[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 1 Issue 11, June 2011].
The “Big Society” is a major policy theme for the Coalition Government. This paper begins the discussions on dementia and the Big Society, by considering the many issues of living with dementia. More than 40 people participated in this Think Tank, which took the core “problem” to be the exclusion of people with dementia from their community, neighbourhood and the services across different sectors.
Keys issues covered in this document are the many interdependencies between social action, community empowerment and reform of public services. The report addresses:
- Social action: as a means of fostering and supporting a new culture of voluntarism, philanthropy and social action. This involves enabling people with dementia to remain in their own homes, neighbourhoods and social networks for as long as possible.
- Permission to become socially active: because people today feel the need for permission to take social action in their community and neighbourhood.
- Mapping community facilities: so that social action can be targeted and people can connect with their community.
- Raising awareness and understanding: to encourage people with dementia to engage in social action and to encourage other people to act socially in respect of dementia. This would involve people understanding dementia better and how, through social action such as volunteering, people living with dementia can be best supported. Communities should be encouraged to have positive regard for people living with dementia (instead of stigmatising such persons).
- Community empowerment: defined by the Coalition Government as creating communities and neighbourhoods that are in charge of their own destiny. This involves helping people living with dementia to remain active agents in their communities and feel that their contributions are valued and respected.
- Public service reform: i.e. removing centralised bureaucracy, giving professionals more freedom and opening up public services to new providers. Public services should engage more effectively with community members who are living with dementia, and deliver the types of services and support best tailored to their needs.
- An asset approach: i.e. one which would build community solutions in a more sustainable way and make more efficient use of resources. Two thirds of people with dementia live in their own homes in the community; it seems logical therefore for assets to be directed towards developing “dementia capable communities”.
Note: This report is a summary of the discussions and ideas that emerged from the Think Tank. It does not necessarily reflect the ideas of the Department of Health, the Alzheimer’s Society or the Bradford Dementia Group which jointly held this Think Tank.
These ideas are to be developed further and will doubtless feature in later publications to follow.
Goodchild, C. and Rippon, S. (2011). Dementia and the Big Society: report from Think Tank 16th February 2011. London: Department of Health, Alzheimer’s Society and Bradford Dementia Group, February 24th 2011.