GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT ON EQUAL
(EXTEND QUALITY LIFE)
1. The Government is fully committed to addressing
the problems - and in many respects the opportunities - which
arise from the increasing longevity of a growing proportion of
the UK population.
2. In 1998 the Government established the Inter-Ministerial
Group on Older People (IMG), to ensure that older people's needs
are at the centre of Government thinking and policy development.
3. The IMG aims:
- to ensure that older people enjoy active, independent
and secure lives, fulfilling both for them and the community;
- to recognise the enormous contribution that older
people make to society, and to put their concerns at the heart
of policy making;
- to build a country where all are valued and where
everyone, young and old, has the opportunity to play a full part.
4. Of particular significance has been the Performance
and Innovation Unit's consideration of ways to reverse the trend
where increasing numbers of those aged between 50 and State pension
age are written off - by employers, by society and by themselves.
Its report - Winning the Generation Game (Cabinet Office,
April 2000) - suggested ways in which Government can influence
society's approach to this age group and improve opportunities
in work and community activity. The IMG has been charged with
overseeing the implementation of this report's wide-ranging and
challenging agenda and is taking this forward as a key part of
its current work programme.
5. Improved health and medical care for older people
are already a high priority for the Government. In autumn 2000
the Secretary of State for Health appointed Professor Ian Philp,
head of the Institute for Studies on Ageing at the University
of Sheffield, as the first National Director for Older People,
charged with driving up standards in services. The Department
of Health has published its National Service Framework on Services
for Older People, setting out, for the first time in this area,
national standards and monitoring arrangements for service delivery.
Research is one of the four programmes of activity underpinning
the new Framework. More generally, the Government's National Health
Service Plan, its implementation in priority areas such as cancer
and heart disease, and the development of related research are
all highly relevant to the health and welfare of older people.
6. Similarly, the Medical Research Council (MRC)
has invested heavily in age-related research for many years. The
figure quoted to the Committee (excluding most cardiovascular
and all cancer research) was £16.5m in 1998-99. It has also
published comprehensive, wide-ranging reviews in the area. For
example, in 1999 an NHS working group on ageing and age-associated
disease endorsed the conclusions from a 1994 MRC Topic Review
The health of the UK's elderly population.
7. However, it is important to recognise that the
agenda goes well beyond the health-related problems traditionally
associated with old age, important as those are. That is why the
Government supported the establishment of an Ageing Population
Panel as one of the three thematic panels in the national Foresight
Programme, looking at broad social or economic issues which may
affect wealth creation and quality of life in the future. The
Panel delivered its wide-ranging report in autumn 2000, covering
topics from research to financial products, and clarifying the
opportunities for business and for individuals as well as the
health and social challenges. This is an important, over-arching
perspective, and the Government welcomes the Panel's report (The
Age Shift - Priorities for Action, DTI, December 2000).
8. One of the major challenges is to improve the
health, mobility, and capability of older people so that they
can enjoy active life for as long as possible. The growing proportion
of older people, increased life expectancy, and yet relatively
slower growth in healthy life expectancy make this objective
all the more pressing. This was the context and rationale behind
Extend Quality Life, or EQUAL, launched by the then Government
from the Office of Science and Technology in 1995. Its aim was
to use the combined resources, expertise and capacity for innovation
of the Science and Engineering Base to extend the active period
of people's lives.
9. The Committee's report into EQUAL comments that:
"EQUAL was more an exhortation to action by
the Office of Science and Technology than anything else (paragraph
"If increasing visibility means encouraging
the relevant Research Councils to fund programmes of work on EQUAL
issues which attract members of the appropriate research communities,
then one can argue that EQUAL has adequately raised visibility
10. As the Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury,
said in evidence to the Committee:
"I think this is actually a rather successful
programme in doing what is very important in this case which is
to put the subject onto the agenda and get the Research Councils
to think about it. I think we have been going through that period,
and there is probably still quite a long way to go in raising
the subject up the research agenda and getting people really focused
on it (Minutes of Evidence, 108)."
11. Leaving aside the MRC's pre-existing and heavy
commitment to age-related research, EQUAL was largely about
initial awareness-raising within the Research Councils. Evidence
to the Committee from the Minister for Science, the Director General
of Research Councils, and Research Council Chief Executives explained
why funding was not ear-marked for an EQUAL "programme",
and why co-ordination of activity was relatively light.
