Experts from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing have called on the Government to establish a new cross-departmental taskforce, specifically focused on the issue of the ageing workforce.
The Institute recommends this taskforce is chaired by a new Business Champion for Older Workers, urging the Government to appoint somebody to this position as soon as possible to replace Baroness Ros Altmann CBE, now Minister of State for Pensions.
Professor Louise Robinson (pictured), Director of the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and Professor of Primary Care and Ageing, says: “People are living and working longer, although such increases in life expectancy are not matched by increases in health as we age, and our concept of what life looks like for over 55s is changing. Government policy needs to respond to this trend. It must ensure there are opportunities available to those who want or need to continue working and that support is available for those unable to continue in full time employment. While positive steps have already been taken, for instance the removal of the Default Retirement Age (DRA), more work is needed.
“In particular, Government needs to adopt a more joined-up approach. People do not make decisions about their employment without thinking about their finances and their health, so Government departments must think this way too. At the moment, departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DH) are not doing enough to work together. A cross-departmental taskforce should be set up to ensure that work, pension, health and care policies are integrated, not treated as separate issues.
“Baroness Altmann did great work in championing the needs of older workers. Now the Government must continue her work by appointing a new Business Champion for Older Workers to head up this new taskforce.”
Help for carers
The Institute of Ageing academics have called for all draft legislation to be thoroughly assessed to ensure that any potentially negative consequences for other areas of life are mitigated against. They also highlight the need for quality health and care services, ensuring availability to care for elderly people who may previously have been looked after by those now remaining in or returning to the workforce.
Professor Louise Robinson adds:“When we think of workers with caring commitments we often think of parents, especially mothers. But we are now seeing a whole generation of older people caring for their very elderly relatives. Many feel unable to remain in or return to employment because there are inadequate local services available to care for their loved ones if they are at work. The Government must ensure that the right support is put in place to help these older would-be workers.”
The recommendations are included in a policy briefing note being sent today to relevant MPs and other organisations, outlining a number of concerns about policy that impacts the ageing workforce. These include regional inequalities in health and employment opportunities, a labour market that isn’t working for older workers and a business environment that doesn’t support older workers.