It is just three years since Churches Together in Cumbria (CTiC) launched a project to “make every church in the county dementia-friendly by 2020”. We believe nowhere else has anything quite so ambitious ever been attempted. The project has been led by me, a churchwarden from Kendal, and who had been a Trustee of Alzheimer’s Society.
Central to the project has been the recruitment of volunteer “Dementia Enablers” – CTiC coined the term – who seek to make their local church (or chapel or benefice or circuit) more aware of, and more responsive to, the needs of people affected by dementia in terms of the church’s welcome, worship and environment.
To date, 118 Dementia Enablers have been recruited, covering over 150 places of worship and being drawn from across the county and from no fewer than nine denominations (Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Church of Scotland, the King’s Church, Methodist, Quaker, Salvation Army and URC).
Training and support is offered to Dementia Enablers through an annual Development Day, a regular newsletter and opportunity to meet other Enablers locally. Initiatives that can be directly traced to the project include the introduction of dementia-friendly ‘tea services’ in a number of places around Cumbria.
Support from churches has made it possible to recruit a Dementia Project Officer, Yvonne Povey, who will steer the project through the concluding two years of its existence. Her aims are to increase the number of Enablers, to strengthen the support that they receive and to ensure that the aims of the project become embedded in local church life for the longer term. Further, she will be taking to steps to make the wider community – including statutory bodies and the third sector – aware of the project and its impact.
As part of the project CTiC holds an annual Churches’ Dementia Conference. The November 2018 one is pictured above.
The conference is open to everyone and gives a wider range of people, from within the county and beyond, chance to learn more about the project, to hear from someone who personally is living with dementia and to receive an update on the progress of research. To find out more go to www.churchestogethercumbria.co.uk.