Just over a year after beginning its journey towards the ambitious goal, Tamworth has become the 200th area to be granted Dementia Friendly Community status by the Alzheimer’s Society.
Although the achievement marks the culmination of months of hard work by the borough council, community groups, local organisations and businesses, the designation is only the beginning.
The ultimate aim of Dementia Friendly Communities is to help people living with dementia, and their carers, to feel safe, supported and involved in community life. This includes raised awareness and understanding, and improved services across all sectors.
A great deal of progress has already been made as part of the process to achieve dementia friendly status.
- The creation of the Tamworth Dementia Action Alliance (TDAA) – a partnership of stakeholders working together to improve the lives of local people with dementia. The TDAA now boasts 17 member organisations including Tamworth Borough Council, the police, fire service, health care services and providers, community groups and businesses. The aim is to increase membership further over the coming months.
- The roll out of Dementia Friends training to Tamworth councillors, Tamworth Borough Council staff members, businesses, organisations and community groups in the area. Training has been delivered by local Dementia Champions and Tamworth’s Community Together CIC. The number of Dementia Friends has increased by more than 750 since the TDAA was established in January this year – there are now more than 1,800 Dementia Friends in Tamworth.
- More work to engage with people living with dementia and their carers to find out how their lives could be improved locally. This could include access to services or the creation of social groups and activities. Funding has been granted by the ‘Silver Social Action Fund’ to train 15 volunteers aged over 50 to work towards this goal.
- The formation of a new ‘Memory Café’, led by TDAA member Home Instead Senior Care. The café opened at St John’s Church, in conjunction with the Heart of Tamworth Community Project, on May 2, for people with dementia and their carers.
- Ensuring that all Tamworth Borough Council services are accessible to people with dementia, from paying a bill to attending a show. This includes text reminders for payments, appointments and bin collections.
- The inclusion of National Dementia Awareness Week into the town’s Events Calendar. The first such event takes place from Sunday, May 14 to Saturday, May 20 and includes a number of workshops and events to raise awareness about dementia. It is being led by the TDAA, with support from Tamworth Borough Council’s leading dementia officers. A market stall ‘promotions hub’ will be set up in the town centre on the Tuesday. All events taking place as part of the town’s first National Dementia Awareness Week are listed on the Tamworth Dementia Action Alliance web page.
As a dementia friendly town, there will also be more information and signposting, including leaflet stands in major outlets such as Marmion House, greater online resources, and widespread use of the new Dementia Friendly Community logo. This will include the creation of a sensory garden to be planted in the colours of the Dementia Friendly Community logo.
David Barnes, Chairman of Tamworth Dementia Action Alliance, said, “Being granted this status is a really marvellous achievement for the town. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. It devastates lives and so many people are facing it alone. In Tamworth, we are trying to ease that burden.
“The fact that we have got so many organisations working together – and working together so energetically – towards that aim, is a real credit to the community. We want Tamworth to become a place where people with dementia can feel included and understood, wherever they go in the town. This Dementia Friendly Community status is not just for today, it’s forever.”
Tamworth started its journey to becoming a Dementia Friendly Community early in 2016, after the proposal received cross-party support from Tamworth Borough Council’s Healthier and Safer Scrutiny Committee.
Members of the Cabinet then approved the authority’s role in joining with local partner organisations and stakeholders to help facilitate the work needed to achieve the status. This included appointing a member champion, a lead officer and a project sponsor and working closely with the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Communities Officer for the West Midlands, Kat Horner.
Cllr Simon Goodall, Vice Chairman of the Healthier and Safer Scrutiny Committee, first raised the proposal. He said, “When I first learned about Dementia Friendly Community status I was determined to bring this framework to Tamworth. Working together with the Chairman of the Healthier and Safer Scrutiny Committee, we pushed this through as a policy that could and should be pursued.
“It is now a proud moment to see Tamworth achieve this status and I hope it brings help and assistance to all those affected directly and indirectly by this disease.”
Cllr Andrew James, Chairman of the Healthier and Safer Scrutiny Committee, added, “This is fantastic news for Tamworth and is down to the hard work of a lot of people from across the town.”
The role of project sponsor was taken on by Tamworth Borough Council’s Chief Executive, Tony Goodwin.
He said, “Since the idea to become a dementia friendly town was first proposed, it has been hugely supported across all sectors of the community. It usually takes a number of years to achieve, but thanks to the hard work of members, officers and the wider community, the target has been reached in just over 12 months.
“There is clear evidence that the number of people affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is increasing and we all have a responsibility to ensure people living with dementia feel included, engaged and valued.
“This includes Tamworth Borough Council’s responsibilities as an employer. Recent studies show that councils which invest in early intervention and prevention techniques can have a positive impact upon their employees, their communities and individuals, both in terms of those living with dementia and those who care for them.”
Tamworth will now report back to the Alzheimer’s Society after six months and one year to update the charity on its progress as a dementia friendly town.