12. The Committee criticises the approach to EQUAL
taken by the OST and the Councils on the basis, essentially, that
it was "a marginalised research initiative while it should
have been central to Government policy on ageing" (recommendation
12). The Committee's criticisms of the co-ordination and funding
of EQUAL flow from this premise. Arguably, this is to judge the
management of EQUAL against standards which, rightly or wrongly,
were not part of its original conception.
13. The Government accepts that, from the outset,
clarity about EQUAL's objectives and the visibility of its operation
should, evidently, have been greater than they were. However,
the Government and Research Councils' approach to age-related
research had already evolved substantially by the time the Committee
was conducting its inquiry, as the OST's evidence pointed out.
The work that has been taking place over the last year has also
built on the foundations provided by EQUAL and by AgeNet, established
following the first round of the Foresight programme.
14. The Research Councils, working with other parties,
took the initiative during 1999 in developing a strategy for age-related
research with three main, inter-related elements:
- they have established a cross-Council Co-ordinating
Committee comprising the Research Councils and an OST observer,
to ensure that respective strategies and funding initiatives are
complementary. The terms of reference are at Annex A;
- they agreed the need for a leading exponent in
the field to develop a broad scientific programme for the cross-Council
Committee, informed by consultations with known and potential
stakeholders in ageing research. They have appointed Professor
Alan Walker, Professor of Social Policy at the University
of Sheffield and Director of the Economic and Social Research
Council's (ESRC) "Growing Older Programme", to take
this forward, and also maintain and develop a website which incorporates
the AgeNet database;
- led by the MRC which also provides the secretariat,
they have set up a Funders' Forum on Ageing and Older People,
chaired by the Director of Research and Development at the Department
of Health, Professor Sir John Pattison. This brings together the
principal funders in age-related research to discuss priorities,
other matters of mutual interest, and, in particular, areas where
joint working can make a greater impact. The initial membership
and terms of reference are at Annex B.
15. The Co-ordinating Committee and Funders Forum
have met. Professor Walker has developed preliminary proposals.
The MRC and other Councils are setting aside funds to finance
the work of Professor Walker and his support staff, and the range
of networking activities that will be required to stimulate research
proposals and drive the strategy forward. Professor Walker will
report regularly to the Forum as well as to the Co-ordinating
Committee. Future progress will be published on the dedicated
website, and some details are already available on a new MRC "research
in focus" webpage. The Government intends that the Inter-Ministerial
Group on Older People should also receive regular reports on the
progress of research in addressing age-related issues.
16. The Government believes that these developments
go a long way to addressing the Committee's concerns and recommendations.
It also agrees wholeheartedly with the Committee on the importance
of involving the end-customers of the research, namely older people,
Government and other bodies responsible for related policies,
and business and industry whose role it is to identify new opportunities
and produce new goods and services for the potential market. The
mechanisms to achieve this engagement now exist within the Councils
(for example, the MRC's Consumer Liaison Group), the Foresight
Programme, the Funders' Forum, Professor Walker's activity, and
the Inter-Ministerial Group.
17. Whether the activity the Research Councils and
other parties have now initiated is "EQUAL" is debatable.
EQUAL may still have some value as a convenient acronym. However,
the Government would agree with the evidence to the Committee
of the Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, Professor
Sir George Radda:
"If you achieve the aims of EQUAL by making
sure that people understand what is important about it, that we
do not use the acronym is perhaps not so important."
The real business is developing, implementing, and
promulgating a comprehensive range of age-related research that
meets the needs of older people and engages research users in
wider Government and business. To this the Government and Research
Councils are firmly committed.
18. Additional comments on the Committee's individual
recommendations follow below.
Recommendation 1 - For all our success in increasing
life expectancy, we have failed singularly to extend the length
of healthy life
19. It is important to recognise some progress, and
the research evidence on the length of healthy life is more complex.
The Office of National Statistics and the Personal Social Services
Research Unit produced estimates of trends in health expectancy
for the Department of Health.
These were published in Health Expectancy and
Its Uses (1995). They found there had been little change since
the 1970s in expectancy of life free from limiting long-standing
illness. They also found that expectancy of life at age 65 free
from severe disability had improved significantly. They concluded
that the extra years of life have been years of mild to moderate
disability, but not of severe disability.
20. More recently, National Statistics have produced
new estimates of health expectancy - life free from self-reported
poor health - to be used by various Government Departments as
key indicators. They found that "Both life expectancy and
healthy life expectancy increased between 1981 and 1995; but healthy
life expectancy did not increase by as much as life expectancy,
with the result that both men and women are living more years
in poor health or with a limiting long-standing illness".
