For anyone not familiar with Bo-Selecta, this hilarious Blog post title* will be lost on them, but bear with me: during November I toured the country extolling the virtues of Pathways Through Dementia wherever I went, from Brighton to Manchester. The UK Dementia Congress is always a privilege – hearing first hand accounts of how people living with dementia are experiencing the world of health and social care, alongside running my ‘Who Decides?’ workshop attended by around 40 people (at 8:30 AM!), whilst catching up with colleagues from the Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK, and MyLife Films, who quite rightly won an award for best Dementia Product. Tweeting has become a rather tiresome ‘feature’ of these events, encouraging people to engage with their smartphones rather than being completely present in the room, a fad I succumbed to at Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Manchester conference at Old Trafford, only in the hopes of getting my Tweet up on the big screen which would act as a free advert for our charity. Other people Tweeted messages such as #excited #socialcare #health – I am not sure what difference this makes to the overworked sector of health and social care but hope that it is a tangible one**
Grant Thornton’s initiative was intended to improve the lives of people living in Greater Manchester and I met some wonderful people all dedicated to the cause. At one point the CEO of Grant Thornton retweeted my Tweet! Nice as it was, the world of health and social care is in a pickle, and no amount of retweeting well meaning Tweets is going to significantly change that. What is needed is money.
I work for another dementia charity part time where the majority of people in my office are on short term contracts. Most are on 12 month contracts which means that about 9 months into the job the employee starts looking at other roles just in case their contract is not renewed. If they secure another role, they leave. It is then impossible for their line manager to advertise the job because there are only 2 or 3 months left on the contract – who is going to apply for a job that might be obsolete in 3 months? So there is a gap whilst the contract deliberations take place and, if the contract gets renewed, then the job is advertised. Assuming the applicants are suitable and interview well, someone is appointed. That person gives one month’s notice and starts in their new position approximately 4-5 months after the last person left.
The people who suffer in this process are people living with dementia – they have developed a relationship with the person who left, they are then without a Dementia Advisor/Community Support Worker/other important professional, for a number of months. The new person needs a DBS check and has to go through their induction before they are out visiting people in the community. It is a crazy situation brought about due to the fact that funders do not know for sure that they are going to have the budgets to pay for community support in the next financial year. Grant Thornton’s conference addressed important issues and was well organised and well intentioned, but without financial backing, all the best ideas in the world will never reach their full potential.
Dementia might be the most feared illness in the UK, having overtaken cancer, and it affects more than 800,000 people – so why is there no money to help us properly support families facing this issue? I met with a colleague from another small dementia charity recently and talked about the struggle for funding. I concluded, half jokingly***, “Well I am looking forward to the day I get my Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Dementia Congress in the category of ‘The person who did the most with the least’ .” There was a pause before she said ‘There will be some stiff competition in that category Sara’. Hmm, I think I can feel a Tweet coming on…
*No I won’t give up the day job
** I doubt it
*** I am deadly serious, if I can’t win an Oscar, this will be the next best thing