Age Concern says Help the Aged is 'simplistic'

Mathew Little

Age Concern England chief executive Gordon Lishman has launched a strong attack on Help the Aged and claimed that a merger between the two charities, which was abandoned last year, was "still the right answer".

Lishman claimed that Help the Aged's policy and campaigning work was "less effective and more simplistic" than that of Age Concern and that similar amounts of money were being spent by the two charities on the same work, risking duplication.

Writing in the March edition of Age Concern's Network magazine, which goes out to staff and volunteers in the charity's local branches, Lishman said that a proposal from Age Concern, initially made in 2001, that the two charities should work towards merger was "turned down flat by Help the Aged's trustees".

"Merger is still the right answer and we should make that clear," said Lishman. "In Age Concern at least we will continue to benchmark our achievements against the needs and wants of older people rather than being unduly concerned about other organisations, whose hearts - if not always their heads - are in the right place."

Steve Jones, head of communications at Help the Aged, said: "We don't recognise one iota of what he's saying. A joint statement from both bodies of trustees came to the decision last year that merger was not the answer so I don't understand why he's saying it to his staff at this time."

But Lishman denied that Age Concern had ever agreed to reject the merger option. He said he had expressed his views with "characteristic robustness" but they were not intended to be hostile. He said he worked closely with Michael Lake, chief executive of Help the Aged, on political campaigning and that they frequently made joint approaches.

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