Their estimates were published in Health Statistics Quarterly
07 (Autumn 2000).
21. Healthy life expectancy at birth and at age 65
will be monitored for strategies on public health and social exclusion.
It is being used as an indicator of improvement in the health
of the population.
Recommendation 2 - The evidence that the extra
years gained include extra years of disability (whether milder
or not) is what makes initiatives such as EQUAL so important.
Recommendation 4 - EQUAL provides the potential
to focus research and development on the growing need of an ageing
society for improvements in quality of life in later years. There
is a pressing need for research directed both towards those who
are already old, and towards the next generation, particularly
those in their 40s and 50s whose old age we may be able to improve
22. The need to increase healthy life expectancy
is clear. The MRC is already supporting a large body of work focused
on older people and the next generation, which aims to improve
the quality of life in later years. The MRC is involved in many
clinical trials relating to older people or age-related disease,
for example assessment and management of older people in the community,
osteoporosis and arthritis, knee pain, back pain, evaluation of
different pacemakers, and some "unfashionable" areas
such as incontinence and age-related macular degeneration.
23. Research suggests that development in the womb
may to some extent affect health in later life. This well illustrates
the difficulty of drawing any line around the EQUAL agenda in
medical research. Research and development also have a much wider
role to play, outside biomedical science, in enabling older people
to enjoy, and contribute to, life for longer, as the Foresight
Ageing Population Panel has demonstrated.
Recommendation 3 - Future research into ageing
must take ethnicity fully into account.
24. The Government agrees, and a number of government-funded
studies are looking at this issue. The Age Concern Institute of
Gerontology recently conducted an analysis of ethnic inequalities
in health in later life as part of the SAGE study funded by the
ESRC. It found significant differences in health status between
ethnic groups. Ethnicity is a major element of the ESRC's "Growing
Older" research programme, and the programme has already
created a specialist group in this field.
25. The ageing population is an international phenomenon.
The MRC, representing the other Research Councils, attended, with
Professor Walker, an EU Forum on research management in the field
of demographic and social policy aspects of population ageing
in June 2000. As a result of the meeting, a European Forum on
Ageing has been established, and Professor Walker will be the
UK representative. His work for the cross-Council Co-ordinating
Committee will take account of research activity in Europe and
26. The UK/Japan Research and Development Group for
Ageing, Disability, and Technology, set up in 1998, aims to establish
more joint research and co-operation between individuals and institutions
in Japan and the UK. The Department of Health and Department of
Social Security have contributed to cross-national OECD studies
of health care systems, care for frail elderly people and trends
27. The Committee comments that:
"We welcome the English Longitudinal Survey
being led by University College London, but find it bizarre that
it is being 50 per cent funded by the US National Institute of
Aging, with less than 50 per cent by UK Government Departments
The survey is, however, a prime example of a jointly
funded partnership, designed to parallel US research and to provide
comparative data. The opportunity for collaboration of this kind
often arises because of the good patient records available in
the UK and the good underpinning health service networks in this
Recommendation 5 - It is in our view a fundamental
weakness of EQUAL that there was no specific funding given to
encourage the programme.
Recommendation 15 - We believe that the lack of
dedicated funding has undermined the effectiveness of the EQUAL
28. There are two issues here. Funding was made available
through AgeNet, a Foresight initiative, to help stimulate interest
and co-ordinate activity in the formulation of age-related research
proposals. No money was ring-fenced for research grants or programmes
for the reasons given in evidence to the Committee:
"This is not a case where you want to say there
is a budget, and this is a very clearly delineated area of work
- we should fund it all through one budget... . The difficulty
with the ring-fenced budget is that, first of all, we do not know
what the scale of it is, and, secondly, it becomes extremely difficult
to have these different subjects bidding against each other and
trying to make some sense of that... . It seems to me much better
to take the way we are doing it which is to try and stimulate
[ageing research] within these different parts [of the science
base] (Lord Sainsbury, Minutes of Evidence 118 and 130)."
29. The Government and the Research Councils remain
of this view, though they recognise that there may be occasions
within age-related research, as in other areas, where a more directed
approach is necessary.
Recommendation 6 - We regret the limited co-ordinating
role that the OST has played in EQUAL since its establishment.
