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A Report on the COV Meeting on 5th March, 2019

12 March 2019
Photograph of the audience at the meeting
David Spurgeon opens the meeting
The meeting was opened by Committee member David Spurgeon, who summarized COV’s activities over the past year.

Bridget Harper (Acting Chair) then spoke about funding issues, including Age UK’s decision to stop providing COV with administrative and financial support. She told us that this meeting, and the recent COV Newsletter, had been funded by the West Midlands Police Active Citizens Fund.

Bridget then introduced Richard Plumb, of West Midlands Police, who had kindly agreed to speak to the meeting about how to avoid becoming a victim of cyber-crime.

Photograph of Richard Plumb
Richard Plumb
Richard, a self-confessed "computer geek” and ex-professional gamer, said that people in COV’s age group, while not the most vulnerable to computer hacking, were more susceptible to various types of fraud than other age groups. He also pointed out that online banking, often considered to be risky, was in fact more secure than other methods. This was because transactions over the Internet were easier to track than cash transactions, which were often completely untraceable.

Richard then spoke about passwords, including the need for strong passwords, how to generate them, and how to remember them. He also gave some advice on not following links in emails, “phishing”, and telephone fraud. We all agreed that Richard was an excellent speaker, and his advice was well received.

Richard has provided us with two documents on cyber-crime, which you can read or download here:

  1. How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Cybercrime

  2. Cybercrime Crib Sheet.pdf

The meeting then moved on to consider the official AGM business. Reports from the Treasurer and Membership Secretary were approved, as were changes to the Constitution made necessary by Age UK Coventry’s withdrawal of support.

Next, Bridget spoke about some of the “areas of engagement” with which COV had been involved over the past year.

Louise Stratton then gave a short talk on Healthwatch Coventry. She told us that the NHS had a ten-year plan to improve local services, which included encouraging healthier lifestyles, and benefitting from improved use of technology. Healthwatch Coventry are carrying out a survey on behalf of Healthwatch England, to gather the public’s views on these matters, and she distributed copies of a questionnaire to COV members attending the meeting.

Photograph of Richard Plumb
Bridget Harper, Richard Plumb and David Spurgeon

The meeting concluded with a discussion on several topics that had been identified as important to COV members, including the Shopmobility scheme (especially the location of the new premises), and the obstruction of pavements by cars, cyclists and advertising boards. Other issues included the apparent lack of a Councillor devoted to older people’s concerns, and the Friends of Longford Park and their activities.

In her closing remarks, Bridget Harper said that there were vacancies on the Management Committee, and asked anyone who was interested in becoming a member to contact her using the Contact Us page of this website

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Consultation on a Public Spaces Protection Order

01 March 2019

Coventry City Council are proposing to introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in St Michaels ward, to combat drug use and associated anti-social behaviour.

If the order is approved, it will affect the City centre and surrounding areas.

The main effect would be to give the police “the power to request that groups of two or more that are behaving in an anti-social manner or in a manner deemed to be detrimental to those that would otherwise be enjoying an area will be asked to move on”. To refuse to do so would constitute an offence, and could result in the issue of a breach notice and a fine.

The Council are seeking the views of the public, and have created an on-line survey. You can read more about the PSPO, and complete the survey on their website, here.

You will need to do so by the end of the consultation period, which is 15th March.

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Age UK Campaign to Keep Free TV Licences for the over 75s

28 February 2019 Photograph of TV Licence

Free TV licences for the over 75s are currently paid for by the Government, but this responsibility is shortly to be transferred to the BBC.

The BBC has to decide what to do, and could simply end the free licence scheme. Please note that at the moment they have not made any decision.

Age UK say that “removing older people's access to TV would be an unthinkably cruel blow when many are already facing huge challenges”, and they are campaigning for the Government to continue to provide the funding.

Full details of the changes, and a link to an online version of the petition, can be found on the Age UK site, here.

