We’re back open! Hopes and expectations for positive change as we reach the next stage in restriction relaxation

It’s May 17th! And with today’s easing of restrictions, and the start of Dementia Action Week, we are delighted to announce that The Filo Project is fully operational again. It has been a long and difficult journey for everyone, but we are excited to be back supporting people with dementia and their families.

Having been, to date, predominantly based in Devon we are now making great inroads into Somerset too. We know that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate effect on people with dementia and their carers, and, as we re-open we caught up with Tim Baverstock, Deputy Director of Adult Social Care at Somerset County Council, to understand his hopes for positive dementia action in the short and longer term.

Given that we’ve just reached the next stage in the easing of Covid restrictions, what is Somerset County Council’s immediate priority regarding people with dementia and their carers?

We need to reinstate support as quickly and safely as possible for those who we supported pre and during covid. We invested heavily in new community based models of support that have not been able to function as we would all have liked over the last year and we think those local options can still make a real difference to peoples’ support and lives. We also recognise that many more carers will now be struggling or seeking support, including those not known to us at all – it is likely that the health of those being cared for will have deteriorated and pressures on carers will have been heightened or magnified by lockdowns and isolation. There will also be a significant cohort of undiagnosed people with dementia who won’t have had the correct support or know where to find it. Whilst diagnosis in itself solves nothing, it does help people face up to the problem and gain support and many will not be yet at that stage of accepting the problem exists – we must help people early and help them stay at home and in their community living their best life.

If you were Prime Minister for a day, and with an unlimited budget, what two things would you put in place to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers?

I would put significant investment into support, knowledge and skills for those that can support people with dementia in their own homes and communities. Remove focus on respite and other care needing to be in hospitals or care homes and focus on giving people proper access to skilled dementia support at home. Invest in real communities that support and understand people living with dementia and their needs. Dementia friendly communities are not currently anywhere near what is required and I would invest in every town and city and village to make them a place that is inclusive and supportive of all conditions to promote equality.

If we skip forward 12 months, what is your expectation of how things will have improved for people with dementia and their carers, either nationally or within Somerset?

Nationally I hope we can solve the lack of prioritisation of dementia funding and support and of course the social care debate. We need to focus on dementia in the same way as we have more recently on all age mental health – it feels like dementia has been sidelined whilst the focus is elsewhere. In Somerset, I really hope that we can see the fruits of our previous and current pump priming and investment into models of support and respite that fit peoples’ needs and are closer to where they live. I am super excited to see some of the projects that have paused or had to be changed, come back to life and really make a difference to carers and people living with dementia. We were helping more than ever pre-covid and, even better than that, were doing so from a strong community will and base – that is where the answers lie.