In our view, the lack of commitment and leadership on the part
of OST has significantly weakened the drive to enhance ageing-related
Recommendation 14 - We share the view that the
effectiveness of EQUAL has been reduced by the lack of leadership
30. As already discussed, these comments partly reflect
different perspectives of what EQUAL was or should be - an exhortation,
on the one hand, or a ring-fenced programme, on the other. Evidence
to the Committee perhaps understated the extent to which the OST
expected EQUAL to feature in Research Councils' strategic and
annual business plans, or in meetings between the Director General
of Research Councils and Chief Executives of the Councils.
31. The thinking on co-ordination has been evolving,
and the results are described in the introduction to this response.
The Government rejects the idea put to the Committee that ageing
research can or should be co-ordinated by a single leader. It
agrees with the Committee's comments (paragraph 45) on the need
"to raise the public profile, facilitate more joint working
and networking with other organisations". It expects the
arrangements that have been put in place will achieve these objectives,
and to that extent accepts that previous arrangements and "leadership"
were not satisfactory.
Recommendation 7 - We urge the Research Councils
to demonstrate their commitment to EQUAL with greater vigour.
Recommendation 16 - In the main, most of the Research
Councils have responded to EQUAL with a marked lack of enthusiasm.
Given the absence of additional funding, this is perhaps not surprising.
32. Here the EQUAL "brand" seems to have
obscured rather than illuminated the facts.
33. One of the difficulties the Research Councils
have faced in developing age-related research is that they need
to deal with very different research communities across a vast
area. Some are already involved in age-related research, especially
in biomedical science where the MRC's substantial investment,
pre-dating EQUAL, has already been highlighted. For some of these
communities - though not all - clarifying their research as EQUAL
is not helpful. For others it may be. Outside the biomedical arena,
the task can be very different - stimulating interest among researchers
and research users who would otherwise have never foreseen their
potential role in this area. Here "EQUAL" may be a helpful
concept. Against this background evaluating commitment to "EQUAL"
is, as the Committee recognised, precarious.
34. The Councils' commitment to age-related research
was made clear in the evidence they submitted to the Committee.
35. The Councils' continuing commitment is indicated
by their individual plans to support further age-related research.
Specific initiatives, on top of work funded through normal grant
- building on its earlier £5m Science of Ageing
programme, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research
Council (BBSRC) has launched a second major initiative "Experimental
Research into Ageing" aimed at the biology of normal ageing,
with particular encouragement of projects involving functional
genomics. The budget is, again, £5m. The call went out in
January, and grants will be awarded in November;
- the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research
Council (EPSRC) plans to issue a further, fourth call for proposals
incorporating the area of Inclusive Design, with an anticipated
commitment of approximately £2m. Thereafter, EPSRC plans
to move towards funding researchers in areas of critical mass
to tackle challenges in relatively established themes, such as
the Built Environment and Inclusive Design;
- the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
has launched a major research programme "Growing Older"
to address the main issues of EQUAL under the central question
"How can the quality of people's lives be extended?"
ESRC has appointed Professor Alan Walker programme director, and
the programme is well under way with twenty-four projects run
by top UK social scientists in the field. ESRC is currently considering
phase two of the programme. ESRC is also funding the Simulating
Policy in an Ageing Society research group at King's College London,
investigating the future of social policy within an ageing society;
- the Medical Research Council (MRC) remains the
biggest funder of age-related research among the Research Councils
and in the UK generally. Its responsive-mode portfolio continues
to be strong and to grow. For example, as part of its normal funding
mechanisms, it has awarded a number of major grants, including
some for DNA sample collections on age-related macular degeneration,
colorectal cancer, late-onset Alzheimer's disease, and hypertension.
MRC's discipline-hopper awards enable researchers with a record
in chemistry, physics or economics to investigate and develop
ideas, skills and collaborations in biomedical research. Recent
awards cover studies on congestive heart failure, bone changes
in osteoarthritis, and techniques for early diagnosis of neurological
36. The experience gained with EQUAL, AgeNet, and
with specific programmes such as the ESRC's "Growing Older"
enabled the Research Councils, in discussion with the Department
of Health and OST, to give fresh impetus to age-related research,
as described in the introduction to this response. The cross-Council
Co-ordinating Committee will play a pivotal role, linking activities
across the Councils and providing the basis for further links
with other research funders and users in the Funders' Forum and
37. The Funders' Forum has noted the difficulty of
pulling together information on relevant research in the UK, but
its own activities will address this. As a contribution to the
new approach to age-related research, the MRC has commissioned
a bibliometric study to seek to identify strengths and weakness,
growth and contraction in the subject area, both nationally and
Recommendation 8 - Had EQUAL been more vigorously
pursued by the OST, there would have been greater potential for
AgeNet to influence Research Council priorities and the profile
of research proposals they received.
