternative ways for people to raise issues with their local councillors through surgeries, telephone and social media and information about how to contact your ward councillors is available at: http://www.coventry.gov.uk/councillors.

Best regards

Linda

We thank Cllr Bigham for her prompt and courteous reply.
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Exciting Developments at Drapers' Hall.

31 July 2017

Does this headline look familiar? Photo of Drapers, Hall Way back in March 2015 we reported on plans for a new music and performance venue planned for a renovated Drapers' Hall, in Bayley Lane, in the heart of Coventry. We promised to keep you updated, but despite initial reports of a £2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and approval from the Council’s planning committee, all went quiet. Despite our continued efforts, we were unable to uncover any more information.

We now know that the Drapers Hall Trust, the organisation that was to be responsible for the restoration, has been dissolved, and that the Council has asked Historic Coventry Trust for assistance in continuing with the project. We wrote to Ian Harrabin, the Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust, to ask if he could update us, and received the following reply:

“We have been working for some time on revised proposals with our partners that remain based on music performance and education as the core use, with hopefully a restaurant facility as well. The Drapers' Hall Trust have kindly gifted all of their previous works which has given us a good start. We have also secured £1m towards the project from The Chancellor in the Spring 2016 budget. Sadly we have to reapply all over again to Heritage Lottery, but the previous approval indicates a good chance of success. There is a lot of work to do in redesign as the previous proposals became over-ambitious which is why they didn’t proceed. Our revised scheme will concentrate on restoring the core building for its new use with limited extension.

The big issue that we have, as a relatively new charity, is that we do not have a large group of supporters providing any funding, like for example the National Trust. Yet our aim is to be a mini-National Trust for Coventry - a permanent and perpetual guardian for the city’s heritage. We plan to restore most of the city’s unused historic buildings over a short 5 year period and maintain this legacy for future generations in Trust ownership. This is a big challenge for an established organisation, even more so for a new one. Luckily the major national agencies are very supportive, with Coventry now taking centre stage, which also boosts our chances of winning City of Culture. But what we need above all is to rapidly expand our local support base – not least to show that Coventry people care.

I do wonder whether ‘COV’ couldn’t be helping us in spreading our network of supporters.

This is not only important in providing regular donations and legacies from wills etc, but also in proving that the Coventry community is behind us when we are approaching other funders.

Any help that you can give would be most appreciated and unlike bigger charities, where normally at least half of your donation goes on marketing and administration, we are all volunteers so every £1 gets spent directly on heritage. Support makes a real difference – financially and psychologically.”

In June, we contacted Ian regarding any further updates. He replied:

“The project involves the restoration of the building for it to be used for public use. The primary use will be a place for education and performance of classical music run by Coventry Music Service. The restored rooms will also be available for hire for all sorts of events and for example the ballroom is obviously designed for dancing, but could also be used for a craft market, meetings and lectures, etc. or even formal dinners. We will be providing the facility but it will be up to other local groups to come forward with bookings.

There is also intended to be a restaurant of decent quality – we hope one of the best in the city centre, although this is not secured yet.

This would seem to fit very well with the interests of older people.

For those that are less physically able, we do intend to provide a lift with disabled access in a new extension to the rear.”

It’s good to hear that the plans for the building have not been abandoned. We wish Historic Coventry Trust well in this venture, and well as their other projects, which you can read about on their website, at www.historiccoventry.org.uk. And as Ian says, any financial support you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
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Former COV Secretary is Local Councillor

30 July 2017

photo of David Welsh and Anne Lakin

Many of our members will remember David Welsh, who was COV Secretary between 2013 and 2014, shown here with COV Chair Anne Lakin. He has been a Coventry City Councillor for some time (representing the St. Michael’s Ward), and is now the Deputy Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration.

David is 34, and is also a part-time student of Law at Warwick University, and Chair of the Coventry Labour Group on the Council. He is the Deputy to Councillor Jim O’Boyle, the Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, and supports him in all areas of his portfolio, which are listed on the Council website as: Economic Development, City Centre, International Trade and Inward Investment, Commercial and Operational Property, Urban Regeneration, Transportation, Tourism and Marketing, Climate Change Strategy and Development, Energy Policy, Conservation and Renewables, Sustainability and Digital Strategy.

