New research from older people’s charity, Independent Age, shows that the public has hugely unrealistic expectations of their councils to clear pavements this winter, which are, as a result, left untouched during these severe weather conditions. Thousands of older people subsequently find themselves at risk of injury or unable to leave their homes for days or weeks at a time as ungritted pavements are left covered in treacherous ice and snow.

According to the survey, half1 of us expect either local or national government to clear this winter's ice and snow from the pavements outside our homes, despite the fact that councils rarely grit more than a few of their main pedestrian areas. In reality, looking at a sample of 20 councils across England2 , gritting pavements is invariably considered a low priority as councils concentrate on keeping main roads roads moving.

Icy conditions present a very real problem to older people, many of whom struggle with their mobility. About a third of all people over 65 fall each year3

. Independent Age is calling for councils to be clearer about what people can expect during the winter weather and for them to issue advice encouraging, rather than discouraging, people to lend a helping hand. It is vital that families and neighbours can understand the problems faced by older people, allowing them to step in and take action if necessary. That may mean helping to clear snow and ice themselves, offering a lift in a car, or offering to do the shopping for an older neighbour who may be struggling to get out.

"Our research shows that it's time for a grown-up debate between residents and councils about what is really going to happen during spells of snow and ice," says Independent Age Director of Policy, Simon Bottery. "With councils facing 27% cuts in funding over the next few years, we may all have to accept that their services are unlikely to expand and that we need to pull together as communities to help.”
s little to help people help themselves. Council websites usually state that 'there's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home' and that 'it's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path'. More needs to be done to encourage a community spirit and to enable people to pull together and seek their own local solutions," Simon Bottery concludes.

1 Exactly 50% of those questioned thought that local or national government should be responsible for clearing ice or snow from the street pavement outside their home.

2 The 20 councils for this purpose were: Haringey Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Durham County Council, Dorset County Council, Cheltenham Borough Council, East Sussex County Council, Suffolk County Council, Leicester City Council, Kent County Council, Redbridge Council, Newcastle City Council, Salford Council, Warwickshire Council, Redditch County Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Peterborough City Council, Scarborough Borough Council, City of York Council, Ipswich Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council.

3 Don’t Mention the F-Word, Help the Aged, 2005. 2

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Rebecca Law on 020 7605 4291 or email

Notes to Editor:

Independent Age

Independent Age is unique in providing lifelong support to older people on very low incomes. We provide information and advice, practical help and emergency financial aid through our network of staff and dedicated volunteers across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Just as importantly, we offer friendship and the chance to socialise to those who are lonely and isolated. Supported by Independent Age, thousands of older people are able to maintain their independence, contribute to their communities and enjoy a good quality of life, secure in the knowledge that our help lasts as long as they need it.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,070 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 17th December 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)

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