Working with other organisations to improve life with dementia

Pooling efforts with other organisations can help to achieve our ends. Press Officer Ian Preston looks at how this has worked in the campaign for a fairer social care system.

One of the things I love about my job is being part of an organisation that has done so much to win change for people with dementia. From challenging NICE in court over access to the drug donepezil (Aricept) to the Prime Minister's challenge on dementia, our campaigns help to push the cause up the media and political agenda.

Tony Robinson helping to promote the Care and Support Alliance campaign

However we achieve more together than we do alone, and one example of this is the campaign for a fairer way to pay for social care.

Alzheimer's Society has worked for years to end the 'dementia tax', where many people pay huge amounts for essential care, and the government has long promised reform. Because the way care is paid for touches millions of people with diverse conditions, the Society joined with over 50 other charities in the Care and Support Alliance.

Forcing action

The challenge was both simple and complex - forcing the government to act. We needed to show politicians that at the next election, the public wouldn't forgive or forget if they ignored the issue. Putting social care on every news bulletin and in every paper was the best way to hit them where it counted.

To do this, we couldn't just be reactive. We established a press team from across the alliance to decide on tactics and the messages we wanted to put across. Working with this group was a great experience with big challenges.

For example, how do we define social care in a way that means as much to a deafblind person as it does to someone with dementia?

To demonstrate the massive public clamour for reform we commissioned a poll that showed that nine out of 10 people rejected the current system. Putting aside any organisational rivalries, we shared what we were hearing about government plans.

A consensus emerged that if the government didn't make a commitment on social care funding, we would express our disappointment strongly.

Reaching millions

When the social care white paper finally appeared in July, the Care and Support Alliance swung into action. We quickly arranged for case studies and spokespeople to appear on all major national TV, radio and newspaper outlets. Coverage mentioning Alzheimer's Society alone reached over 25 million people.

There's no doubt that the pressure generated from this contributed to recent reports that the government will reform the care system by 2017. This is encouraging, but let's not pop the champagne corks yet.

We need concrete detail and short-term measures, and won't be afraid to be vocal if they don't appear.

While there will always be issues that Alzheimer's Society may focus on alone, where we have common ground with others we can achieve so much more by pooling our efforts. 

Please take a look at our current campaigns.