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News and Scam Alerts from Coventry Trading Standards

26 January 2019

Clicking on these dates will take you to the relevent reports from Trading Standards:

COV Members Assist with Research Project

12 August 2018 Research participants sitting round a table

COV members have been taking part in a research project (the “Maturolife” project) with Coventry University, which aims to improve the design of “Assistive Technologies”. These are used in products which improve the quality of life for older people (especially those with disabilities) and may enable them to live independently for longer.

The researchers are concentrating on footwear, clothing and furniture. In the past the products have often been considered ugly, uncomfortable or unreliable, so they are attempting to overcome these limitations, and they believe that one way to do this is to involve older people in their design.

As part of their involvement, COV members Irene Shannon, Val Cawley and Diane Hackford attended a co-design workshop at the University, to help in the development of prototype solutions.

There may be more workshops in September, so if you are interested in taking part, do get in touch with us via the “Contact Us” page, and we will pass your contact details to the researchers.

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COV and Age UK Coventry

24 July 2018


Age UK Coventry (AUKC) played a major role in the formation of Coventry Older Voices in 2013, and have provided significant financial and administrative support since that time. They funded our newsletter, website, postage and office expenses. They also financed and organised events, and provided a secretary, who was a part-time AUKC employee.

Regrettably, they are no longer able to provide this level of support. We haven’t fallen out! It’s simply that AUKC have suffered a sizeable reduction in their revenue (largely because of a cut in funding from Coventry City Council). AUKC have been obliged to reduce their expenditure, which has also meant cutting services and making some of their own staff redundant.

We are extremely grateful for AUKC’s support over the past 5 years, and we feel sure there will be areas in which we can work together in the future. Although we are independent organizations and work in different ways, we both want to maintain and improve the quality of life of the older people of Coventry.

But this change in our relationship means that COV will now have to find more of its own resources – both financial and administrative.


silhouette of overworked secretary with head on desk

We have a new Secretary, who takes over from AUKC employee Abtar Sanga. The Management Committee have appointed Phil Lovett to the role. Phil has been a COV Committee member since January 2014, and supported the previous secretaries with their duties. Phil is currently also Newsletter Editor and Website Manager, and the Management Committee hope to be able to appoint one or more people to take over some of these responsibilities soon.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Abtar for his invaluable contribution during his time as Secretary.


Replacing the funding previously provided by AUKC is going to be a major challenge, but we have had some success already:

However, this does not mean that we can relax our efforts to obtain an income. We will have to be vigilant in our continuing efforts to finance our activities, and we face continuing uncertainty about how successful we will be in the future. Ideas from our members about potential sources of income (funds to which we can apply, activities we can undertake, etc.) are welcome.

hand held out as if begging

We are aware of cases of undue pressure being put on older people to donate to various causes, and don’t want to be guilty of this, so donations are welcome – if (and only if) you can afford it.

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Data Protection and COV Membership

24 July 2018

The first half of 2018 saw two important developments affecting COV and its members.

Cartoon drawing of a man holding a large key

Firstly, COV’s relationship with Age UK Coventry (AUKC) has changed significantly. COV has always been an independent organisation. However, AUKC was deeply involved in its creation, and subsequently provided us with a great deal of assistance – both financially and in terms of administrative support. Regrettably this will now be reduced, as you can read in the accompanying article, here. In particular, AUKC no longer maintains our membership database, for which COV is now solely responsible.

Then, on 25th May of this year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. This is a law intended to protect the privacy and security of individuals, and applies to all organisations, including COV. It has been criticised by many, who think that it is a “sledgehammer to crack a nut”, especially when applied to small non-profit-making organisations such as COV. Indeed, the authority responsible for enforcing the GDPR has indicated that, initially at least, it will not penalise groups such as ours for non-conformance.

However, these two events provided us with a spur to update our membership database, which, admittedly, needed some attention. That is why we sent emails and/or letters to all of our members, asking them to confirm that they wanted their membership to continue, and to let us know how we could contact them in future (by post and/or email and/or telephone). This will prevent members from receiving unwanted communications. The initial response was pretty poor, so we sent a second round of emails, and attempted to contact members without email addresses by telephone. We made it clear that those who did not reply would be removed from our membership database.

