Following a meeting between Rhian Webber, the Strategy Coordinator for RCT Local Authority and Dr. Mark Llewellyn , Deputy Director of the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care at the University of South Wales, a meeting with the officers of the 50+ Forum Older People’s Advisory Group (OPAG) was arranged to discuss an application for funding for a research project which would both improve the understanding of the benefits of forum membership and also contribute towards fulfilling some of the OPAG objectives.

The decision was taken to apply for research funding to understand the impact on wellbeing of being a member of the 50+ Forums across RCT. The project was considered timely given the developments signaled under the Social Services and Well-being Act and the associated well-being statement for people who need care and support, including carers. The following key objectives for the research were agreed:

To discuss the impact of being involved in the forums on the older people themselves – including any differences to their well-being – primarily through questionnaires to be distributed in September 2014

To identify and develop a series of opportunities across Wales in order to disseminate findings

To seek any further research opportunities that may follow on the basis of this work – either within RCT or more broadly in other areas and regions within Wales.

We were delighted to receive the funding and the project was completed on time with the results reported back to OPAG officers in October 2014.

The questionnaires were sent to all registered Forum members and 130 members – 31% - responded. There was a very re-assuring response relating to the effectiveness of the Forums in relation to one of the main OPAG objectives “ To be the recognised voice of the over 50’s in RCT”.

92% felt able to voice their opinions

77% felt consulted and listened to

84% felt the forums are effective in influencing public sector service provision

In terms of wellbeing:

77% felt that life has purpose or meaning

74% felt recognised and valued as a person

58% felt that they had something to offer – with a further 26% neither agreeing nor disagreeing

58% felt able to make a valued contribution – with a further 26% neither agreeing nor disagreeing Whilst we can not claim that forum membership is the sole reason, it must surely be a contributing factor.

Of the 130 members who completed questionnaires, 19% were under 70, 69% in the 70 to 84 bracket, and 12% were over 84. We have to recognise that we will need to meet the needs of members across the age ranges, and support older members to continue to attend forum meetings for as long as they are able. We are happy to share the report produced by Dr. Mark Llewellyn and his colleagues. It will help inform the priorities of OPAG as we strive to achieve our aim and objectives. The Officers of the Older People’s Advisory Group of the 50+ Forums in Rhondda Cynon Taf.