The vital role older people play in communities around our region has been highlighted at a British Red Cross event held to discuss the future of caring for the elderly and vulnerable.

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North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb was the main speaker at the event, which was held at the Forum in Norwich, focusing on “empowering independent living in East Anglia”.

The event brought together representatives from various care organisations to raise awareness of the work of the British Red Cross in battling social isolation and its latest scheme, the Older People Outreach Service.

Mr Lamb, the government’s minister of state for care and support, said: “The answer to a system that is under enormous financial pressure, which any government of any political persuasion would have had to grapple with, is to unleash the power of all of those people, often in retirement, who are fit and healthy and want to give something back to their communities but so often don’t know how to.

“Organisations like the Red Cross can help to harness that goodwill and that spirit of kindness to make a difference in your community.”

Mr Lamb talked about the government decision announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier this month which, from 2017, will see a cap of £75,000 on the amount people have to contribute to the personal care needs in their lifetime.

This announcement also saw an increase in the saving or assets threshold for people who will meet the criteria for this support, up from the current £23,500 to £123,000.

Lady Joyce Hopwood, chairman of the Norfolk Older People’s Strategic Partnership Board, spoke about the need for more people to appreciate the contribution of older people to schemes such as the Older People Outreach Service.

Lady Hopwood said: “It seems we are better at keeping older people alive than well. Only too frequently we hear older people referred to as a problem and a major expense to the taxpayers, a drain on the economy, and it isn’t even true.

“Stop and put it into the balance the majority of things that older people actually do for society. Yes some of us are frail and vulnerable but we are actually the minority.

“We all know that older people are the backbone of voluntary organisations, they’re the ones who volunteer, who understand what the community needs and get on with it.”

Lady Hopwood also cited the amount of money older people save the country through working as carers for their family and friends, as well as the roles of grandparents in allowing parents to return to work.

Keeping people healthy for as long as possible so that older people do not have to leave their homes to be cared for was one of Lady Hopwood’s key themes, saying: “This is a preventative scheme that is likely to save substantial amounts of NHS and social care funding, so let it flourish.”

Norwich South MP Simon Wright then introduced his Liberal Democrat colleague, Mr Lamb, speaking briefly to remind people that social isolation and loneliness were not only rural issues.

Mr Lamb then spoke further about care for older people, talking about how he hoped government changes would improve the country’s care systems.

“The poor patient, the frail older person, is often faced with the most appalling, fragmented system with so many people falling between the gaps, not getting a seamless service which manages to promote their good health,” he said.

Mr Lamb criticised previous governments for putting too much funding into hospital care and not enough into “the prevention end of the spectrum”.

To find out how the Older People Outreach Service can help you, or to get involved as a volunteer, call 0844 893 7779, email supportnorfolk@redcross.org.uk or go to www.redcross.org.uk/supportnorfolk

david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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