Taking a leading role in putting an international project into action on the ground, Phillipa Bruce- Kerr, head of Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ older and vulnerable clients’ team, is working with a well-established meeting centre in Leominster for people living with dementia and for their families.
Phillipa, who is a Dementia Friends Champion herself and has supported the firm in making its Herefordshire offices dementia-friendly, is chair of the Trustees of Leominster Meeting Centre which is run at The Old Priory three days a week.
She explained that the centre is one of the pilot schemes for a project which began in the EU – meeting centres were first set up in the Netherlands as social clubs offering support and activities for people living with dementia.
The project began to investigate whether that model would work elsewhere, and the Three Counties currently have both of the UK’s meeting centres established under the project – there is also one in Droitwich. Since the project began, other centres have been established in Lutterworth, Northampton and Brecon. Centres have been set up in Italy and Poland as pilot schemes under the project, and the aim is to have such a centre in every community.
Phillipa said: “The Leominster centre has become very well-established partly because Leominster itself is a dementia-friendly community, so people are very aware of the issues that affect people living with this diagnosis. I chair the Trustees and, working with the Friends Group at the Centre, we have a very practical approach. We know that we need to do a good deal of fundraising to make sure that the centre continues, and we have been very active on that front.”
As part of the wider project, the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies has received Lottery funding of £587,000 to help it to extend the concept across the UK – all those involved recently met at The Hive to discuss new centres in Scotland, Wales and elsewhere in England.
The work of the centre is very varied – Phillipa explained that its main purpose is to give support to those with a diagnosis of mild to moderate dementia and to their families and carers. She said: “We offer activities as well as a chance to chat and socialise, but we also offer some quite specific therapy to help people to adjust to the changes in their lives, so their lives continue to be fulfilling and companiable.
“If people can be supported at an early stage, their need for more intensive support can be delayed, as can the need for hospital or care home placements. At the moment, people often get a diagnosis of dementia but no immediate support – the centres can improve quality of life for them and their family and avoid feelings of isolation.”
Phillipa will be among the speakers at a conference on dementia-friendly communities in Herefordshire on 22 November at Grange Court in Leominster.
Harrison Clark Rickerbys has 470 staff and partners based at offices in Hereford, Worcester, Cheltenham, Birmingham, the Wye Valley, the Thames Valley, Cambridge and central London, who provide a complete spectrum of legal services to both business and private clients, regionally and nationwide. The firm also has a number of highly successful teams specialising in individual market sectors, including health and social care, education, advanced manufacturing, agricultural and rural affairs, defence, security and the forces, and construction.