Recommendation 17 - Overall, and largely for reasons
beyond its control, the performance of AgeNet has been disappointing
38. AgeNet had difficulty stimulating research proposals
and filling studentships, but, as the Committee noted, it also
enjoyed some successes in raising awareness, and the new arrangements
partly build on its earlier work. As the Committee recommended
in its discussion, these effectively integrate AgeNet-type activity
more closely with Research Council operations.
Recommendation 9 - There is no evidence of much
involvement of the Department of Health in EQUAL. We see this
as a significant weakness.
Recommendation 12 - All in all, we believe that
EQUAL has not been sufficiently successful in encouraging interaction
and collaboration between Government Departments, Research Councils
and others engaged in ageing research. We suspect that part of
the problem is that EQUAL has been the responsibility of OST rather
than one of the big-spending Departments responsible for the health
and welfare of the older sections of the population. EQUAL has
been a marginalised research initiative while it should have been
central to Government policy on ageing. We recommend that the
Government transfer lead responsibility for EQUAL either to the
Department of Health or to whichever Government Department is
given lead responsibility for ageing. However, should any additional
funds be made available for the EQUAL programme, they should be
administered by OST.
39. Early in the life of EQUAL the Department of
Health's R&D Division commissioned a strategic review of ageing
and age-related research and published its recommendations in
June 1999. These help inform the growing portfolio of ongoing
research funded by DoH aimed at developing the evidence base to
improve the quality of older people's care and ensure better patient
outcomes. This portfolio includes a large study - the English
Longitudinal Study of Ageing - supported by six Government Departments.
The study is a good example of multidisciplinary and international
collaboration. It fulfils one of the recommendations of the Royal
Commission on Long-term care for more longitudinal research to
40. Both the Department of Health and the Medical
Research Council already spend substantial sums on age-related
research. The close working relationship between the two is important,
and reflected in age-related as in other research, eg clinical
trials on cognitive function and ageing, and the screening of
41. The Government agrees that the task is to continue
to stimulate wider interaction inside and outside Government.
It believes that the new arrangements for age-related research
initiated by the Research Councils - namely the cross-Council
Co-ordinating Committee, Funders' Forum etc as described in the
introduction to this response - are the right way forward. The
Department of Health will play a significant role. The Director
of Research and Development at the Department of Health, Professor
Sir John Pattison, chairs the Funders' Forum on Ageing Research
and the new National Director for Older People, Professor Ian
Philp, is a member. The Government would expect the arrangements
to evolve further, as interest in age-related research grows and
as issues and actions are identified.
Recommendation 10 - We recommend that the Government
make a substantive response to the report of the Foresight Ageing
Population Panel as soon as is practicable.
42. The Government welcomes the Panel's report, but
it is not for Government to presume ownership by a formal response.
That would sit oddly with the wider objectives of the Foresight
programme. However, the Inter-Ministerial Group on Older People
will follow progress with the Panel's recommendations, including
those relating to research.
Recommendation 11 - We urge Ministers to demonstrate
in their response to this Report and to the Foresight Ageing Population
Panel that the Government is fully committed to exploiting the
research base to address the needs of older people.
43. We hope our response does so.
Recommendation 13 - We regret that little attempt
has been made to foster interest in, and the knowledge of, EQUAL
outside the Research Councils.
Recommendation 20 - We recommend wider networking
beyond the Research Councils in order to input ideas from the
user communities (including business, Government Departments,
older people and their representative organisations), and the
Recommendation 21 - We recommend that a greater
emphasis be placed on dissemination of ageing-related research
findings to relevant user communities and on the translation of
findings into policy and practice.
44. The EQUAL label itself may not have been widely
understood in the research community, but interest in ageing research
has increased through activities related to EQUAL, including AgeNet.
45. Promoting that interest further and translating
it into more high-quality research proposals requires a further
push. The Government agrees entirely on the need for wider and
more effective networking. The new arrangements described in the
introduction to this response (paragraph 14) are intended to facilitate
that, and the Foresight programme will continue to make an important
46. One of the main objectives for the cross-Council
Co-ordinating Committee, Funders' Forum and for Professor Alan
Walker and his team, remains the stimulation of new thinking in
the wider research community, especially across subject boundaries,
and the forging of new partnerships to address age-related issues.
