Older People's Commission Interim Strategic Plan 2009 - 2010

01.1.09

Overview

‘A work in progress’

This plan will set out the initial purpose and direction of the Older People’s Commission, recognising its unique situation in its set up phase and the need to evolve and develop our thinking over the coming months. We see the process of determining the strategic plan as being important in itself and a key means of engaging stakeholders.  Whilst recognising that these are early days for the Commission, we must also take account of the fact that decisions about organisational development and expectation management need to be taken and need to be guided by an agreed core mission and values.  The Commission has the Act which established the role of Commissioner to guide it, as well as the extensive conversations which have taken place already with older people, other individuals and organisations.  Together these form the evidence base for our initial plan, which will need to be reviewed within a shorter space of time than we anticipate will be the case with plans made when the organisation is more fully developed and has established a regular planning cycle.

Vision: where we want to be

We want to see a Wales in which respect for the rights and dignity of older people is a practical reality in all areas of life, where age discrimination is a thing of the past and where a positive view of ageing and of older people prevails.

Mission: purpose and desired level of performance

We will be a world-class Commission, utilising our powers to further the interests of older people in Wales and make a lasting difference

Functions

The functions of the Commission set out in the Act are summarised as follows.  In brackets following each are shorter summaries where useful.  These functions are the objectives of the Commission.

They are to:

  • Promote awareness of the interests of older people in Wales.
  • Promote the provision of opportunities for, and the elimination of discrimination against, older people in Wales. (promote the end of age discrimination)
  • Encourage good practice in the treatment of older people in Wales. (encourage good practice)
  • Keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of the law affecting the interests of older people in Wales. (review the law)
  • Enable the delivery of functions 1 – 4 listed above in ways which are proper and regular, prudent and economical, make efficient and effective use of resources and identify and manage risks. (deliver the functions efficiently and effectively)

Values

The following values will define the culture of the Commission, and are based on the features of successful organisations and consultation with stakeholders. 

The Commission will be:

(Outward facing values)

  • Older people focussed, customer focussed: It will have older people at the heart. It will have an emphasis on those who at times are more vulnerable. [1]
  • For all Wales:  The Commission needs to be able to relate to older people in all parts of Wales.
  • Independent:  The Commission will conduct its work to further the interests of older people in Wales in a way which is independent of government or of any other bodies.
  • Authoritative: We will be an organisation with integrity and purpose which is clear about its evidence base and strongly connected to the wishes and interests of older people.
  • Outcome focussed: We will continuously seek to measure and record the impact our work.
  • Action biased: We are a pioneering body and will be pro-active and energetic in our championing of the interests of older people.
  • Brilliant on the basics: This means for example placing emphasis on people’s experience of contact with us, ensuring good response times and standards, research rigour, a strong evidence base, attention to detail.
  • Flexible: We will have a flexible and co-operative approach to work within and outside the organisation, recognising the need to learn and to respond to the unexpected as well as to plan ahead.
  • Innovative: We will look for opportunities to pilot and develop new approaches within and outside the organisation, recognising both the pioneering role of the Commission and the need to find and share better ways of working with and for older people.
  • Clear sense of purpose and direction: We will have an agreed and understood plan and values which will guide our work and priorities and be subject to regular review.
  • Communicative: We will seek to communicate regularly and effectively with our external stakeholders and internally about issues affecting older people, our work and our progress. We will see this as a two way process. 
  • Equalities and human rights aware: Staff should have a good understanding of the social model of disability (and its implications for terminology for example) the Human Rights Act, the equalities agenda.  We should recognise that these key areas will need regular updates as things move on and staff change.           

This relates also to the requirement in the Act that the Commissioner will have regard to the UN Principles for older people in all activities.

  • Collaborative:  We will work in partnership with others as appropriate to avoid unnecessary duplication, make best use of energy and resources.

(Inward facing values)

  • Able to manage risk well: We understand that a certain amount of calculated risk is vital to our successful operation.  Excellent risk management needs to be embedded in the culture and doing risk assessments should become second nature for staff at all levels.  We will be risk aware not risk averse.
  • Value for money: We will be resource efficient.
  • Legally compliant: We will be fully aware of, and fulfil, our responsibilities for legal compliance as a public body and regard following, and where necessary developing, good practice as central to our work.
  • A great place to work:  The staff of the Commission will be key to its success and the Commission will reflect best practice in its own policy and practice, encouraging and valuing achievement, being flexible in approach and equality and diversity aware.
  • A learning organisation:  We will seek to learn from our experiences, both positive and negative, seeking constructive ways forward in the face of challenges, monitoring and evaluating what we do and encouraging continuous professional development.