From an initial membership of over 500 we received nearly 200 responses. Consequently, at the time of writing this article, COV now has 199 members.

Of course, we are disappointed that our numbers have decreased substantially. On the other hand, we are now certain that all of our members are “genuine” – i.e. that they want to receive communications such as the Newsletter and invitations to meetings, and that they are interested in what COV say and do.

Some people may have failed to reply to our GDPR consent requests, but still wish to remain COV members. If this applies to you (or if you know someone else in this position) please accept our apologies. We don’t want to lose you, so do get in touch, and we can re-instate you as a member.

PS. one of the requirements of the GDPR is that we let our members know our policies regarding data privacy and security, which we are happy to do, and which you can read here.

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Bench is a Poor Return on Money and Effort

08 July 2018

Back in March 2016 we reported that Age Friendly Coventry had made a successful bid for funding from Tesco for the installation of benches in the City Centre. (You can read about it here). £8,000 had been awarded, which was a share of revenue generated from the new five pence charge on single-use carrier bags.

Then in August 2016 COV members took part in a “Walkability Audit”, the purpose of which was to assess how easy it was to travel on foot in and around the City Centre. (See the articles here and here). They made a set of recommendations, several of which were related to the provision of public seating. Older people often find it necessary to take a breather when out and about, so comfortable, well-positioned benches are very welcome.

All went quiet for some time, then in June 2017, we were invited to take part in a “design workshop” for a bench (only one) to be positioned in Spon Street, near the entrance to the subway. Lunch and refreshments were to be provided for the five young people and five older people taking part in the workshop.

We declined the invitation for the following reasons:

We made our objections known but received no satisfactory responses.

Now the (single!) bench has been designed, built and installed. What do we think of it?

In our opinion, it’s alright. And so it should be, for £8,000. But for the same amount of money, it should have been possible to provide a number of benches – somewhere where they are likely to be used. And that’s not in an unattractive dead-end, next to a little-used subway, surrounded by traffic fumes and noise.

Why not let us know what you think using our Forum Page?

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Joint Meeting on Health and Social Care

6 July 2018
A meeting was held on 30th May, involving Coventry Older Voices, Coventry City Council, Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Healthwatch Coventry and Grapevine. About 60 people attended, the majority being COV members.

The meeting had 3 aims:

The event was jointly chaired by COV committee member David Spurgeon and Coventry City Council Director of Adult Services Peter Fahy.

The CQC Review

Ruth Light (Chief Officer of Healthwatch Coventry) introduced the topic, and told us about the involvement of Healthwatch in the review.

Ian Bowering (Head of Social Work, Prevention and Health at Coventry City Council) then described the review in more detail, which was concerned with how safe, effective, caring and responsive Coventry’s health and social services were. He said that the outcome could be summed up as “good, but could do better”.

The CQC had praised workers in the field as being highly committed, and said that the management delivered good relationships. However, there was a need for a consistent system-wide vision.

Ian said that as a result of the review, an action plan had been drawn up, to ensure that “our efforts are joined-up”.

If you would like to read the review, it is available here.

Involvement of Older People

This was an interactive meeting, in the style often adopted for COV events. Those who were present divided into groups to discuss the following topics, and then reported back to the meeting as a whole:

  1. What would good health and social care look like for older people?
  2. How would we know if things are improving from the viewpoints of older people using services and of carers?
  3. How do older people (from all different backgrounds) already get involved or engaged? How could they be involved in the future?
  4. What could the COV network contribute to make the improvements happen?

You can read some of the comments that were made about these topics here.


The meeting was rounded up by a presentation by members of Grapevine, sisters Mel Smith and Mel Smith. (No – that’s not a mistake – they are Melanie and Melissa).

