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BSG launches first ‘Think Piece’ with ILC-UK at the House of Lords, July 2011
On July 18th, 2011 over 20 people gathered at Committee Room G in the House of Lords via Black Rod’s Garden Entrance to launch and celebrate the first ‘Think Piece’ written by a BSG member and disseminated through the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK). The event was introduced by Baroness Sally Greengross founder of ILC-UK who welcomed the development of a new way of enabling research findings with key policy messages to reach a variety of audiences.

The publication ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Public Services’ was introduced by the author, Simon Evans supported by colleague Judy Orme from UWE and Kathryn Max from Social Care Institute for Excellence who commissioned the research. His talk was followed by responses from two discussants – Dr. David Pencheon, Director, Sustainable Development Unit, NHS and James Goodwin, Director of Research at Age UK.

Simon outlined how recent government policy for the public sector has included a strong focus on addressing climate change and promoting sustainability. There have been 30 key pieces of policy in this area between 2005-10 e.g. Sustainable Procurement (2006); Sustainable Communities Act (2007); Procuring the future health sector: Action Plan (2007); Sustainable development through the Climate Change Act 2008; Monitoring Sustainability - CRC energy efficiency scheme 2010. Utilising his research findings Simon reported that sustainability in the social care sector is underplayed at present being less well developed than those in health services or other areas. Initiatives need to be environmentally friendly, socially inclusive and affordable.

This is an area for debate in terms of policy change where reductions in CO2 can also impact on enhanced well-being, and Simon identified examples of innovation from Bristol City Council and London Borough of Camden. He discussed ‘Time Together Gorseinon’ in South Wales, an initiative emerging due to concern over the sustainability of existing models of social care in times of climate change, an ageing population and financial hardship. The project is built on a partnership between local people, service commissioners & providers, and other service agencies. People use their skills to provide support and earn time credits which they can use in their community. It is a form of Timebanking that is built on exchange.

There is a long way to go in terms of joined up thinking about sustainable development and social care. In developing the discussion, David Pencheon from the NHS adopted a more public health perspective. He began by raising the issue of communication talking through the need for whole systems thinking and large scale change where compartmentalism could be a deterrent. He used different kinds of examples to show how change needs to be significant to have an impact - the symbolic change of making the London underground a no-smoking area and how smoking patterns had altered; how learning about the impact of a ‘heatwave’ on vulnerable people could alert planning for corporate action; to how retailers such as Timberland now made 97% of their shoes recyclable – so the private sector could move into transformational mode.

In continuing the discussion on climate change, James Goodwin enlisted the help of Wayne Elliot from the Met Office to discuss the Health Forecasting Programme and what we can predict about hot and cold weather. He brought together climate change and social care recognising the need for a cultural shift in how we think about these issues as older people, family members, and practitioners. There is a need to own the knowledge that we have and start to change behaviour and he discussed the new role of extra care housing as a different way of living with implications for housing, care and community living.

By alerting the audience to a crucial debate John and James encouraged by Simon’s research led the audience to recognise the challenges and begin what will be an on-going discussion. This is the essence of bringing research think-pieces to the ILC-UK/BSG partnership. It was a great occasion that we hope will inspire other BSG members to feel that they have something to say. So, if you feel motivated to put forwards aThink Piece please get in touch with Sheila Peace on s.m.peace@open.ac.uk and we will liaise with David Sinclair at ILC-UK to bring forwards the next stimulating discussion.

Dr. Simon Evans is currently Senior Research Fellow at University of West of England but has now moved to Senior Research Fellow at University of Worcester
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