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Diocese of Rochester

The Diocese of Rochester is the Church of England diocese for West Kent, Medway and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley. It covers approximately 250 square miles and has a population of over 1.2 million people across our 219 parishes. We have 300 lay and ordained ministers working in 265 churches and thousands of active volunteers contributing to worship and community life. Towns in the diocese include Gravesend, Dartford, Meopham, Swanley, Beckenham, Bromley, Orpington, Biggin Hill, Bexley, Bexleyheath, Erith, Sidcup, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Strood, Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham.

19 February 2019
South East
Faith Groups, Voluntary Sector
Local Alliances:
Kent Dementia Action Alliance, Bromley Dementia Action Alliance, Medway Dementia Action Alliance

1. Action Plan

1. The National Dementia Declaration lists seven outcomes that the DAA are seeking to achieve for people with dementia and their carers. How would you describe your organisation’s role in delivering better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers?

The Church of England contributes in many ways to the well-being of people with dementia. Primary roles are assisting people access spiritual help and live in enabling and supportive environments, and maintaining their sense of belonging and being valued in community and civic life. The role of the diocese is to resource and guide the churches in recognising and responding to needs. We are doing this through: • Listening to the perspectives of people with dementia and their carers about how our churches can be dementia friendly • Providing dementia awareness sessions for the churches and recruiting dementia friends • Exploring ways to meet the spiritual needs of people with dementia living in their own homes and in care homes through piloting Anna Chaplaincy in the diocese • Supporting key individuals working in their parishes and deaneries to highlight the needs of people with dementia • Extending social opportunities for people with dementia, through adapting our existing activities and setting up new ones • Representing the parishes in local Dementia Action Alliances • Developing the role of our churches in offering singing activities for people with dementia • Linking with others locally and nationally who share our goals, including other dioceses, faith groups, dementia charities and Livability’s Dementia Friendly Church project

2. What are the challenges to delivering these outcomes from the perspective of your organisation?

Churches in the diocese are involved in many important community activities in response to local needs and can feel over-stretched at times. There are many competing demands on church leaders. Even finding the money to maintain historic buildings is a challenge for some struggling parishes. Similarly, many of our activities rely on over-committed volunteers with limited capacity to take on additional responsibility. Another challenge is overcoming the fear and lack of understanding that surround dementia and can mean that people living with the condition are not always comfortable being open about their needs in church life. Members can slowly disappear from church life without us grasping the reasons. Adapting our regular services, our buildings and our approaches so that we are truly ‘dementia friendly’ will take time and patience if we are first to achieve consensus over the need for change.

2. Actions

  • Recruiting Dementia Friends in Churches

    The diocese has a number of Dementia Friends Champions who are delivering the 1 hour awareness session in a variety of contexts with the aim of recruiting dementia friends.  These events are being widely advertised and we are encouraging churches to send representatives.  The response has been positive to date, with both paid staff and volunteers attending and indicating a willingness to spread the word. Having dementia friends in each church will enable us to respond sensitively to the needs of regular members of our congregations as well as extending friendship to those in our wider communities who are living with dementia.

    Being implemented

    2017 - First Quarter Update

    New Dementia Friends Champions have been trained and this is allowing us to extend our availability to offer sessions in community settings including churches.

    2015 - Fourth Quarter Update

    Dementia Friends sessions are continuing in churches across the Diocese, with the number of Dementia Friends recruited steadily rising.  We are planning to circulate a list of our Dementia Friends Champions to enable parish reps to make contact directly to arrange sessions.

  • Exploring Opportunities for Our Churches to Offer Singing Activities to Engage People with Dementia

    Churches across the Diocese of Rochester have a wealth of musical resources and a rich heritage of singing as a normal part of our community life.  Music and singing already play a key role in our work with older people in care homes and community groups.  We are exploring how best to develop this experience and expertise to benefit those living with dementia and their families.  

    By holding workshops with the charity Sing for Your Life we plan to find ways of extending our use of music so we can involve more people in life-enhancing singing sessions. Our aim is to help meet social, emotional and spiritual needs and to give people with dementia and their carers an enjoyable channel for self expression.  With the help of Circle Dance in Dementia we are also considering ways of using movement and dance alongside singing to engage people at every stage of dementia.  As well as working with professional musicians in our churches, we hope to motivate and give skills to amateur musicians so they feel equipped to take on volunteering roles in singing groups.

    Being implemented

    2017 - First Quarter Update

    Churches in the Diocese are using singing in new worship services and activities aimed at people with dementia to good effect.  Other parishes beyond Medway are now looking into acquiring a Silver Song Club Music Box they could use for singing activities.  

    2015 - Second Quarter Update

    Funding was raised to purchase A Silver Song Club Music Box.  This was to be used for singing sessions for people with dementia offered by churches and community groups.  Volunteers were recruited from the churches in Rochester; they take the Music Box to settings where it has been requested, thus enabling it to be used widely across Medway.

