How can Mayoral Combined Authorities make ageing better?
Mayors and Combined Authorities have the potential to play a big part in better ageing. This is what some of them are doing.
In this blog, Natalie Turner, our Deputy Director for Localities, summarises our new briefing on how Mayoral Combined Authorities can seize the opportunities and address the challenges of their ageing populations.
Around four in ten people in England live in an area with a devolution deal and a directly elected Mayor. This number will keep growing as new deals are created: the government has committed to offer a devolution deal to any area that wants one by 2030. Already, as much as 75% of the population in England live in, or in the economic orbit of, Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs). Often looking to them for work opportunities, shopping, leisure, specialist health care and other public services.
As with all of England, that population is ageing. More people turn 50 every year than turn 18, and the growth of England’s population in every area of the country – including MCAs - is driven by growth in older age groups. One might argue therefore that the very success of MCAs depends very significantly on the health, wellbeing and economic inclusion of their older population.
A good deal for all ages: How Mayoral Combined Authorities can make ageing better in England
Many MCAs are already showing powerful leadership on this agenda by setting strategies across their areas and including a focus on older people in their employment, housing and other programmes. This should not be a surprise. Presiding over specific places, but with access to larger funding pots and more powers than local authorities, mayors and directly elected leaders are well-placed to show real leadership on ageing issues. Their local knowledge and positioning mean they are often better equipped than central government to join the dots on policies affecting over 50s, which also need to work across departmental boundaries and sectors. However, much more can be done.
Here are just three examples where MCAs already can and do lead the way:
- Economy, Work and Skills: MCAs can ensure they are realising the essential economic role of older people through for example, better targeting of skills development, employment support or apprenticeships to ensure they also work for people in their 50s and 60s. Greater Manchester Combined Authority is working with the Centre for Ageing Better and the Department for Work and Pensions to pilot and test new ways to support over 50s in getting back to work and has also published a Greater Manchester age-friendly employer toolkit alongside its Good Employment Charter.
- Housing and Planning: MCAs also have a key leadership role in adapting local housing for an ageing population, including ensuring the design and location of new housing appeals to and meets our needs as we age, and by addressing disrepair and poor energy efficiency in existing stock which can contribute to ill-health. For instance, Liverpool City Region’s housing statement has a focus on future-proofing housing for an ageing population, which includes higher accessibility standards for new homes as well as boroughs working together to improve existing stock.
- Transport: MCAs can also use their powers to improve the availability and suitability of public transport for over 50s, as well as making streets and outdoor spaces attractive and accessible to encourage the take up or maintenance of active travel such as walking and cycling as people age. In West Yorkshire, the Streets for People programme is creating safe and healthy street environments, which are important for all ages to live active lives in areas with good air quality.
Though these institutions are still evolving, there is a growing argument that MCAs are much better positioned to work on ‘joined-up’ policy issues like an ageing society. Even where specific budgets and powers are absent, the convening and influencing power of the mayors themselves can play a significant role making things happen, homelessness being just one example.
We understand that MCAs face many competing priorities but are committed to working with them to realise their potential to make ageing better in England. We have knowledge, resources and networks with practitioners on a variety of ageing issues, particularly housing and employment. With a strategic partnership with Greater Manchester, and relationships with West Yorkshire and West Midlands, we also have a hands-on understanding of the context. We also support the UK network of the World Health Organisation’s Age-friendly Cities and Communities initiative, members of which include London, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester. Globally it includes major city regions such as New York and Paris.
If you are working in or with MCAs and want to find out more, contact us at [email protected]