Those issues need to be identified in consultation with older
people, Government agencies, charitable organisations, and business.
47. More fundamentally, however, as the Committee
indicates, stronger public and private sector interest is a pre-requisite
to formulating new research proposals and to translating the results
of research into real benefits. The work of the Cabinet Office's
Centre for Management and Policy Studies may be relevant, co-ordinating
and improving approaches to using research evidence in support
of policy, especially where this cuts across Government.
48. As activity increases, so must greater clarity
about the different categories or kinds of research and development
relevant to older people, and those whose job it is to deliver
it. Currently, these are opaque, and this inhibits dialogue and
understanding among researchers, research users, and older people
Recommendation 18 - We welcome the plans "
to develop a co-ordinated approach to ageing research following
the termination of the AgeNet initiative" and the establishment
of the Ageing Research Funders' Forum.
Recommendation 19 - We recommend
(a) better co-ordination of activities across
(b) the development of a considered strategy
with specific objectives;
(c) transfer of lead responsibility for EQUAL
to the Government Department with the main responsibility for
ageing, probably the Department of Health;
(d) appropriate research funding for EQUAL,
co-ordinated by the OST;
(e) greater encouragement for the Research
Councils to work together, particularly to prevent undesirable
overlap in research effort;
(f) identification and reduction of
research gaps. This should include an examination of overseas
research as well as that taking place in the UK;
(g) better assessment of the balance of research
between different topics;
(h) identification of research priorities
within the EQUAL programme;
(i) increased efforts to stimulate research
in priority areas;
(j) the development of a means of evaluating
the effectiveness and value of EQUAL.
49. For the most part, the Government agrees, and
the Committee's recommendations broadly map onto the work being
undertaken by the cross-Council Co-ordinating Committee, Funders'
Forum, and Professor Walker.
Recommendation 22 - We recommend that specific
plans be drawn up for the future of EQUAL with agreed objectives
and clear bench-marking and dedicated funding for the co-ordination
of the programme.
50. The Research Councils initiated and drove forward
the new approach to age-related research, as outlined in the introduction
to this memorandum, from autumn 1999. The cross-Council Co-ordinating
Committee met first in June 2000, and the Funders' Forum in October.
The intention is that both should meet at least twice a year.
Professor Alan Walker's co-ordination work is being funded by
the Research Councils, and will produce a clear programme of activity.
The cross-Council Co-ordinating Committee, Funders' Forum and
Inter-Ministerial group will monitor progress and address the
issue of objectives and other measures in that context.
Recommendation 23 - EQUAL has been a disappointment.
How to extend our active life, and to improve the quality of our
old age is an absolutely crucial issue. Indeed, given the current
demographic trends, meeting the needs of an ageing population
could be said to be the most important issue which confronts our
society at present. EQUAL was, in concept, an admirable initiative,
aiming to use the resources, expertise and capacity for innovation
of the research base to extend the active period of people's lives.
Yet it seems to have achieved very little. This is partly the
result of a lack of impetus and enthusiasm on the part of the
OST, but largely stems from the fact that EQUAL carries no funding
of its own. The Government must face up to the fact that EQUAL,
as established, has not worked. Responsibility should pass to
whichever Government Department is given lead responsibility for
ageing. Unless EQUAL can be relaunched, properly funded, and managed
with enthusiasm, it should be abandoned.
Recommendation 24 - Tackling the issues posed
by a population that is ageing will be a test of joined-up government,
and a test which we cannot afford to fail.
51. The Government would acknowledge that lack of
transparency at the outset, in 1995, about what exactly EQUAL
was and how it would be taken forward has been unhelpful, not
least to the Committee's own inquiry. In addition, appreciation
of the need for policy and research on ageing to cut across traditional
academic disciplines and bureaucratic boundaries has increased
in recent years.
52. The Government does not believe that age-related
research can or should be the kind of highly managed, ring-fenced
programme which the Committee appears to be endorsing in its conclusions.
This response has described the alternative arrangements which
the Government believes now provide the basis for significant
progress in the years ahead. These will be kept under review and
will need to evolve as the ambit of age-related research gains
53. Whether these arrangements and the activities
they spawn are described as EQUAL is less important than the fact
that the Committee's report and this response have created an
opportunity to lay down a clearer baseline against which to judge
future developments. The Government would like to thank the Committee
for its work in enabling this to happen.