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The BSG Outstanding Achievement Award 2019

Sue Adams, OBE

This award is the highest the Society can make, and it is for outstanding achievement in terms of either our understanding of ageing or improving the lives of older people, or both.  This year’s Outstanding Achievement Award was made to the Chief Executive of Care and Repair England, Sue Adams.

Sue was nominated for her outstanding sustained contribution to policy and practice over more than three decades, and for her influence on academic thinking and  engagement. Through her passion and commitment, these achievements have all been delivered through a small third-sector organisation with no core funding, contributing extensively to national policy agendas and significantly improving the wellbeing of older people.  Among her many policy roles, she currently chairs the National Housing and Ageing Alliance and the Housing Adaptations Consortium, and serves on the Government's Integration Partnership Board and NHSE Hospital to Home Board. She has been a key influence in government's engagement with research evidence on housing and ageing, including a pivotal role in the commissioning of the evidence review Better Outcomes, Lower Costs (Heywood, 2007). This has proved central to the case for the Disabled Facilities Grant in every Comprehensive Spending Review since, with a recent doubling of the budget. She initiated the national network of Older People's Housing Champions raising the issue of poor and unsuitable housing in local and national policy agendas.  In the week before the BSG Conference there was evidence of the impact of Care and Repair in the APPG for Ageing and Older People’s report Decent and Accessible Homes for Older People.  

Sue has been instrumental in translating research into policy messages for practitioners, lobbyists and activists, publishing clear and concise reports, briefings and guides hugely appreciated by those active in housing, health and social care, including the influential Off the Radar (2016), Small but Significant (2018) and Adapting for Ageing (2018).   

Her realisation that health commissioners require a stronger housing evidence base, yet funders like NIHR seem reluctant to fund cross-cutting research, led to her establish the Catch 22 initiative linking academic researchers and practitioners with the aim of stimulating successful funding bids, and attracting new research funds, including convincing Dunhill Medical Trust to commit £200,000 to academic home adaptations research. 

In 2010 Sue was awarded an OBE for Services to Older People’s Housing. 

In the unanimous opinion of the selection panel Sue Adams was declared eminently worthy of receiving the Society’s highest award.  

The selection panel comprised the current BSG President (Debbie Price), past President (Sheila Peace), a previous winner (Christine Victor) and two nominated representatives from organisations that the BSG has a formal MOU with: the Centre for Policy on Ageing (Gilly Crosby) and the Centre for Ageing Better (Claire Turner).  The BSG is very grateful to them for the great care, assiduity and diligence with which they approached this task and to Debbie and Tanya for managing the process.  

This selection process is usually difficult.  Not surprisingly because this is a high honour and social gerontology in the UK boasts world leading talent in great depth.  However, like last year, this round was especially tough.  There were four nominations on the short list any one of whom would have made a very worthy winner.  So, everyone nominated should consider it a badge of honour.  

In practical terms the panel operated an individual scoring approach and then came together to discuss the results.  The key sub-criteria were significance, lasting contribution, making a difference to older people’s lives and impact.  The scoring was very close and, after lengthy discussion, we narrowed the field to two of the nominees, but only just.  They roughly represented the two sides of the award criteria: understanding and improving lives.  Again after protracted discussion, the panel, unanimously, agreed on the practical, improving the lives of older people side. 


Professor Alan Walker 

Panel Chair