Why is it that the Dementia Friendly Community initiative attracts a mere pittance of funding?

Guest blog from Carol Munt 


Dementia Friendly Communities ……… half a day a week or what?

It’s taken me a couple of days to start to write this blog.

I’m a left handed Sagittarian (for those of you who want to know), I’m not a placid or patient person and there are some things that really annoy me.

And I do mean really annoy me, even though I try very hard to take an unbiased view, make allowances and tell myself it isn’t the end of the earth.

So here goes…. my blog or rant, depends how you see it, for the Bank Holiday weekend.

The National Dementia Strategy

This sounded a great idea when it was launched early in 2009 followed by the Dementia Friendly Communities initiative in 2012. In the annual progress report published in May 2013, the Dementia Friendly Communities Champion group set out the next steps and it all still sounds positive, albeit not a simple task to undertake

In August 2013 an important town in the South of England got its Local Dementia Action Alliance (LDAA) co-ordinator, tasked with creating a Dementia Friendly Community and Local Dementia Action Alliances.

Obviously this was to include local businesses, shops, charities, independent providers as well as the statutory sector and voluntary and community services.

The post is a half a day a week paid position on a year’s contract.

Yes, you read that right the first time.

Half a day a week on a one year contract.

The town in question has a population in excess of 150,000.

It has been the subject of an application for city status three times recently as it is one of the largest urban areas in the South of England.

Is an important commercial centre, a major shopping centre, a University town, and by the way hosts one of the major music festivals each year.

So, why am I writing this? Why am I annoyed??

Perhaps annoyed isn’t quite right, it’s more that I am angrily sad. Now that’s a new emotional term but one that I am sure lots of you can identify with.

Commissioning a post for half a day a week to drive a major Government initiative in an important community?

You can not be serious!!

I can’t decide if it is a tick box exercise, an incredibly optimistic approach or perhaps a Dementia Friendly Community here is not seen as being that important.

It strikes me that there are lots of unpaid carers out there who devote more than half a day a week just making sure that their local environment is friendly to the person they are caring for.

I cared for my Mum who had vascular dementia and looked after her every day for the last few years of her life.

Before I took her somewhere she wanted to go, I would ring the place to check if they had wheelchair access, if there was a café, what the café served etc? It made life easier to know if it was somewhere Mum would be comfortable.

Maybe that’s what is behind this mere half a day a week post ?

Are the people driving,(or being seen to drive), this initiative relying on the vast army

of unpaid volunteers to step up and help out.

The unpaid volunteers in this country are, without question, an amazing source of expertise, commitment, compassion and they are the salt of the earth; we’d be stumped without them.

In many areas they have more experience than their paid equivalents and can be great mentors

My local NHS hospital trust relies on over 500 of them.

I’m an unpaid volunteer, I happen to be one of the more vocal ones!!

What concerns me is the somewhat automatic assumption that we will step up and help out .

There are two reasons for this doubt on my part.

It is a dangerous assumption when, almost by default, it is included as part of a plan.

Ask us first.

We can then say Yes or No.

We can also ask for some training if it will help both parties. We can also point out that expenses should be reimbursed if necessary.

And what is more important is that we can also tell you how much time we can give, and in some cases let you know that the time we offer may be subject to other commitments so should not be cast in stone.

I mentioned training for volunteers but it is also important that there is training about the unpaid volunteer sector for people who write the plans.

When I was in my 20’s I was working for the NHS, married, very busy and also trying to have a life outside of my job as a Staff Nurse on A & E. To me then, volunteers had lots of time on their hands. I didn’t think about them any further.

Thinking back, there is a play group that would not be in Maidenhead had it not been for the unpaid army.,

In my 30’s I was raising my two children, working part time, volunteering when it fitted in with my busy week, no further thought about it, but I do remember being involved in a volunteer group who campaigned against payment to blood donors.

In my 40’s I was running my own business, designing and selling sportswear and involved in sports. I met lots of volunteers who were promoting and supporting sports they were involved with.

At the time I saw them just as really genuine people who I dealt with, sold to and possibly supported with donations or sponsorship.

Some of the sports would not be around today were it not for the dedication, passion and support of those volunteers. Look at the history of mini rugby for starters.

But let’s get back to Dementia Friendly Communities.

I’m 69 this December and lots of the people I’ve met over the years are probably spending some of their week volunteering.

Volunteering is something that we do incredibly well.

Other countries are amazed at how much we do.

We have more High Street Charity shops than any other country.

In 2011/2012 we also supported charities to the tune of £9.3 billion.

I guess my question is as follows:-

why is it that the Dementia Friendly Community initiative attracts a mere pittance of funding?

Like it or nor, sooner or later Dementia is going to affect us all.

A relative, a colleague or a friend will be diagnosed even if we are not.

Will half a day a week be enough then?

Will we have a choice about being an unpaid part of the scheme?

Will we have Dementia Friendly Communities?

Are they really serious?

Carol Munt


One Response to Why is it that the Dementia Friendly Community initiative attracts a mere pittance of funding?

  1. meeta says:

    I agree with you totally Carol, in all you write. Tokenism will not take us forward and commissioners/organisations must understand people are intelligent enough to see through that. A holier than thou approach exists – despite all that volunteers do they are at the bottom of any consultations that take place, if at all they are included. But you know what worries me, even consultations with people/volunteers are reduced to tokenism and lots of printed words are produced, in practice it remains the same. This is culture of the public sector and is not restricted to dementia. It is terrifying to see where this will take us unless there is a public audit of matters.

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