However, David focuses on transport, and it is in this role that he has had several meetings with members of the COV Management Committee. We have expressed our concerns about various issues to him, which are covered elsewhere in this website. David says he is fully supportive of meaningful consultation on transport matters and accepts that there is a need for improvement in this area.

He has suggested that greater use of the West Midlands Passenger Champions scheme could go some way towards improving the situation. This provides an opportunity for members of the public to complete bus audits on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and to take part in quarterly forums to discuss results and provide feedback. However, there is a lack of participation by Coventry residents. More information can be obtained by emailing customerservices@tfwm.org.uk.

We wish David well in his position and feel sure he will always be a friend and supporter of Coventry Older Voices.
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500th Member Joins COV

05 July 2017 Coventry Older Voices have enrolled our 500th member.

Photo of Abtar Sanga presenting award to Peter Burdett He is 81-year-old Peter Burdett who has been the caretaker at Park House, near Coventry Railway Station, for the last 15 years. Peter started working at Park House when he was 65 years old and thoroughly enjoys the job as he loves working with people. He also enjoys going on holidays and will be going to the Caribbean later in the year to enjoy more sunshine.

Peter has previously worked at Abbey Panels and Flavel Leisure in Leamington, and describes himself as having a "forward looking outlook in life". For example, Peter says "What makes me happy is to wake up every morning. I wake up at 4:30 am and look forward to going in to work". He also states "I enjoy reading the COV Newsletter as it keeps me updated on what’s happening in the City on issues that affect older people."

Peter will be having a knee replacement operation in few weeks time and has vowed to be back on his feet and back to work as soon as he can. Peter’s motto for everyday living is that, ‘I don’t let things worry me!’

Thanks for subscribing to the Newsletter Peter and congratulations on being the official 500th member of COV.

Peter is pictured above with COV Secretary Abtar Sanga and is being presented with a gift in recognition of being our official 500th member.
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General Election 2017 Hustings Report

04 June 2017

As we did before the last general election, we again invited candidates for the constituency of Coventry North West to talk to COV members about issues affecting older people, and to answer their questions.

We booked a room for 70 people in the Council House, and we had a full house.

All the candidates for Coventry North West were invited, and four were able to come. These were:

Ballot box

Michael Gee (UKIP) and Stephen Gray (Green Party) couldn’t make it.

The session was chaired by Jim McCabe (Director of Services at Age UK Coventry), whom we thank for keeping good order, and who started by giving the four speakers five minutes to introduce themselves, and to say why we should vote for them. Politicians can say a lot in five minutes, so what follows is just a selection of their main points.

Andy Hilton (Liberal Democrat)

Resham Kotecha (Conservative)

Ciarán Norris (Independent)

Geoffrey Robinson (Labour)

Photo of all the candidates

Some Questions and Answers

Here are some of the questions put to the candidates by the audience, and some answers in brief. Because time was limited, not every question was answered by every candidate.

Q. Some older people have a choice between eat and heat. How do the Conservatives expect people to live without the winter fuel allowance?

Resham Kotecha – The winter fuel allowance will no longer be received by those who do not need it. Those who do need it should not worry.

Geoffrey Robinson – The allowance would not be discontinued under a Labour government. We also need to tighten the powers of the fuel regulator (Ofgem) to bring fuel prices down.

Q. There are disadvantages to means-tested benefits – they cost a lot to administer, which wastes resources, and they present hurdles to claimants in the form of application forms, which are long and complicated. Does means testing really benefit people?

Andy Hilton – People fall through the means-testing net, and do not claim the benefits to which they are entitled. In addition, the Conservative manifesto does not contain any figures to constrain them. If they win the election they will be able to do what they like with benefits.

Q. How will you ensure that services meet the needs of people who are not online?

[Comment from the editor: I’m going to save myself some typing here. All the candidates replied at length to this question, but none of them really answered it. Most of them spoke about how they personally would make themselves easy to contact, but no more.]

Q. Couples who live in care homes are sometimes split between homes. What kind of social care can I look forward to in years to come?

Geoffrey Robinson – At the moment the future looks bleak. Labour would make significant investment in Social care (£8 billion over the term of the next parliament). But cross-party agreement is needed over the long term to devise a national care plan, as happened with the National Health Service in the 1940s.