These values will need to be referred to often to have effect, and will form part of induction, and be a checklist for planning and evaluation.  They will inform our measures of performance. 

The above values have been informed by comments from older people including:

  • ‘In order to gain respect you have to give respect’ 
  • ‘The Commission has to make sure it is independent’
  • ‘You need to be careful that the word champion does not become downgraded’
  • ‘If you don’t take on too much you can achieve your targets’
  • ‘The Commission needs to get as many people on side as possible’
  • ‘People need to talk in ordinary language’
  • ‘Keep communicating through the media, keep listening, sharing this’
  • ‘Don’t give people the chance to say ‘why?’
  • ‘Help the most people for the least effort’

Outputs

The kinds of outputs for the Commission identified in the Act are:

  • Conducting reviews
  • Making reports
  • Guidance on best practice to particular bodies
  • Making recommendations
  • Research and educational activities
  • Assisting older people to make complaints and representations (where this is in certain legal proceedings such as court cases or tribunals, only if the case has wider implications). 
  • Enter premises and interview older people
  • Making representations
  • Examining an individual case which has wider implications

Selection guidance criteria beyond those in the Act will be established.  These will always include an element of judgement (ie, even the list of criteria will not tell for sure whether or not the Commissioner will decide to act in a particular case.  It is essential to retain the discretion of the Commissioner). 

  • Annual report to the First Minister, House of Commons and House of Lords

Outcomes

  • Greater awareness of older people’s interests
  • Reduced age discrimination
  • Better services
  • More effective law

Core Activities

Those we envisage at present:

  1. Engagement with older people 
  2. Information and incoming enquiries
  3. Policy and research 
  4. Review and examination 
  5. Communications 
  6. Corporate governance/risk management 
  7. Finance 
  8. IT 
  9. Human Resources 
  10. Office management 

For each of the above we have identified a lead person/people and an operational plan will be developed.

Functions and Activities

The core activities serve the functions of the Commission and we will arrange activities under functions as follows.  There is of course a degree of overlap between many of them.  At present, in its early stage of development, the broad activities identified as ‘communications’, ‘engagement with older people’, ‘review and examination and ‘policy and research’ fall under all the first 4 functions and some fall under all 5.  The more detailed operational plans for these will relate more closely to the specific functions, and as the organisation develops capacity we would expect more distinctions and specific workstreams to emerge relating to functions 1 - 4.  It is likely always to be the case, however, that activities will serve several functions, and indeed this may be a criteria for prioritising a particular piece of work.

1.  Promote awareness of the interests of older people in Wales

  • Communications (also 1 – 5)
  • Engagement with older people (also 1-5)
  • (Review and examination)*
  • (Policy and research)*

2.  Promote the provision of opportunities for, and the elimination of discrimination against, older people in Wales (promote the end of age discrimination)

  • (Communications)*
  • (Engagement with older people)*
  • (Review and examination)*           
  • (Policy and research)*

3.  Encourage good practice in the treatment of older people in Wales (encourage good practice)

  • Review and examination (also 1 – 4)
  • Policy and research (also 1 – 4)
  • (Communications)*
  • (Engagement with older people)*

4.  Keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of the law affecting the interests of older people in Wales (review the law)

  • (Communications)*
  • (Engagement with older people)*
  • (Review and examination)*           
  • (Policy and research)*

5.  Enable the delivery of functions 1 – 4 listed above in ways which are proper and regular, prudent and economical, make efficient and effective use of resources and identify and manage risks (deliver the functions efficiently and effectively)

  • IT
  • Human Resources
  • Office management
  • Finance
  • Corporate governance/risk management
  • Information and incoming enquiries
  • (Communications)*
  • (Engagement with older people)*

* Because a number of activities will serve more than one, or in some cases all, functions, the activity is placed under the function it most relates to in normal text, and in italics and in brackets under the others, which it also substantially serves.

Set Up

The Commissioner acquired the powers of her office in April 2008.  Developing the capacity to exercise those powers fully, in relation for example to review and examination, will require time and technical exploration of their scope and nature and decisions about priorities and methodology.  The best use of resources will be vital.  The potential demand on our limited resources is considerable.  The management of the expectations of older people and others will be of great importance, both in the set up phase of the Commission and for the future.  We see the phase of the Commission to the end of September 2008 as the first set-up phase, during which a permanent office base has been established and some staffing developed. Extensive scoping work on the Commissioners powers was completed at the end of November 2008.

