Age Concern’s history & structure
Age Concern is inextricably linked to the upheaval of the Second World War. The war made life more difficult for older people in many ways but also revealed their existing problems, particularly the unsuitability of Poor Law provision.
In 1940, representatives of national voluntary organisations concerned with older people and government departments, together with other experienced individuals, were called together to a conference to consider these issues. This led within a year to the formation of the Old People’s Welfare Committee (OPWC), chaired by Eleanor Rathbone. The Trustees quickly gained official recognition. In 1944, the OPWC adopted the title National Old People’s Welfare Committee (NOPWC) to distinguish it from the growing number of local committees. The NOPWC agreed upon a model constitution for local OPWCs, deciding that their functions would be to co-ordinate and facilitate local action.
The dawning of the welfare state in the 1950s did not impede the development of either the NOPWC or the OPWCs. Money became available from first local and then central government to fund their work. Between 1950 and 1956, the number of OPWCs rose from 378 to 1200. In 1955, the NOPWC became a Council rather than a committee to emphasise and explain its co-ordinating role. The number of local committees continued to grow in the Sixties and the NOPWC was active in pioneer work, developing new services.
Since its inception, the NOPWC had been an associated group of the National Council of Social Services. In 1971, it became completely independent. The new name of Age Concern was adopted, to be carried alongside the constitutional title of NOPWC.
The great majority of local groups gradually began to use the name Age Concern. They benefited from a unified image, a well-known public name and a name which correctly suggested that they were no longer simply co-ordinating bodies but also instigators and providers of direct services.
In the 1990s there were over 1000 Age Concern organisations and Old Peoples Welfare Committees in the UK across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each of these countries has a national Age Concern Organisation. In London, there is also an independent Age Concern London.
The National Council on Ageing continues to act as a UK wide forum bringing together all the component parts of Age Concern mentioned above as well as other national organisations with an interest in older people.
Age Concern Cymru (Wales), Scotland and Northern Ireland manage their own national structures and changes to Age Concern in England have not changed their structures.
In England, during 1998/9, proposals were considered to bring about a new federal structure for all those wishing to share the name Age Concern and to work together in pursuit of the one mission and with the same values.
Three categories of membership were proposed:
- Age Concern Groups (small to medium size)
- Age Concern Organisations (larger), and
- Age UK (national).
The conditions of membership included:
- adherence to a statement of common purpose
- commitment to an Age Concern Quality Framework; and
- agreement on the use of the name and the Age Concern brand.
The detailed arrangements were discussed throughout Age Concern and endorsed by the National Council in July 1999. The National Council agreed that it should no longer be the membership Organisation for Age Concern, and that the federation should be established.
In June 2000 the formation of Age Concern, the federation was agreed and those Age Concerns that wished to join applied for Organisation or Group status.
There were 300 members of the new federation comprising some 100 Age Concern Organisations, 200+ Age Concern Groups, and Age UK.
Every three years all Age Concern groups and organisations underwent an examination to review the way they are managed and the services they provide, this was called “Quality Counts”. We at Age Concern Lutterworth & District underwent this process in 2009 and were successful we were complimented on the level of service we provide.
On 1st April 2009 Age Concern England merged with Help the Aged to become the country’s foremost charity looking after the needs of older people. Most larger Age Concern Organisations have become Brand Partners with Age UK and have changed their name to Age UK followed by their own name e.g. Age UK Leicestershire & Rutland.
Smaller Age Concerns have become Friends of Age UK and can keep the name Age Concern connected with their location. We will still retain the name Age Concern Lutterworth & District for the foreseeable future whilst other small groups choose a name of their choice best suited to their needs.