Ciarán Norris – The political parties deal in doom and gloom, but we can overcome the current problems and the best days are ahead of us.

Resham Kotecha – Each successive government increases funding for social care, but because people are living longer, and because of the obesity crisis and PFI problems, there is too much pressure on the NHS and social services. The Conservative party is not heartless. The manifesto proposals mean a quadrupling of the amount individuals can keep after paying for social care.

Andy Hilton – We spend a smaller proportion of our national income on health and social care than most other countries. We would add a penny in the pound to income tax to pay for increased expenditure.

Q. Fox hunting is barbaric. If the Conservatives are re-elected is it coming back?

Resham Kotecha – There is nothing about this in our manifesto. I will never vote to end the ban on fox hunting.

Q. How will you ensure that pensioners on moderate incomes live decently?

Geoffrey Robinson – No “dementia tax”, keep the triple lock, keep the winter fuel payment, increase carers’ allowance, and end the scandal of fifteen-minute care visits.

Q. Why should we pay for social care when we have been paying National Insurance all our lives?

Andy Hilton – People are living longer in retirement and there is no pot of money with which to pay out pensions. This must be done out of increased taxation. Many people working in social care are immigrants. If we reduce immigration as proposed by the Conservatives, where will we get our care workers from?

Ciarán Norris – We should not make people pay for the mistakes of politicians. The richest 5% of people are getting richer. Politicians need to keep their hands off pensions.

Resham Kotecha – We need to re-structure the pensions system. People should be automatically enrolled in pension schemes, and young people should be educated in the need to provide for their futures. If industries are nationalised, as per Labour’s plans, this will affect pensions as they are invested in private companies.

Geoffrey Robinson – The wealthy should contribute more. I would happily contribute more. Dividends are at an all-time high and corporations should contribute more.

Thanks:

To the candidates for a constructive and civilised discussion, to Jim McCabe for chairing the meeting, and to Cllr Rachael Lancaster for arranging use of the room and assisting with organizing the meeting.

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Metro Mayor's Commitment to Older People

25 May 2017 WMCA Logo

COV is a non-party-political organisation, so we didn't think it was appropriate to include material put out by a political party before the election of a Mayor for the West Midlands Combined Authority. Now that the election is over, we think that the following extract from the manifesto of Andy Street - the successful candidate and now Mayor - might interest our readers:

If elected as Mayor, I will: MAKE SURE OLDER PEOPLE HAVE THE SUPPORT THEY NEED

It is our responsibility to make sure that we look after those who have worked hard all their lives. Older people need freedom and independence to enjoy their retirement, whilst being sure that the very best care is available for them should they need it. As Mayor, I will make sure that older people in the West Midlands are respected and valued members of society.

If elected as Mayor, I will:

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General Election 2017 Hustings Notification

21 May 2017

Coventry Older Voices are holding a hustings event -

on Friday 2nd June 2017 at The Council House, Diamond Room 1, from 11:00 am till 12:30 pm.

This will be an opportunity for parliamentary candidates from the main political parties standing in the Coventry North West constituency to hear from older people on the issues that matter to them. You are invited to attend this event ahead of the General Election.

Coventry Older Voices, supported by Age UK Coventry, believe there are many issues affecting older people in the city which need addressing, and that they need to know the candidates' views to help them decide how they vote.

For example, Age UK is calling on the next government to make sure all older people:

In Coventry North West there are 8,444 people aged 65 or more who have a long term health problem, and there were 60 excess winter deaths in 2011/12.

Each of the candidates will have up to ten minutes to introduce themselves and outline policies related to older people after which the floor will be open to the audience to ask questions, which will be answered by all the candidates.

Candidates Invited:

Because of the size of the room, the number of places available is limited, so booking is essential. To reserve your place please phone Abtar Sanga on 024 7643 3050, or use this online form .

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All Change at Coventry Railway Station

20 May 2017

Coventry’s first railway station was built in 1838, and had to be replaced within 2 years.

Photo of Coventry Railway Station entrance hall

The existing building was completed in 1962, and is now the fastest-growing UK railway station, in terms of passenger numbers, outside of London. However, as it is a grade 2 listed building, it can only be extended - not demolished.

