Martin Reilly, Public Affairs and Campaigning Officer, looks back on a pivotal year in Northern Ireland.
The restoration of devolution to the Northern Ireland Assembly back in January 2020 marked an end to three years of political stalemate. I, along with so many others, looked forward to finally seeing our MLAs getting back to work.
My role had just commenced and it was an opportune time to be pressing MLAs, who were keen to show that devolution mattered.
However, within a few short weeks, Northern Ireland’s new ministers found themselves amid a global pandemic. Our health and social care system had struggled without a government, and it was now under intense, creaking pressure.
Unfortunately, just as people living with dementia bore the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in England and Wales, Northern Ireland was no different.
I heard from families who couldn’t visit a parent in their care home on a milestone birthday, saw people in tears as they recalled losing a loved one without having the chance to say goodbye, and signposted families to much needed emotional and wellbeing support.
We drew on these hugely emotional stories to inspire action, so that the government would fully implement the ‘care partners’ model in care homes. This means using testing and PPE so that designated visitors can continue to help support a relative or friend living in a care home.
Sharing real-life stories is the best way to effect change, and I know from personal experience that people who have an illness often want to shape things in a more positive way for those who come next.
It’s clear that the ongoing reform of adult social care across Northern Ireland needs to produce a significant change for the most vulnerable people.
Their rights and wishes on how social care is delivered must be put at the centre and the voices of people living with dementia need to be listened to.
While our current focus is to ensure government does all it can to help keep people safe, we’re also working to make dementia a standalone priority for the health service as it ‘builds back better’ from the pandemic.
Campaign with us
Add your voice to our campaigns in Northern Ireland, Wales and England.