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32% of older people say 20 Minute Neighbourhoods not possible due to lack of local services

Scottish high street

29 December 2023

A third of over 50s say a bank is an essential service in their area.

Almost a third of older people have said the Scottish Government’s 20 Minute Neighbourhood initiative cannot work in their community due to a lack of available local services and facilities.

Age Scotland’s Big Survey 2023 asked older people about the proposal, currently under consideration, which aims to allow everyone access to essential goods and services within a 20 minute journey from home.

When asked what services would be essential for a ‘20 Minute Neighbourhood’ to be successful, 32% said a bank, 23% said a post office and 23% said community spaces. The top three facilities that respondents felt essential were accessible toilets (41%), good digital connectivity (33%) and buses with local bus stops (25%).

The findings highlight the importance to older people of being able to go into a bank branch or post office to manage their money, an arrangement that has become increasingly challenging with the widespread closure of bank branches across the country.

The availability of accessible and clean toilets is another factor which determines whether some older people feel confident getting out and about in their local area.

Other important facilities and services included access to a hospital and GP service, a supermarket or grocery store, and access to local green spaces.

These findings showcase the importance of access to health and wellbeing facilities in a local community, in addition to local services and social spaces.

However, Scotland’s national charity for older people found that although 28% of respondents said they already lived in a 20 Minute Neighbourhood and 23% believed it could be achieved, almost one third - 32% - said it was not possible and they didn’t think it could work in their community.

Additionally, older people living in rural areas all said a 20 Minute Neighbourhood was unachievable, further highlighting the barriers older people in remote communities face with accessible transport and local high street closures.

Katherine Crawford, chief executive of Age Scotland, said:

“Our findings show that for many older people 20 Minute Neighbourhoods won’t work because of a lack of the services that they use on a regular basis. Bank branches, for example, are hugely important for the tens of thousands of older people who do not have access to internet banking and prefer to manage their finances by going into a branch and speaking to a member of staff face to face.

“The slew of bank branch closures we have seen across Scotland, creating banking deserts in some parts of the country, have forced many older customers to drive or take public transport some distance to find a branch in a larger town or city. That certainly doesn’t meet the 20 minute aspiration.

“Equally the closure of some public toilets is off putting to some older people who worry about travelling any distance from home without knowing there are clean and accessible public toilets nearby.

“The concept of 20 Minute Neighbourhoods is a great way to encourage people to use local services but if they services they need are not available, then it doesn’t work. We would call on local authorities to keep public toilets open wherever possible and to banks to think about the consequences of their closures before pulling out of communities and depriving older customers of easy access to their money.

“It is vital that older people’s views help shape the 20 Minute Neighbourhood initiative, and investing in local services that are important to them will go a long way to ensuring that the scheme benefits entire communities.”