I was fortunate enough to speak in Parliament on a debate for Dementia Action Week. You can watch the speech above- due to time constraints, I was unable to say everything I wanted too, so a copy of my planned speech is below.
Thank you Mr Speaker.
It's a real privilege to be able to contribute to this debate on an issue that affects the lives of so many in my constituency and I look forward to hearing from colleagues across the house.
Like so many across this country Mr Speaker, my own family was affected by dementia. My grandma had vascular dementia.
I come from a close family, Mr Speaker, and of course, when I speak to constituents I recall my own family's experience and the absolute priority families share – that of ensuring the best quality of life for the person you love.
I’ve heard first-hand from local people how much harder this incredibly difficult situation has been made by the pandemic. I've spoken to families that, for the first time in their lives, have had to spend Christmas apart. I have spoken to families who have stood in the cold to speak to their mum through a care home window and I have heard the helplessness felt at times, particularly before we had a vaccine.
It was right that we prioritised care home residents and the elderly for vaccinations and I sincerely hope that families will continue to be reunited.
We cannot underestimate how difficult this year has been for dementia patients and their families. My grandma spent the last years of her life in The Valleys care home in Scunthorpe and we were able to call in and see her daily – I don’t think we could possibly have appreciated quite how fortunate we were to be able to do that at the time.
I hadn’t understood beforehand just how hard it can be caring for and supporting someone with a dementia diagnosis - and I take my hat off to the people doing it.
We were in a slightly unusual position in that grandma came from one local authority to another, so that she could live near us in Scunthorpe. It is crucial people with dementia and their families are listened to, and I'm pleased to say that once she did move to North Lincs we found the social services team to be both caring and efficient, taking time to understand what grandma’s needs were and working alongside her and our family.
Sadly, this was in stark contrast to her experience before she moved to Scunthorpe. Had my family not stood firm and challenged the behaviour of the previous social services department, things would have been very different indeed.
Mr Speaker, I want to emphasise that this is not a sad story for my family, my grandma had good care. I learned through my very small part in 'the family team' some of the very real challenges patients and families face. And I still speak to constituents who are quite frankly overwhelmed with trying to navigate the diagnosis, the paperwork, and the changes to their lives.
This should never be the case, and I urge the government to do more to ensure consistent standards. As any family in this position will know, navigating the admin side of a dementia diagnosis on top of existing care needs can be immensely challenging and the deprivation of liberty (or Dolls as many of us know it) is a power that needs to be used with great care and co-operation.
Not everyone has a family advocate and when we take forward our much-needed plans for social care.
I urge the government to look not just at the care but at the whole system that delivers it,
at the interaction between patients, families and services
and at how we can ensure that no patient is ever made to feel that their voices aren’t at the centre of their own lives
Mr Speaker, I also want to take this opportunity to recognise the dedication of our frontline carers in North Lincs, I bumped into one of my Grandma’s carers last weekend in Central Park and I was immediately reminded of how hard she worked to care for people living with dementia.
The work that carers do is incredibly important and we must listen to carers both professional and voluntary.
We are fortunate in Scunthorpe to have a local authority determined to support people with dementia and a community that cares very much too. This includes Peggy's world, which provides specialist day and home care for those living with dementia and I want to thank Tilly, her team and all those doing their bit in North Lincs.
Looking to the future, our local schools and colleges are also working hard to support the carers of tomorrow. North Lindsey College’s well-established Health and Social Care qualification has delivered exceptional graduates, and our North Lincolnshire Engineering UTC will be launching a really exciting new Health Sciences and Social Care course of their own from September.
North Lincolnshire Council is also working with ONGO on a new development for people living with dementia called Myos House, a 25-bedroom scheme that aims to allow people with dementia to live with their families for as long as possible.
We are forward-looking in Scunthorpe Mr Speaker, Dementia is a devastating reality for many families and more still needs to be done. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, we have over 2700 people living with Dementia in North Lincs and sadly, this is likely to rise. I’m proud of the steps we are taking but more needs to be done and I look forward to continuing to work for and with local residents on this issue.