Grapevine helps all kinds of people experiencing isolation, poverty and disadvantage to build better lives, by offering practical guidance, advocacy and support centred around the person.

They spoke of “People Power”, and the need to focus on what you can do – not what you can’t.

Grapevine have an excellent website, which you can see here.

Following the meeting Pete Fahy said "It was great to engage with members of COV on some of the important issues facing health and social care as highlighted through the CQC review. I hope we can build on the relationship going forward to make a positive difference for the people we support".

At the end of the event those who had attended were asked to leave a short written comment about its usefulness, and you can read what they wrote here. Looking at these comments, we think that we can claim that the meeting was a great success, and we look forward enthusiastically to the next. Watch this space for more news!
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More News on Drapers’ Hall

08 April 2018
We have been reporting on proposals to renovate Drapers’ Hall, and to turn it into a music venue, for some time. An early proposal came to nothing, despite reports of the Drapers’ Hall Trust having secured a £2 million grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund for the restoration.

Then for several years, information on the planned development was very difficult to obtain. (We tried!). Then last year it was announced that the Historic Coventry Trust had taken over the project, and Ian Harrabin, its Chairman, wrote to us to tell us about some of his plans. (see our earlier article, here).

Photo of inside of Drapers' Hall

Now it has been announced that the Arts Council England has awarded the project £1 million, and The Prince of Wales has also chosen Drapers’ Hall as one of seven projects to celebrate his 70th birthday following a nationwide competition.

The Prince’s Foundation hasn’t yet revealed the ‘significant sum’ it is contributing, but we are told that it will help to transform the building into a regional venue for concerts and events for the whole community to use.

Dr Geoff Willcocks, Coventry University’s Director of Arts, Culture and Heritage and Trustee of the Historic Coventry Trust said: “This is tremendous news, not only for the Historic Coventry Trust, but also for the city of Coventry. This scheme will bring back into use one of the city’s most beautiful ‘hidden gems’ and will provide an important cultural contribution to the life of the city, especially for the city’s children and young people.”

We welcome this news, of course. At the same time, people of all ages enjoy listening to and making music, so we hope that the venue, and the use that is made of it, will be suitable for older people too.
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Your Invitation to a Meeting

30 March 2018
At last year’s Annual General Meeting we asked the question: “What do you think COV’s priorities should be for the coming year?” Many members thought that there should be more meetings open to the full membership. This can be difficult to arrange, not least because of the cost involved, and because we don’t charge for attendance. Nevertheless, it is still our ambition to provide as many such meetings as we can.

We are pleased to report that Coventry City Council have made a room available to us, at no charge, to discuss the following:

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) System Review in Coventry

Care Quality Commission Logo

The CQC is the Government body that inspects all health and social care services. Between December 2017 and March 2018, they carried out a thorough review of how well people move through the health and social care system in Coventry. This included time spent in the City talking with professionals, patients and carers, whilst also observing care in many different situations.

They published a 53-page report mid-March, which focused on the support provided to people over 65, and how safe, caring, effective and responsive services are. It is therefore particularly relevant to COV members. The report highlights what is working well and where additional support is needed to secure better outcomes. The next step is for an action plan to be produced.

At the meeting we will hear more about the findings from local leaders in the health and social care sectors. There will also be time for questions and answers as well as general discussion.

The meeting will be held at the new Council Friargate One building (near the railway station) on Wednesday 30th May from 10.30 – 12.30.

We don’t know the room number yet, but we will have people there to direct you. There are lots of buses: 8, 8a, 9, 9a, 11, 12 ,85 and 585 all go to and from Pool Meadow and the Station. Tea and coffee will be provided.

This is a great opportunity to discuss issues of real importance to older people with decision-makers in health and social care. We very much hope that as many of you as possible will be able to come. It’s also a chance to see from the inside Coventry’s new Council building!

Numbers will be limited so please let us know if you intend to join us by emailing or phoning Bridget Harper on 7659 8451 or Anne Lakin on 7661 3017. Please make sure that we have your full name and contact details (phone or email).

