Welcome from Stuart Rogers and Julia Neuberger

2021 saw us pick up where we left off in 2020, managing in a global pandemic while continuing to transform our charity.

Throw in a worsening economic climate and you might have forgiven us for adopting an air of doom and gloom. We are delighted to say that we did not. With our three-year strategic plan in place, we got on and implemented it, seeing the charity go from strength to strength – and enjoy real reasons for optimism. Here’s why.
The ongoing pandemic has tested us all, but we’ve refused to be defined by it. People seeking to live a happy, connected and purposeful later life need us more than ever. We know that of those 12.9 million people aged over 65 in the UK, many are relishing older age and managing well. But between two and four million are on the margins of poverty, experiencing multiple health issues, a care crisis or social isolation, or a combination of these. More worryingly, some 2.1 million people live below the poverty line, with a weekly household income of less than £166 for a single person or £285 for a couple. They are facing a poor older age.

Our Helpline is an important part of our response to these issues. In 2021 we answered 15,256 calls comprising 21,593 different enquiries from people looking for help and advice. Many of the questions were about welfare benefits and social care, and we were able to offer many callers copies of our publications to help answer their questions, too. We’re keen to learn from people whether talking to us helped improve their situation – and, if not, what we can change or do better to make that difference – and what makes for a positive Helpline experience. We’re also piloting live web chat to make the Helpline even more accessible.

Like us, other charities worked tirelessly with older people across the country in 2021. Many benefited from our continuing help through the Independent Age Grants Fund, which, this year, centred on helping our charity community re-establish their face-to-face services. Building this community of support and, with it, our profile and reputation, is a key part of driving change. Another is our monitoring of the ever-changing policy landscape, examining how proposed changes could affect older people. Challenge and uncertainty in this area
remain, but our work to influence policy is securing significant improvements to the social systems older people rely on.

We are incredibly grateful for all the generous support we have received in 2021, from our individual donors, fundraisers, legators, corporate partners and foundations. Thank you all for being part of our important work. 

Delivering that work are our wonderful colleagues and volunteers – and 2021 saw us recruit more great people to complement our already hardworking group. In fact, with 97% responding to our employee survey, we achieved a 78% overall satisfaction level, compared with 42% in 2019. Our senior leadership team and heads of department have been visible and engaging, setting the right culture by living our values and remaining resolutely positive. Our trustees have provided great oversight and direction, with a supportive hand whenever it was needed.

We are learning about and gradually developing our approach towards equity, diversity and inclusion. Within our strategic principles we aim to challenge ageism and other forms of discrimination proactively through all our work. We will celebrate and champion diversity within and beyond our charity and create a culture in which everyone knows they belong. We will develop our leaders so they can act as role models and champions – and we will develop our employees so they can embrace these principles and apply them in their work. We are determined to deliver equal opportunities for our employees, volunteers and the people who use our services, whether they have protected characteristics or not.

Developing our values and behaviours was another priority for us in 2021. Our charity’s values are to be purpose driven, compassionate, expert, collaborative, accountable and inclusive. We continue to model our desired behaviours in our everyday work to bring those values to life.

We are a charity that is changing. We are leaner these days. We are focused on building firm foundations by continually reviewing our policies and procedures, by developing our safeguarding, assurance and compliance frameworks, and by improving the quality, security and use of our data. And we have a vision of a better society that values its older citizens and wants them to live secure, contented, connected, comfortable lives.

Looking to the future, we will make sure we can continue to deliver high-quality services for the people who need them and make positive policy change happen, while remaining financially sustainable. We are so grateful to everyone who has been part of our work in 2021 – thank you. With your help, encouragement, support and generous funding we know we can fully deliver our strategy in 2022.

Stuart Rogers, Acting Chief Executive and Baroness Neuberger, DBE, Chair