Involving older people in service commissioning: more power to their elbow?

With the individual at the heart of the wider public service reform agenda, this research set out to investigate what happens when older people are given the opportunity to shape service commissioning and delivery. The study also raises wider questions about the impact of their involvement, particularly whether it can change the nature of local power relations in the long term.

Dorset and Salford were identified as two areas where structures and processes exist which encourage and facilitate the involvement of older people in local decision-making. Through focus groups the research examined:

  • how older people in these areas were involved in commissioning and service delivery;
  • what difference their involvement made;
  • the factors which lead to successful engagement; and
  • the barriers to involving older people.

The effective engagement of older people in commissioning enables them to influence decisions about care and support where they live and priorities for resource allocation. It can also provide older people with opportunities to exercise choice and control over their own lives. Commissioning is not merely a technical process; commissioning activities are located within a set of more or less explicit values, principles and outcomes that shape who gets what, how, when and where.