What we learnt at the 2016 DAA annual conference

Friday 2 December 2016

Annual Conference 2016See the agenda

Social care is indeed in crisis – what are we going to do about it? This was the key challenge posed by delegates at the Dementia Action Alliance Annual Conference held on Thursday 1 December at One Whitehall Place, London. As ever, we were joined by a fascinating range of expert guests including people living with dementia, carers, frontline professionals, and leaders and practitioners from across the health and social care sector - all passionate about the future of dementia care, and how we can transform the lives of people living with dementia.

The day was chaired by Graham Stokes, Global Director of Dementia Care at Bupa who introduced our first speaker Nigel Hullah. Nigel has been living with dementia for four years and delivered a passionate speech about how his life isn’t defined by his illness. He spoke about the importance of adopting a human rights approach to dementia, rallying the crowd by quoting US President Barack Obama; “one person can change a room, one room can change a building, one building can change a town."

Our expert panel sessions were chaired by Alzheimer’s Society CEO Jeremy Hughes CBE– who led a conversation about the political climate and the future of dementia care, and Head of Community Engagement Lenny Shallcross – who led a conversation about social care in crisis.

Alzheimer’s Society are driving changes in these areas through the Fix Dementia Care campaign. You can read the latest report on homecare here.

Here are the 5 messages we took away from the day:

1. Social care is indeed in crisis

Every single person in the room agreed on the state of social care in England and we were joined by Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Care Quality Commission, who stated it is now at a tipping point.  There were warnings on the impact of Brexit from Jeremy Hughes that the UK risks losing its status as the leader in dementia research, and also from Heather Wakefield, Head of Local Government at Unison who warned of the negative impact on the social care workforce.

You can read CQC’s State of Care report here, and Unison’s Care in Crisis report here.

Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England called on the Government to refocus its efforts towards healthcare, which he said is no longer a public priority despite the consequences on an ageing population, summing up proceedings; “it feels like a 35 year groundhog day for those who work in social care.”

2. It can be all doom and gloom - or we can change the narrative

Delegates were in agreement that the current system of care is broken, and we must look to personalised care in order to fix it. Jacqui Cannon, CEO at the Lewy Body Society highlighted that “different dementias require different levels of care” and told the room that care doesn’t stop when a loved one enters a care home. Instead; “you become part of a different family.” Andrea Sutcliffe shared this notion, and shared her position as CQC Chief Inspector; that all social care providers should pass the “mum test” – it should be an environment that anyone would expect friends and family to live well in.

The discussion also moved towards the role of caring, with Dominique Kent CEO at the Good Care Group telling the room that; “caring is hard. We have a responsibility to recognise that it is skilled work.”

Dominique also talked about the importance of encouraging more people to take up caring as a career, and how schools and other educational institutions need to play a role to promote the benefits of the profession. ‘It’s about changing the narrative, to appeal to people from across society.’

3. Let’s pool resources and integrate health and social care

The conversation around integrating health and social care has been ongoing for too long. Delegates recognised that there are pockets of outstanding practice but that these are not shared widely enough, so that others can emulate it. This has a detrimental effect on people living with dementia who would benefit from this good practice.

With this in mind, Martin Green’s views on integrated care resonated widely with the room; “It’s not a health pound, a social pound, or a community pound. It is a citizen pound.”

The speakers and delegates commented on the importance of the DAA. It is vital for health and social care professionals to take action to bring about integrated care. It is through events such as our annual conference that members and supporters meet, share this outstanding practice and build their networks to enable them to adopt new practice in their own locality settings. In the words of Dominque Kent, “the only way to deal with the social care crisis is to collaborate and tackle it head on.”

4. Now is the time to raise the voices of people living with dementia from seldom heard groups

National DAA members have told us that one of the most pressing challenges for health and social care professionals is enabling people living with dementia from seldom heard groups to have their voices heard, and to improve post diagnostic support for these communities. Examples of seldom heard groups include LGBT, BAME, young onset and the prison community, but there are many, many more.

That is why the DAA 2017 campaign will aim to improve post diagnostic support for people with dementia and carers from seldom heard groups. Through the campaign we hope to:


  • Raise awareness of the specific issues faced by people with dementia and carers from seldom heard groups
  • Create system-level change across health and social care
  • