Scaling up Meeting Centres in The UK!

photo news item Interdem.EvansIt is almost six years since the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester  became involved with Meeting Centres when we were invited by Professor Rose-Marie Dröes to be part of the MEETINGDEM ( project. The main purpose of that was to see if the Dutch model of implementing Meeting Centres could be replicated in the UK and if comparable benefits could be found. The MEETINGDEM project ended in 2017 and proved that it was indeed feasible to set up Meeting Centres successfully in the UK.

There are now already eight Meeting Centres around the UK with another due to open in May 2019. It was clear quite early on that there was a real interest, thirst and need for Meeting Centres in other parts of the country. Bolstered by that, we are now already seven months into the UK Meeting Centres Support Programme (UK MCSP).

 A Meeting Centre in every town!

As part of the MEETINGDEM project two meeting Centres were set up in 2015/16 in the UK in Droitwich Spa (Worcestershire) and Leominster (Herefordshire). Another five have since become established in Lutterworth (Leicestershire), Northampton (Northamptonshire), Brecon, Llandrindod Wells and Ystradgynlais (Powys) and Kirriemuir (Angus) is just about to open. With this in mind and bolstered by the evidence base and significant interest across the UK the Association for Dementia Studies successfully applied to the National Community Fund for Big Lottery Funding. This resulted in the UK Meeting Centres Support Programme.

The project will run from 1st Sept 2018 to 31st August 2021. The aim is to help establish new Meeting Centres in different parts of the UK to work with their communities to support people and families directly affected by dementia. This funding will enable the building of real capacity across the UK so that Meeting Centres can form a backbone of community-based active support to people and families across the country. By working together with early adopters in their communities and with national influencers, the UK Meeting Centre Support Programme will attain the national visibility, momentum and traction to bring future generations of Meeting Centres on board.

There are a number of key project outcomes which are set out below:-

  • By the end of the three years, the programme will deliver between 15 and 20 new Meeting Centres opened or under development across the UK.
  • A National Reference Group established consisting of a range of representatives from organisations from across the UK with an interest in the needs of people living with dementia and including people directly affected by dementia.
  • A Meeting Centres Community of Practice established to share learning between different Centres, to support each other and to help those who are interested in setting up Meeting Centres locally both during and beyond the Project period.
  • Accessible information, training, skills development and on-going support are being developed and made available on how to set up and sustain a functioning Meeting Centre in the UK.
  • Finally, there will be evaluation of the demonstrator sites and early adopters during Year 2 in terms of benefits and cost-effectiveness.

Dr Shirley Evans, Senior Research Fellow

The Association for Dementia Studies, The University of Worcester