Sector to play key role in 'Sure Start for the elderly'

Voluntary organisations will play a major role in a 'Sure Start' programme for older people, to be piloted by the Government next year.

Link Age Plus will be based on the community-led, single-location, joined-up services model that was the basis for the £3bn Sure Start programme for deprived pre-school children.

Help the Aged said it had been consulted on development of the scheme.

Kate Jopling, its senior public affairs officer, said: "There will be massive voluntary sector involvement, as partners in services and volunteering as a way of delivering."

Citizens Advice and Age Concern are thought to be talking to officials about the plans, which are being drawn up by the Social Exclusion Unit and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Older people will also be encouraged to volunteer with partnering charities as a way of influencing the services that are delivered to them.

Jopling said the new programme should be based on providing opportunities for older people. "Older people's services are a bit like 'what's wrong with you, love?

We'll sort it out', whereas what we want is more 'what do you want do with your life?'," she said.

Sure Start has been hailed as one of the Government's flagship social programmes, but a recent academic study revealed a wide disparity of outcomes in areas covered by the scheme.

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