On 1st April I attended a training session organised by the Alzheimer’s Society to become a Dementia Friend. The Dementia Friends programme is an initiative that aims to improve people’s understanding of dementia and teach them how small things they can do that can make a difference to people living with the condition. The programme aims to train a million people by next year, to help make Britain more dementia-friendly, end the stigma surrounding the condition and improve the lives of more than half a million people living with dementia in our country.
Jeremy Hughes, the Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society and Natalie Rodriguez, one of 4,500 Dementia Champions carried out a number of exercises which helped me understand the way dementia impacts on people’s memory and emotions, and how it affects their everyday lives. I would encourage my constituents to become Dementia Friends too – if you would like to take part in a session please go to dementiafriends.org.uk to find out more.
On 21st March I attended the launch of a cyber safety program for teenagers called “Well Versed” at Fullhurst Community College. This program helps young people to manage their online lives, by getting pupils to share their experiences of being on the internet with one another.
“Well Versed” is backed Google, Livity and the Parent Zone. One of the main parts of the project is getting 13-18 years olds to submit a 15 second YouTube clip with their advice about how to stay safe on the online. The best clips will then be put together in a video montage and shared with schools across the country.
The teachers I met from Fullhurst and other schools in my constituency, told me about the huge benefits of the internet, particularly the opportunities for young people to learn online. However, there are also challenges, such as the increasing problems of online bullying.
The answer isn’t to try and turn the clock back, but to educate young people and their parents about how to best manage their lives online. You can read more about how to get involved in the “Well Versed” project here.
On Friday 14th March I visited an amazing supported living service in Bendbow Rise that’s home to 6 people with complex physical and learning disabilities.
The service, which is run by a not-for-profit charity called Community Integrated Care, helps people live independently by providing truly personalised care and support.
I met Jamie, who is 24 and has lived with his Dad his whole life, but is now able to live independently because his flat has wide enough doors for him get through in his wheelchair, and a self cleaning toilet which he can use on his own. I also met Martin, who loves dancing, football and animals. Martin can now play lots of music in his flat and go to a local disco, the staff have arranged for him to volunteer at Gorse Hill Farm and regularly take him to see the football too.
I was really impressed with the “One Page Profiles” used by Community Integrated Care to determine the services and support that are provided. These profiles start by asking what the person likes and enjoys doing, and what’s important to them, to make sure the support they get helps them live the life they choose. Every member of staff also fills out a profile, so they can be matched to service users with similar interests, and support each other and work together better as a team.
The service at Bendbow Rise was truly inspirational. I’m determined to champion this model of personalised care and support in my constituency and nationally.
On 6th March I spoke at an event on the importance of supporting families and building strong relationships in communities at the Tavistock Centre in London.
I talked about the opportunities and challenges of our ageing population and the need to do more to help unpaid family carers, who provide most of the care and support for older people in Britain.