We see the second set-up phase as running from October 2008 to April 2009. During this phase this interim strategic plan has been determined and recruitment to a range of posts relating to the powers of the Commissioner is taking place. We will undertake fuller exploration and development of capacity in relation to the powers of the Commission.  We will go further to define the unique space the Commission needs to occupy in relation to the other bodies operating in Wales, to ensure that we add value and do not duplicate work already being undertaken.  This phase will involve establishing an outline staffing structure for the Commission and a number of phases of recruitment. 

Audit Committee

As part of the set-up of the Commission we have established an Audit Committee.  The scope of the Audit Committee’s work will be defined in its terms of reference, and will encompass all the assurance needs of the Accounting Officer.  Within this, the Audit Committee will have particular engagement with the work of Internal Audit, the work of the External Auditor and financial reporting issues.

Staffing

The Commission will determine staffing in the light of its strategic priorities.  We will balance the need to develop longer-term capacity to carry out our functions, with the need to maintain a degree of flexibility.  In the shorter term we need flexibility to respond to our own learning about our powers and priorities, recognising that we are developing the first Older People’s Commission in the world and that we will need to be innovative in our approach and allow for weighting the staffing and skills to reflect our developing priorities.  We will engage with people in a range of different ways including through secondment and fixed-term contracts.  We also need to develop a positive working culture and specific skills and expertise within our organisation, for which longer term staffing will be essential.  We see a longer term need to maintain flexibility to bring in expertise from outside the Commission, from Wales, from other parts of the UK and beyond, to assist with specific review or examination for example. 

We will identify the key skills needed to develop the work of the Commission and identify priority jobs to recruit to in the early part of 2009.

Funding

The budget of the Commission is set annually according to the requirements of the Act and based on the allocation of finance by the Welsh Assembly Government.  The Commissioner has outline funding for 3 years:

2008 – 2009: £1.5 million

2009 – 2010: £1.7 million

2010 – 2011: £1.8 million

We envisage staffing and other fixed costs accounting for a proportion of the budget of the Commission which leaves a significant, but minority proportion unallocated, which can be used flexibly to respond to changing needs and priorities.

Each October the Commissioner is required to submit a formal estimate to the Deputy Minister which sets out her proposals for the level of funding she requires and how she will use it for the forthcoming year to discharge her statutory functions.

Monitoring and evaluation arrangements

We will put in place the monitoring necessary to track outcomes and to effectively evaluate all our work.  Reporting will be carried out, by all staff, against the five functions of the Commission.

The Audit Committee has a role to scrutinise, support and challenge the Commission and will have a role to play in the evaluation of our work. 

Under the terms of the Act the Auditor General for Wales is the Commissioner’s external auditor and will examine, certify and report on annual accounts submitted to him each year.

The Commissioner has appointed Bentley Jennison as internal auditors who will undertake an agreed programme of reviews of the Commission’s internal systems, governance and risk arrangements.

External evaluation of the development and work of the Commission will take place.

Risk

An initial risk assessment exercise has been undertaken to create a risk register; this will be reviewed regularly by the Senior Management Team and will be presented to the Audit Committee in 2009.

Risk management will be mainstreamed against all functions and activities.

Planning Timetable

The Commission will establish a rolling timetable for reviewing and agreeing its strategic and operational plans, involving stakeholders in this as appropriate.  The timetable will link with the key dates for reporting established in the Act:

1st Quarter: review work of previous financial year using a range of methods, building on the monitoring of the year, including outcome measures.  Involve Audit Committee, older people and other key stakeholders.

2nd Quarter: revise/develop planning for following financial year.  Involve Audit Committee, older people and other key external stakeholders.

3rd Quarter: Deliver annual report to Parliament and to the First Minister by 1 October.  This report will cover the previous financial year i.e. April to March.

3rd Quarter: Deliver forward work plan and financial projections to the WAG for next financial year by 31 October. 

Welsh Language

The Older People’s Commission for Wales supports the principle established by the Welsh Language Act 1993, that, in the conduct of public business in Wales, the Welsh and English languages should be treated on a basis of equality.  The Older People’s Commission for Wales has accordingly, produced a policy.

We will develop our thinking on this issue of vulnerability: ie, we can all be vulnerable at various times, for various reasons, we need to take the lesson from the social model of disability and look at the circumstances around a person which make them vulnerable, rather than describing the vulnerability as owned by the person.  For example, an older person who has resources, is normally articulate and independent, can become vulnerable when they have been admitted to hospital, been on a ward for several weeks, now have ongoing health issues and need support to get back to being at home where they want to be, and yet are under pressure to vacate the bed and move to residential care.  A person can be vulnerable to family pressure and to financial abuse where they were not before when they are becoming more frail