Two Meeting Centres in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, for people living with dementia and their care partners, have received a major boost from the National Lottery.
Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre has been awarded almost £175,000 to support its work over the next four years, while Leominster Meeting Centre has been awarded £96,620 to support its work over the next three years.
The Meeting Centres were set up in 2015 and 2016 respectively as part of a research project being conducted by the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies to assess the effectiveness of meeting centres in the UK. They have since both been established as charities, run by local community members and supported by the University.
Meeting Centres are essentially social clubs where members and their care partners can enjoy the company of others in a community setting where they can relax, have fun, talk to others and get the help they need by participating in a variety of activities that address their emotional, cognitive and social requirements. This helps them to adjust to their changing needs and re-build their confidence and reduce anxiety over the future.
Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, said: “Meeting Centres are based on solid research about what really helps people and families cope with the challenges that dementia brings. The Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester has been working on this research since 2014. There is tremendous interest across the UK in setting up new Meeting Centres. This funding will ensure that many more communities have the opportunity to visit a fully operational Meeting Centre and to receive practical advice on how to establish their own.”
The funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will help provide more certainty and stability for the two Meeting Centres over the coming years.
The funding will also enable the two Meeting Centres to continue to share their experiences and help develop best practice with the wider dementia community through the Centres’ participation in the National Lottery funded UK Meeting Centres Support Programme (UKMCSP), which is helping communities across the UK to set up a Meeting Centre in their local area.
The Leominster Meeting Centre is open each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am to 3pm at The Old Priory in Leominster, Herefordshire. Around 16 to 20 people attend each day, with some coming one day a week and others two, three or four times. It has become a vital part of the local community, welcoming many visitors and participating widely in local events and initiatives.
Joy Valentini, Manager of Leominster Meeting Centre, added: “I have been associated with the Meeting Centre from its early stages, both as a carer for my husband, who has dementia, and as Manager and a Trustee. The Meeting Centre changed our lives after his diagnosis, from feeling hopelessly isolated to giving us the support to feel confident and enjoy ourselves again. Two years ago I was given the opportunity to manage the day to day running of the Centre. I feel that my first-hand experience has given me the capability to help and support others facing a similar journey, and in the latter stages of my husband’s illness it has given me a new sense of fulfilment and pride in its success.”
The Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre is open each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10.30am to 3.30pm at the Droitwich Rugby Club and is staffed by a dedicated team from Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Around 12- 15 members attend each day.
Jeff Mayes, a former RAF Flight Lieutenant and member of the Centre, added: “I started to get dementia and everything went down from there, you feel as though you have got nothing left but this place has given me a purpose. You can join in with whatever’s going on and have a good time. The people at the Meeting Centre are so good, they are there to look after you but they keep the spirit going all the time. It’s a very happy place. I don’t know how I’d manage if I didn’t have this place to come to – it fills a big hole in my life.”