A meeting was held to discuss the Coventry Station Master Plan for developing the station, with particular reference to access, and we sent the Chair of COV, Anne Lakin, to see what she could find out.

Here are some of the things she learned:


We also understand (although not from this meeting) that public toilets will be available both to passengers, and to those who are not travelling by train.

There will inevitably be some disruption when the work is carried out, and there seems to be some uncertainty over how long this will all take. To some extent it depends upon finding finance for the various stages of development. Nevertheless, the plans appear to promise a significant improvement on the existing facilities.

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The Budget and Social Care

28 March 2017

In the Spring Budget for 2017, the Chancellor announced that the Government would prioritise securing a stable system of social care in England.

The Chancellor has committed to:

COV welcome the Chancellor's announcement of a Social Care Green Paper in the autumn, and look forward to influencing and supporting its development locally. However, many COV members fear that the emergency funding package, welcome though it is, will not be enough to meet the needs of older people who require care and their families.

There seems to be general agreement about the need to give social care real stability, and providers, commissioners and users more confidence. We will wait and see if the extra funding announced in the budget does enough in these respects.
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COV's Priorities for 2017

04 February 2017 Post-it note with the word 'Priorities' 2016 was a good year for COV:

Our membership increased from about 300 to over 450, we held our first Annual General Meeting, adopted a formal constitution, and elected a Management Committee. We were heavily involved with campaigns and consultations on behalf of the older people of Coventry, including the Age Friendly Coventry project. We held public meetings, met local and national politicians, and featured in the local press and radio.You can read in more detail about our activities over the past year in the pages of this website.

COV’s Management Committee met at the start of the year to discuss its priorities for the next 12 months, and produced the following list, which is not in any particular order:

Public toilets campaign.

This began when Coventry City Council announced their plan to close six public toilets in areas outside of the City centre. We expressed our belief that this would cause real problems for many Coventrians, and could make it very difficult for some older people to be able to leave their homes. Regrettably the closures went ahead, but our campaign has not ended. We recently carried out a survey of older people, asking their opinions on the closures, to determine the impact they have on them, and whether they will cause real hardship. The results of the survey are imminent, and clearly show the adverse effects of this decision.

Bikes and skateboards

COV has long been concerned about the dangerous use of bikes and skateboards in pedestrian areas of the City. We believe our campaign contributed to the Council’s decision to propose a “Public Spaces Protection Order” (PSPO) to tackle these and other issues relating to ant-social behaviour in the City centre. The matter went to public consultation and will now be considered by the Cabinet.

If the PSPO comes into effect (as we expect it will), COV will monitor its implementation, and will consider additional ways in which to tackle the bikes and skateboards problem.

Public transport

This is always a hot topic. COV will continue to press for improvements to services, including timekeeping, the provision of information, and the location and design of bus shelters.

Adult social care

COV has not made this a priority in the past (although we protested against the closure of the Aylesford Lodge short-term residential home). This is partly because the funding of adult social care is determined at a national level, and we tend to concentrate on local issues, where we believe we can have more influence. However, because of the current critical situation we now feel we need pay more attention to this issue.

Age-Friendly Coventry

We want to continue supporting this project, which this year will include a “Vitality Festival” (the name of which might be changed) around the start of October. This will be a major event, probably taking place over a week, and will aim to involve older people in a wide range of activities – including those who do not normally take part.

We are ambitious, but in order to achieve our ambitions we need some help. We need people to do all sorts of things – take part in meetings, organize meetings, write letters to the media, contribute to the Newsletter and website, assist with campaigns, and so on. If you can help in any way, do get in touch.

We appreciate not everyone is able to do these things. But you can spread the word – tell your family, friends or neighbours about COV, or pass on your copy of the Newsletter when you’ve finished with it, or leave it in the hairdressers or doctor’s waiting room!

With your help, we look forward to another successful year.
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Project Protect Pensioners

04 February 2017 Jayne Moore of Age UK Coventry has sent us the following report:

I am delighted to let you know that Age UK Coventry has been successful in bidding for money from the Coventry Police, Crime and Community safety board for a project called Protect Pensioners.

Photo of police constable talking to a group of older people
Photo by West Midlands Police [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The project will address the safety needs of Coventry’s most vulnerable, isolated older people both in their own home and whilst out shopping in Coventry, through increased security measures. The Protect Pensioners project will provide older people with door stickers, telephone stickers, and purse bells.

