Celebrating Excellence in Community engagement

Barnsley Dementia Gateway Service won the Community Engagement Award at the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards 2020.

Barnsley Dementia Gateway Service, working as part of the Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group, was recognised in this category for achieving what often seems an impossible task. Pulling together multiple providers and forming a strong relationship with the local authority, the service has closed many of the gaps that people had previously fallen through and has ensured consistent service delivery across the local area.

Continuing in a series of features celebrating 2020’s winners, we caught up with Cath Magee from Barnsley Dementia Gateway Service, who proudly accepted the Community Engagement Award on behalf of the service at the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards 2020.

elderly lady hug

A new vision

In 2019, Barnsley Council took the bold decision to create the Barnsley Dementia Gateway Service. Barnsley Council had spent years working with a range of small and large local providers of services for people living with dementia and their carers. Barnsley Council knew the care market in Barnsley and appreciated the services on offer for these groups of people, but the council was frustrated with the lack of cohesion between these providers. The council was also convinced that closer working would make for a more co-ordinated service for people living with dementia and their carers.

Barnsley Council worked with Making Space, a national health and social care provider, to bring these charities together. Barnsley Council made resources available to enable this group to meet regularly. Each charity willingly came to the table because they wanted to make a difference, but they were already working to capacity and could do no more. Barnsley Council, through the Dementia Gateway Service, provided the resources to service these regular meetings and to follow up on all the decisions taken at each meeting.

The Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group is made up of the following organisations: Age UK Barnsley, Alzheimer’s Society Barnsley, Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support (BIADS), Butterflies Dementia Support and Activities Group, Crossroads Barnsley Ltd (Caring for Carers) and Making Space.

Leaders of these six charities could quickly see that attending the Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group was not a burden, stretching their time and their energies further. These meetings offered personal and professional support to each member organisation, and it became clear that by working together, this group could create new services and events by pooling resources, sharing the risk and making a greater difference.

Celebrating excellence together

Following fortnightly meetings from April 2019, the group wanted to concentrate on three areas – reaching more people living with dementia, reaching more carers of people living with dementia and attracting increased resources and funding to grow new services and sustain existing services.

This group decided to hold the Best of Barnsley Dementia Care Awards 2020 in January 2020. It was a magnificent all-day event. The morning welcomed national and local speakers who were able to provide insights into the national and local prevalence relating to dementia, the innovations in research and practice and the gaps in services. The event informed 19,000 readers of The Barnsley Chronicle and many more on social media. At lunchtime, the Dementia Friendly Unity Choir entertained everyone and welcomed new members.

The afternoon was devoted exclusively to celebrating people nominated for 13 awards. 62 people, who were nominated by staff, volunteers and carers across all health and social care sectors, were praised for their own person-centred practice. They were praised for going above and beyond expectation to make a real difference in care homes, hospitals, home care services, day centres and in the community through carer support services and churches.

It was a glitzy event, with formal table settings, matching balloons and wonderful food. This was important, because it was vital that people nominated knew that this was a special event, publicly recognising their skills, knowledge and commitment and valuing their kind and sensitive approach in their varying roles.

Prioritising growth

This event was a huge success and this gave the Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group the confidence to move forward with other projects. This group went on to create DISC – Dementia Information and Support for Carers. DISC is an eight-week course (two hours each week) for carers of people living with dementia. Two charities offer this training and have secured additional funding to continue this offer for the rest of 2021/22.

Overcoming lockdown

COVID-19 presented the Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group with the greatest challenge in 2020, but also the greatest opportunities. Timely meetings and shared local intelligence helped the group to adapt their services and avoid duplicating them, so that people living with dementia and their carers had a very specific lockdown offer.

Most organisations moved to remote working in March 2020. The impact of lockdown was felt most severely in local care homes and for people living with dementia in their own homes. Within the first month it became obvious that carers were really struggling with the lack of access to their loved ones in care homes. It was also becoming clearer that people living with dementia were deteriorating as their usual social routines came to a halt. This affected them mentally and physically and this was an added burden for their carers.

The Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group quickly mobilised to ensure emergency supplies were getting to people in their homes – welfare and befriending telephone calls were made by all six local charities. Those carers who wanted tablets so that they could connect to peer support groups on Zoom, were given them and showed how to use them.

The 3rd Sector Dementia Group realised that there was a need for a freephone Barnsley Dementia Helpline and extra resources were secured to enable four of the six charities to staff this helpline from 8.00pm to midnight each evening from May 2020 to March 2021. Extra funding was secured to create and distribute food parcels, carer pamper packs and treats for those people connected to all services that were struggling the most.

Invaluable experiences

The Barnsley 3rd Sector Dementia Group is now the Barnsley Third Sector Dementia Alliance. Barnsley Council has seen what has been achieved in the first two years and has the confidence to fund this group for the next three years. This will help it to reach more people living with dementia and their carers in Barnsley. Dementia awareness in Barnsley has increased through events like the Best of Barnsley Dementia Care Awards and through the publicity generated with new services like the Barnsley Dementia Helpline and DISC.

Services across the health and social care sectors are now working more closely with each other and with the third sector charities to listen to the voices of people living with dementia and their carers. This is uncomfortable at times but has been an invaluable process and is really helping us all to realise that just because we all think we are doing great things for people living with dementia and their carers, does not mean that we are doing so all the time. We are listening more than ever, and we are committed to making significant changes to offer a smoother journey through the services for people affected by dementia in Barnsley.

Cath Magee is Peripatetic Service Manager at Making Space. Email: Cath.Magee@makingspace.co.uk Twitter: @MakingSpaceUK

The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards celebrate the excellence, innovation and creativity in the voluntary care and support sector. Specialist insurer, Markel are headline sponsors of the event. 



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