    2014 - Fourth Quarter Update

    A workshop with Sing for Your Life in November 2014 was attended by people from a variety of settings interested in extending opportunities for people with dementia to sing.

  • Meeting Spiritual Needs of People with Dementia and their Carers

    The distinctive contribution the diocese can make is in helping parishes meet the spiritual needs of people with dementia within the Christian faith.  Christian worship is our key role and responsibility, but traditional forms can become less relevant in dementia.  We are exploring the spiritual needs that arise from living with a diagnosis of dementia, and from caring for a person with dementia, so that we can develop effective ways of ministering to individuals in these situations. 

    We are working with Livability to develop ideas about Dementia Friendly Church, and gathering the crucial perspectives of those in our parishes who are 'experts by experience'.  Our starting point is that everyone in the Christian community has unique gifts that enrich our shared life, and we are keen to learn from those whose lives have been touched by dementia, as well as respond to spiritual needs they encounter.

    Being implemented

    2017 - First Quarter Update

    We have now recruited Anna Friends and Anna Chaplains to work with people with dementia in four hubs aross the Diocese covering: Medway; Bromley Borough; Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley; Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.  They are supporting people with dementia in a variety of ways, including one to one befriending and spiritual support, care home chaplaincy, and offering activities in their churches such as dementia friendly worship and dementia cafes.  We are developing training routes to help them gain skills and experience.

    2015 - Fourth Quarter Update

    The steering group of the project funded by Henry Smith Charity agreed to proceed, based on the findings of the scoping exercise that there was broad agreement across the Diocese regarding the potential of chaplaincy to meet needs.  A workshop on Dementia Inclusive Worship was also held in Paddock Wood with Brightshadow to help us explore spirituality in dementia and how to plan worship with people with dementia in mind.

    2015 - Third Quarter Update

    The dementia specialist project officer undertook a scoping exercise, consulting widely across the Diocese to find out about the spiritual and pastoral needs of people with dementia and ascertain whether there was support for appointing Anna Chaplains.  A report on findings was written, detailing the needs identified in dementia and ways in which Anna Chaplains might help to meet them.

    2015 - First Quarter Update

    Having received a grant from the Henry Smith Surplus of the Poor Clergy Fund, we appointed a part time dementia specialist project officer to work with The Gift of Years at The Bible Reading Fellowship in developing Anna Chaplains who would work alongside people with dementia.

    2014 - Fourth Quarter Update

    We applied to Henry Smith Surplus of the Poor Clergy Fund, asking for a grant to enable the Diocese to explore how chaplaincy might meet the needs of people with dementia and their families.

  • Forming links with other organisations supporting people with dementia and working in partnership

    We are seeking to collaborate with organisations with a focus on dementia.  Our aim is to join forces with likeminded groups in developing strategies and practical initiatives that genuinely fill the gaps in support for people with dementia in local communities.  Sometimes this means sharing our buildings with local charities, it might involve seeking their advice and support in developing new activities, or it may simply entail publicising their services so that families find out what is available in their area.  Local Dementia Action Alliances are an ideal forum for this partnership work, and we are seeking to ensure church representation in every network located in our geographical area.

    Being implemented

    2017 - First Quarter Update

    We are working closely with local organisations supporting people with dementia to identify and respond to needs.  Partnership working Dementia Action Alliances has enabled us to deliver new activities and disseminate information in our communities about the support that is avaiable.

  • Supporting and publicising new activities for people with dementia and carers in church settings

    Having a project at diocesan level is enabling us to co-ordinate and resource parish-level initiatives aimed at meeting spiritual, social and emotional needs of people with dementia.  We are able to link volunteers with one another where they share similar goals, so that they can provided mutual encouragement and share best practice.  We are seeing churches establish dementia cafes and open up other social groups so that they are inclusive of people with dementia.  We are encouraging those who run parish-based activities to have them listed on online search facilities run by local authorities and charities (such as Dementia Connect).  We are identifying training needs and offering relevant workshops.

    Being implemented

    2015 - Fourth Quarter Update

    New action

  • Contributing to a Dementia Friendly Medway

    We are working with the churches in Medway to increase the support available to people with dementia.  Churches are exploring unmet needs and opportunities to offer new activities that contribute to the social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of people with dementia and their families.  We are linking them with other members of Medway DAA to gain advice and guidance on how best to respond.  We are also working to support Rochester Cathedral in becoming a dementia friendly venue where people with dementia and their families feel welcome as visitors and are able to  participate in tailored activities; these include a craft workshop in March with a local artist and increasing the numbers of volunteers who are dementia friends.  We have established a chaplaincy hub in Medway, made up of Anna Friends and Anna Chaplains working across their communities to increase friendship and spiritual support for people with dementia and their families; members of the hub are sharing experiences and skills, and developing plans for their work in 2017.

    Being implemented