Involving older people in service commissioning: more power to their elbow?

Carried out on behalf of JRF by the London School of Economics and Political Science, this research, which investigated what happens when older people are given the opportunity to shape service commissioning and delivery is now available.

The research focused on two areas (Dorset and Salford) where structures and processes exist to encourage and facilitate the involvement of older people in local decision-making. The study also raised questions about the involvement of older people in local decision-making and their contribution to wider democratic processes.

Key findings include:

  • The older people believed the local involvement structures and processes produced identifiable results which justified their time;
  • Senior managers and local political leadership played a significant role in engaging older people and recognising their importance;
  • Engagement should take the form of a continuous dialogue, rather than one-off consultation exercises;
  • The identification of a number of "unresolved issues" which are probably the result of different approaches to involving older people in commissioning and delivery.

While the research has demonstrated how older people's involvement can help define outcomes and strengthen the focus of commissioning processes, the authors suggest this may not be enough to change local power relations. Their conclusion is that the influence of older people on public services may ultimately depend upon the effectiveness of their contribution to wider democratic processes rather than to service improvement agendas.

If you would like to discuss this research further, please contact Alex O'Neil, Programme Manager: