The eighth and final webinar in the current series took place on 26th November and focused on the sustainability of Meeting Centres. The webinar series was run in lieu of a face-to-face conference this year, so this webinar was tinged with an element of sadness that it was the last session.
Following a brief welcome and introduction by Professor Dawn Brooker MBE, Dr Shirley Evans began the session by taking stock of the work that’s been done around Meeting Centres so far on the UK Meeting Centre Support Programme. As a quick summary:
The number of Meeting Centres
Prior to lockdown there were 13 Meeting Centres, and despite all the difficulties and restrictions imposed by the pandemic there are now 33 funded Meeting Centres with around 12 more in the pipeline. There’s a lot going on in both Scotland and Wales, as well as in multiple regions of England. As our initial target was 15-20 Meeting Centres, we’re thrilled with the amount of progress, especially in the current situation.
Community of Learning and Practice
The aim of this part of the research project was to share the learning from Meeting Centres. This has been achieved in a variety of ways including through the National Reference Group, bespoke online workshops and this webinar series. We’ve been facilitating a fortnightly online meeting where people involved in running and developing Meeting Centres are able to share their experiences, ask for advice, and get moral support through tricky times. Also, these blogs! More broadly, this Meeting Centre blog site is being developed as a repository of useful resources.
Over 100 people have been through our Meeting Centre training course which initially were delivered face-to-face but have been redeveloped for online delivery as a result of the pandemic. The guidebook, which many people find a great help, is in the process of being updated based on learning and experience, and will be supplemented by additional booklets focusing on specific topics.
Measures, questions and interviews
We’ve been collecting various data from the four Meeting Centre demonstrator sites, including during the pandemic to reflect the change in how support is being provided, and hats off to everyone for their input to this during such a difficult time. From it, we know that Meeting Centres have supported around 200 members and over 100 family carers, providing face-to-face support on over 1100 days as well as facilitating around 260 virtual support sessions when the Meeting Centres were closed. We also have evaluation data from over 70 members and a similar number of carers, which will enable us to see the impact of Meeting Centres at the end of our research.
Part of the data collection has involved assessing how satisfied members and carers are with the Meeting Centres, and it all looks very positive. There will always be areas to look at in terms of improving, and while suggestions may have only come from a very small number of people, they are worth taking on board.
At this point there was a brief pause for questions and comments, with some additional information being provided about the Worcestershire Meeting Centres Community Support Programme.
The webinar moved on to look at the future and how Meeting Centres can be supported after the current research project ends in January 2022. Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, the Association for Dementia Studies will be able to continue supporting Meeting Centres through to the end of February 2023. As part of this, there will be a National Consortium of interested parties to focus on the future structure of national leadership and coordination of Meeting Centres across the UK. The new funding will cover work to address five key areas as shown in the slide below.
We’ll also be looking at different questions of what could/should happen in 2023-2024, exploring various options around how ongoing support for Meeting Centres can be provided. Nothing’s been decided yet so all possibilities are still on the table, and obviously no decisions will be made without full consultation and engagement with the National Consortium. We’ve already had some initial thoughts around the Community of Learning and Practice and the Demonstrator Sites, posing questions around how things could work as Meeting Centres continue to spread across the UK.
There have also been some thoughts around the Meeting Centre training course and how it could be delivered as numbers increase. Could we get other people involved in delivering the training? Will there need to be a cost to attend the course once the research funding comes to an end? Again, we’ll be exploring options over the next year.
Data collection is also an area for consideration, which to date has been part of the research project. Do we need to continue with data collection in the future? Should it have more of a local focus rather than being coordinated centrally which could become quite time and resource intensive? So many things to think about…I think we’re going to be busy for a while to come!
The session ended with time for questions and reflections. An important point for us to bear in mind is how different people will have different needs, with people who are new to Meeting Centres being more likely to get benefit from regular webinars throughout the year than a one-off conference that may fall at the wrong time for them.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of this webinar series, we hope it’s been useful!
A recording of this webinar is available here.
If you’ve missed any of the previous webinars you can find catch up with recordings via the Meeting Centre blog site here.