The West Midlands Later Life Forum is one of nine regional Forums on Ageing in England. “West Midlands” in this case refers to and includes the counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and West Midlands.
All nine English regional Forums were originally set up following the implementation of recommendations made in the Elbourne Review (November 2008) and, more specifically, the government's response to those recommendations as contained in the Department of Work and Pensions' publication, “Empowering Engagement: A Stronger Voice for Older People” (February 2009).
The DWP publication identifies expressly that the stated aim of the Forums and the networks of older people's groups and age-sector organisations with which they have contact "is to bring about a more effective dialogue about the services and policies which most affect wellbeing in later life." Overall, and since the establishment of the regional Forums and the agendas they have pursued, the over-arching aim has centred on better promoting improvements in the independence and in the health and well-being of older people, and in society’s (including the government's) perceptions of the ageing process.
Although funded and supported by the Department for Work and Pensions, the membership constitution of each of the English Forums ensures they are both independent of and are in no way the mouthpiece of either local or central government.
The regional Forums each convene meetings of and engage with anyone with an interest in the later life issues: individual older people themselves (‘the experts by experience’), representatives of organisations of and for older people, statutory and third sector provider organisations, and others, all of whom are encouraged to contribute their ideas, thoughts, suggestions and concerns.
The Forums feed into and receive feedback from debates and consultations locally, regionally, and nationally. This ongoing dialogue ensures that the views, experiences, needs and aspirations of older people in each region are effectively heard and as effectively responded to.
At a regional level, the Forums work with the representatives of councils, health trusts, other public bodies, charities and voluntary sector organisations – helping them to develop a better understanding of ‘what older people want and what works for them’.
Nationally each of the nine English Forums is represented at the quarterly meetings of the ‘UK Advisory Forum on Ageing’ [UKAFA], which is regularly joined by two Ministers of State – (usually, but not exclusively, from the Departments of Work and Pensions, and of Health).
At a more practical operational level, regular meetings of the Chairs of the English Forums also act as a reference group for the now well established ‘Age Action Alliance’ and its 'Working Groups'. Attendance at and participation in the Alliance meetings and in the Working Groups ensures that the voices of older people from the West Midlands are also directly involved in the development of services intended to meet their needs and aspirations.
The West Midlands Later Life Forum is led by a small group of elected Officers, all of whom are themselves older people, and who act in a voluntary capacity. The Forum itself meets four times a year, usually centrally to the region in Birmingham, and, additionally, arranges an annual open “Later Life Assembly” in March. Details of the venue, date and time of these meetings can be found by clicking on the ‘Meetings and Events’ link. From within that link you will also be able to access the last set of approved minutes as well as the agenda for the next meeting.
Separately, there is a link to the ‘WMLLF blog’. This blog (in form, an open channel for a more spontaneous email-type dialogue than is available through a web-site) reflects the personal interests, concerns, observations, thoughts and ideas of those members of the Forum (and others) who contribute comments to it. Significantly, it presents an opportunity for discussion, development and dialogue outside the usual Forum meetings. This brings with it the benefit of being able to develop and pursue ideas which arise during a Forum meeting, and where it is felt there is value or a need in trying to progress those ideas between meetings.