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The Interview with Graham Hunter

Led by Graham, the Older People’s Voice Conference brought together a combination of community groups, and organisations, with a shared vision to develop an enhanced Older People’s Voice Network for North Ayrshire.

The aims of the networking event were to:

  • Understand what is most important to older people
  • Address gaps in service provision to determine how to make improvements
  • Introduce every older person in every locality to their single point of contact to help establish a dedicated action plan for their area
  • Encourage participants to share any concerns they may have
  • Provide helpful information and signposting to support services for older residents.

This important area of work is all about ensuring that older people remain at the forefront of the Council’s decision-making and is a positive next step forward in the right direction to establish the Council’s Older People’s Voice Participation Structure – a key area of importance in North Ayrshire’s Community Learning and Development (CLD) Plan.

Stay tuned to social media in early 2024 for further updates…

Q:  From a Community Learning and Development perspective, what are your main goals and aims for the older people you represent?

The current aims for my role is to support our older people in terms of capacity building whether this be with starting a group, funding support, networking, and connecting them with people who can help them realise their goals.

For each of the community engagement hubs we have in North Ayrshire, we need to take a needs-based approach. It’s vital that we continue to consult with our residents and community and provide services they want, whether it is a coffee morning, a health and well-being focus or initiatives to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

For CLD  my main goal is to meet the unmet need identified by the Council’s Community Learning and Development Plan 2021-24 which was to provide a participation structure for older people – and, this is exactly what the recent Older People’s Voice Network Conference was all about.

Q: You’ve been with the Council two years now, what are your top achievements?

I would say supporting groups to secure key funding is a big one. I’ll be working closely with the Communications team in early 2024 to work on case studies to really highlight the successes of this and share some of our great success stories online and in the local media – so stay tuned for these.

I have also been responsible for starting up many new groups and committees as well as getting our older people connected again after Covid-19 – this is something that we hope establishing an Older People’s Voice Network will address.

Brilliant turn out at Older People's Voice Network Conference at Saltcoats Town Hall
Vennel Gardens residents
“I would really like to thank everyone throughout the Council, the CLD team and the supportive role my line manager Denise Fraser has played to make our recent Older People’s Voice Network Conference the huge success it was. And last but not least, all of our community members who attended and took part. I’m really excited to see the Network grow and be part of the many unexpected and rewardable outcomes that we have in store for 2024 now that CLD and our partners are getting older people in North Ayrshire connected once again.”

Are you leading on a new project and want to share your story? Perhaps you’re new to the Council and are keen to introduce yourself… or do you have some great news that you want to shout about?

If so, please get in touch for your chance to be featured next time. Email: and we’ll be in touch!

Basket ball team

Meet Graham Hunter – the Community Learning and Development officer championing Older People in North Ayrshire…

Over 80 older residents, community partners and services for older people across North Ayrshire, came together last week for North Ayrshire’s first Older People’s Conference.

Opened by the Council Leader and Older People’s Champion, Cllr Marie Burns, the networking event hosted at Saltcoats Town Hall was the first of its kind.

Q: So, before you tell us more about the recent Conference, can you tell us a bit about your career background?

My background has always been in sport from a young age, I played semi-professionally and professionally as well as representing Scotland. Throughout this time, I got involved in community development and had a real passion for helping young people realise their potential not just in sport but their aspirations for the future which led me to youth work.

However, coming to North Ayrshire my role as Community Development Worker for Older People was a new challenge as I hadn’t worked with them before. I quickly found out many of the themes and issues facing our older people are actually very similar to young people and that sometimes young people can be reserved in their opinions and older people will tell you exactly what they think hah! But I like that, and respect that.

Conference Saltcoats Town Hall
Saltcoats Town Hall and blue sky
Older People's Champion and Council Leader Marie Burns attends first Older People's Voice Network Conference at Saltcoats Town Hall
Older People's Champion and Council Leader Marie Burns attended the first Older People's Voice Network Conference at Saltcoats Town Hall on Wednesday 22. November
I am confident that if we continue to have momentum and take the time to listen to older residents and act upon their concerns, we can create a fairer, more equal North Ayrshire where we can ensure that no older person is left behind.
Q: How can other Council services do their part to help older people?

I think we are definitely doing a good job already. The Council Leader opened the Older People’s Voice Network Conference and as Older People’s Champion for North Ayrshire, she really holds our shared vision too.

On the day, Councillor Burns gave everyone in the room a great sense of hope and encouragement, she really set the tone of the day and we are really grateful for her attendance. The Leader’s role is testament to our approach as a local authority to ensure that people in all neighbourhoods and communities in North Ayrshire are given a voice, regardless of their age.

Collaboration is key too to fully understand older people’s point of view locally, so we’ve teamed up North Ayrshire Libraries, Trading Standards, Police Scotland and a host of Third Sector organisations also working on behalf of older residents as part of the Older People’s Voice Network to ensure that older people continue to be heard, actioned and respected, right across the region.

The Conference allowed us to do just this and brought together older people and our extended community network to have some very worthwhile and needed conversations with older people from all of our localities.

Q: What’s to come for 2024-2025?

I am really excited to return in the New Year as this is when we can start to fully realise our agenda and CLD action plan for the Older People’s Voice Network.

Something else I love about the job is helping groups to access funding too, like the recent round of Localities participatory budgeting where we had several successful groups, so, a focus for next year is to work closely with them to fully realise their ambitions.

Q: Do you have a good example of such a group?

Oh yes! The lively group over at Irvine’s Vennel Gardens Entertainment Committee springs to mind, where the star of the operation is our passionate colleague Catherine Beck – Hub Engagement Worker. Although I have helped with funding applications and capacity building, she really is at the heart of the activity there.

Catherine and the Committee always have such a lot planned and are forever at full capacity with lunches, dances and live music, entertainment and trips too which everyone involved gets so much out of.

It’s so rewarding to see people who come along one week saying that they haven’t left the house in several years and live alone, to then two weeks later, hopping on a day excursion to a seaside garden centre in Gourock with a bus full of excited Vennel’ers together and me trying to keep track of them all , having a ball – hah! I love that! It’s an incredible sense of satisfaction seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, knowing that we’ve done a good job.

Q: How do you like to spend your free time?

Free time for me is family first, then fitness and basketball. I helped start a team with some old friends the Irvine Sharks out of Greenwood Academy. With the help of KA Leisure, we now have an adults social session and some of us are competing in the Strathclyde Basketball League – we’re currently top of the league winning 7 games and no losses.

It’s a great group of older guys in comparison to other teams too, taking our health more seriously together which I think is really key as you get older.

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