In recent weeks we have warmly welcomed the good news about the effective coronavirus vaccination, which brings a much-needed ray of hope of there being an end in sight to the dark days we have been living through this year. However, it is with a very heavy heart that I look back on 2020 and the immeasurable, and at times unbearable, impact it has had on people living with dementia and their families throughout Scotland. It has been so difficult for so many people and I am very proud of the way that our staff and volunteers responded to this challenge. They adapted quickly to the limitations and restrictions placed on us and reshaped their local service and support in order to be there for as many people as we could. We have been desperately eager to get all of our services re-opened and to get as much extra support out in our communities as possible, but we simply have not been allowed to. So, we have had to build a blended approach of online, telephone and where able to, wellbeing visits. I truly hope that their efforts, combined with our invaluable 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline, have made some difference in helping people through this time.

I am pleased to share news that we have now been given approval to provide small scale day services in Glasgow and West Lothian, alongside our Dundee Dementia Resource Centre. Whilst offering a smaller service, the people attending and their families have told us the difference this has made and, although the Centres look and feel different, the sense of normality and connectivity has remained the same. We really hope that this will continue and will be accelerated as a result of the vaccination. 

I also want to share some of the work we have been doing behind the scenes to help influence and shape the national dementia policy response to the pandemic. As well as extensively engaging with our colleagues at Scottish Government, we have been undertaking detailed research on the impact of the pandemic and produced a report - COVID-19: the hidden impact. We recently presented this report to both the Scottish Government and COSLA and we believe it has been an important contribution in helping shape the national approach moving forward. We are continuing to work in a positive way with our statutory partners to take forward our recommendations which you can read in the report here. Alongside this we welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the National Dementia Recovery Plan and used the report to influence this. The plan explains how Scottish Government will work with others to support people with dementia and their families access the right care, treatment and support at the right time during and after the coronavirus pandemic. We consulted with our frontline staff, Helpline volunteers and over 150 people with dementia and carers, and fed back their opinions, views and lived experiences to Scottish Government. The Transition Plan should be made publicly available in the coming week and you can read our collated feedback here.

In line with this and in direct response to us highlighting the level of stress, distress and trauma that our community has gone through, I would like to let you know that we are in the process of finalising an agreement with Scottish Government to establish a counselling service for those most affected by the pandemic. The service will be funded by Scottish Government and we hope to have it in place early in the New Year. We are also still discussing with the Scottish Government on how best to support family carers of people living in Care Homes and as yet our call for a named contact has not come to fruition. Our intention therefore is to keep the discussion ongoing and in the short term establish our own small internal project team who will lead on supporting people’s rights to visit relatives, as well as supporting the many people who contact us with other rights-based issues, such as paying for care.

As you know the issue of paying for care has been at the heart of our campaigning work in the form of the Fair Dementia Care campaign. We are going to build on this campaign, and over the coming weeks we will be calling for the financial support that people with advanced dementia receive to be based on their individual needs instead of a standard minimum level contribution. This is a simple ask with a straightforward solution and it is within reach. This ask will be our pledge for the 2021 Scottish Elections and will be publicly communicating about the campaign on a regular basis.

I realise that this may be a challenging festive season for many people and, during this time, we will be running over 40 online community groups and activities for the people we support and their families that anyone from across Scotland can participate in. And as always, our dedicated volunteers will be there for you 24 hours a day throughout this time on our Freephone Dementia Helpline. You can call them on 0808 808 3000.

2020 has been the most challenging year that anyone could have imagined, in fact there are still many challenges that we face in fully overcoming the impact of this pandemic. I want to personally thank every person who has stood beside us in rising to this challenge - all of our supporters, funders, partners and most importantly the people who place their trust in us to help support them and advocate on their behalf. I’d like to say a special tribute to all of our staff and volunteers who have gone above and beyond anything we could reasonably expect to achieve this. Together I believe we have done our best to make sure no-one is on their own.

I wish you all a safe and healthy Christmas and New Year.

Henry Simmons
Chief Executive

Give the gift that lasts a lifetime this Christmas

Morag and Ian are sitting on a sofa, holding a baby