The Alzheimer's Society’s Connecting Communities project was launched in January 2013 in order to raise awareness of dementia within black and minority ethnic (BME) communities across eight London boroughs: Hillingdon, Lambeth, Merton, Enfield, Newham, Redbridge, Hounslow and Croydon.
Funded by the Department of Health through the Health & Social Care Volunteering Fund, the three year pilot aims to address issues around BME engagement with dementia care services by raising awareness of dementia amongst diverse communities across different generations, highlighting the importance of seeking an early diagnosis and how to do this locally; and building a local volunteer base that is reflective of the demographics of the area.
Over the course of the project four full time Volunteering Officers (VOs) have been engaging with key community leaders and groups to recruit community engagement champions (CEC) in diverse communities, and then develop plans to mobilise other community engagement volunteers. Over the course of the project the aim is to recruit 90 champions and 150 other volunteers. Once established, these volunteer networks support the development of relevant dementia awareness raising activities and materials targeted at members of their community. Materials developed include a pack to raise awareness of dementia among Black African church leaders.
The aim is that by the end of the project 1950 people from BME communities will have received accessible information about dementia. They will know how to get a dementia diagnosis, and understand the benefits of this, and will be able to access local services. Achievement of these outcomes will be demonstrated through the number attending awareness raising activities, as well as service user and local healthcare provider feedback.
In addition to raising awareness of dementia within BME communities, the project also offers the opportunity to focus on organisational diversity in dementia service provision and volunteering, and to ensure that BME communities are able to influence local dementia and volunteering services. To this end, outcomes of the project will include:
- Volunteering good practice tools for use within the Alzheimer’s Society: including shared learning on the intranet and an online forum for project volunteers.
- An external volunteering good practice toolkit to help volunteering programmes across the UK and within London to create volunteering opportunities that meet the diverse needs of BME communities, as well as to influence the development of dementia services.
- An online BME Commissioning toolkit developed as an external resource for local authorities to support the provision of BME relevant dementia services across London and the UK.
For each of the eight boroughs involved in the project, reports identifying all the BME communities and levels of dementia awareness have been developed, and are updated quarterly and reviewed annually to inform activities. There is also a contact database for each borough with details of key local organisations and contacts.
The University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies has been commissioned to carry out an external evaluation of the project.