Note: if you want to read the CQC review in full, it is available online here.
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COV Receives Coventry 4 Good Grant

28 February 2018
We are happy to report that COV has been awarded a “Coventry 4 Good” grant of £158, to enable us to publish an extra edition of the COV Newsletter.

Coventry 4 Good is an initiative by Voluntary Action Coventry (VAC), which provides a wide range of services and activities to voluntary and community organisations. COV is a member of VAC.

You can read about VAC on their website here.

The Coventry 4 Good scheme supports voluntary and community groups by making it easier for organizations and individuals to help local good causes through the giving of time and skills, money and resources. All donations received by Coventry 4 Good are distributed to local good causes.

group photo of people receiving grants

The photo shows COV treasurer Val Cawley (third from the left) at the presentation event, held at VAC’s premises in Warwick Road, on 14th February.

You can read about Coventry 4 Good on their website here.
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National Express Pilots Contactless Payments

25 February 2018
National Express are testing a new system of paying for bus journeys using contactless cards.

Passengers simply place their cards on the reader at the front of the bus as they enter, and are charged £1.95 each for the first two trips, and further trips on the same day are not charged. No ticket is issued.

The scheme is initially being trialled on Coventry services 11, 11U, and 12X.

The benefits for passengers are convenience (if you prefer to pay this way), and cost – it is cheaper than paying cash.

Many COV members will have an Older Person’s Travel Pass, which entitles them to free travel, unless they are travelling before 09.30 Monday to Friday, when they can pay £1 for a single journey. So they will not need to make use of this method of payment.

red triangle warning sign

But ALL PASSENGERS need to be aware of the following:

You must remove your bus pass from your wallet or purse before touching it on the reader. If you do not separate your cards, only placing the one you want to use on the reader - you may be accidentally charged to a contactless card.

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Blue Badge Scheme Review

09 February 2018
Blue Badge Disabled Parking Permit The Government is to consider extending the Blue Badge scheme (which enables improved access to parking for people with physical disabilities) to those with hidden disabilities too.

The aim is to help remove barriers to travel for people with conditions such as dementia and autism, allowing them better access to work, shops and amenities.

At the moment Blue Badge parking permits are given only to those people with physical disabilities that are considered severe. Supporters of the Government’s proposals argue that although hidden disabilities are not immediately apparent, they are often the result of long-term illness. Although they aren’t always physical, they can be just as painful, tiring, and debilitating. Blue badges could help people with learning or hidden disabilities to work, socialise, and travel more as it would ease the anxiety of not knowing where to park and give them more confidence.

On the other hand, there are those that say there is limited parking space available, and extending the scheme in this way would mean there were fewer parking spaces available for more “genuine cases”, and for the general public.

What do you think? You can read more about the proposals, and take part in the consultation on the Government’s website, here. And as always, you can share your views with COV members, in the COV Forum, here.
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Oo-er - Where's the Driver?

08 February 2018 drawing of bus with no driver

From COV member Kate Brown:

Recently I and other members of Coventry Widowed Group attended Coventry University on a research project concerning a driverless shuttle-type bus being developed by Joscha Wasser in conjunction with Horiba Mira Ltd. Our input was concerned with issues on design that might impact on older people’s travel, i.e. comfort, ease of access and capacity. We tested the facilities on a model wooden bus. The final product might in future be used to travel from places like our station to the main city facilities, or places such as the National Trust.

We had a pleasant afternoon with refreshments supplied, filled in a questionnaire, were weighed and sized and found a few issues needing resolution. Hopefully our input will not only help the researcher and developers, but also older people of Coventry and COV members.

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Age UK Says Thank You

07 January 2018

Age UK logo Age UK have said a big “Thank You” to the many people (including some of our members) taking part in campaigns organized by Age UK. This year these included:

If you would like to take part in Age UK’s campaigns (which may involve such things as writing to your MP, or signing a petition), then why not take a look at their website here?
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