In 2015 the West Midlands police crime figures recorded that 324 residents - mainly older, vulnerable people - had been duped at home by distraction burglars posing as officials, workmen and even police officers. Working closely with Trading Standards we are fully aware of the many types of doorstep scams. In partnership with Coventry Trading Standards we set up our Trusted Traders scheme, whereby tradespeople are rigorously checked out and interviewed, so residents in Coventry can have an easy, safe and reliable way of avoiding rogue traders.

Another key issue for older people has been unsolicited calls at home. There has been an increase in the number of people been conned into giving out their bank or card details over the phone by callers supposedly from HMRC, CAB and even their own banks!

But not only is the impact financial. The damage it does to an older person’s confidence is enormous: the fear and worry continues for many months after the actual incident. These older people will be amongst the most lonely and vulnerable in the City and not likely to have family that they can turn to about these issues.

UK Coventry will visit our clients at home to take stickers and bells with them and to raise awareness of door step distraction burglaries, the threat of rogue traders, and the need not to disclose financial information to anyone even if they say they are the police or tax man.

We would also like all Coventry Older Voices Members to have the same security measures. Therefore we will be posting out information and the stickers to you and will be letting you know how you can pick up your purse bells.

If you have any questions about the project, then please call Jayne on 024 7693 9479
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Attendance Allowance Win – with COV’s Support!

03 February 2017

photo of campaigners in front of Houses of Parliament Age UK are delighted that the Government has decided not to go ahead with its proposal to transfer the responsibility for the disability benefit Attendance Allowance to councils.

As we age, many of us will develop long-term illnesses and disabilities and very often this means a higher price tag for day-to-day things that can help us to remain healthy and independent. Attendance Allowance is a nationally administered, non means-tested, weekly payment that helps older disabled people meet some of the extra costs they face. Attendance Allowance is one part of our care system that actually works well, supporting people and helping them to manage and maintain their independence.

However, this time last year, the Government announced that it was considering transferring responsibility for Attendance Allowance to councils as part of the deal allowing them to retain 100% of the Business Rates they collect locally.

Age UK were very concerned about what this would mean for the future of the benefit, and COV shared that concern. We were worried that it risked creating a postcode lottery of support and had the potential to leave thousands of disabled older people to struggle by with no help at all. This is because in its current form the Government funding for the Allowance is not capped whereas had it been transferred to councils it would have been up to them to add to it as demand increased – which given how hard pressed financially councils are they might not be able to do. For this reason some commentators branded the Government’s proposal ‘a stealth cut’.

We surveyed hundreds of older disabled people who currently claim Attendance Allowance, asking for their views on how the benefit makes a difference to their lives now and their thoughts on the Government’s proposal to transfer it to councils in future. This helped us to illustrate the importance of Attendance Allowance in its current form, and formed part of a short report called “The Choice is Mine”. Typically people told us they use the benefit to pay for practical help at home or for transport to hospital appointments.

So we are delighted that the Government has listened to these concerns. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, announced at an event with the Local Government Association on 19 January 2017 that Attendance Allowance will not now be included in the Business Rates reforms. We believe this is the right decision for older people and their carers and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who added their support to our appeal to Ministers to think again.

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Lidice Memorial Rededication Ceremony

03 February 2017

Photo of ParticipantsPhoto of Participants

A ceremony was held on Friday 27th January in Lidice Place to rededicate the memorial, following its restoration. The ceremony was led by the Reverend Graeme Anderson from Holy Trinity Church, and was attended by the Lord Mayor (Lindsley Harvard), Ondrej Hovadek from the Czech Embassy in London representing the people of Lidice, councillors, and members of the public. Photo of ParticipantsPhoto of Participants

During the ceremony, COV Vice-Chair Bridget Harper read the poem “Lidice”, written by Elizabeth Williams, and white roses were laid on the plinth. Many COV members attended the rededication service, and COV is proud to have been associated with the event.



The ceremony was timed to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day, which was commemorated later in Broadgate, followed by a moving lecture, hosted by the Lord Mayor in the Council House, and given by Holocaust survivor Dr. Martin Stern.
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