Editorial: The questions lurking behind Heyday

Age Concern England has bowed to the inevitable and abandoned its attempts to recruit 'younger older' people to Heyday, which it founded to provide information, services and a political voice to the soon-to-be retired.

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

Instead it will make the best of a bad job and morph Heyday into an organisation for people between 65 and 80, who are apparently more willing to join. But there are still many questions about this ill-fated organisation that merit an answer.

How could ACE, after all its research, opt for a model that didn't - some would say couldn't - work? What exactly was the dispute that led to three senior resignations at the time of the initiative's launch? And how much money has been poured into Heyday in addition to £5m of ACE reserves? The charity has not so far cast much light on such questions. Surely its members and supporters deserve a full and frank account, preferably with some independent element.

If you look at the Heyday magazine and website, they seem to be aimed at a middle-class market that either looks after itself or is sewn up by Saga. Heyday's declared targets of poverty, isolation and ill health are more prevalent among the less well off, and on the deprived estates of Stoke-on-Trent they can't afford insurance, let alone holidays at the Taj Mahal. Was Heyday, with the wrong tools, trying to solve what is essentially a political problem? It's the kind of thing the Government wants the sector to do these days.

Other news from ACE is that it is working on a much-needed review of its governance. The trustees must bear much of the responsibility for Heyday, because they are ultimately responsible for the conduct of the charity and the use of its funds. Realistically, though, how could 39 of them, meeting once a quarter, really keep tabs on something that was being railroaded through? Age Concern is a sprawling network of branches and commercial subsidiaries, and is ripe for a shake-up.

How would Shami Chakrabarti and Ian Botham get on over a cup of coffee? The director of Liberty is not known for her devotion to cricket and Botham's track record on human rights has not been explored. What gives them common ground is the Queen's birthday honours - a knighthood for him and a CBE for her. The honours system remains decidedly weird - there was actually a gong this time for a chap called the Yeoman Bed Goer - but it's good to see recognition for these two very different scions of the voluntary sector. Might Beefy do his next fundraising walk for civil liberties?

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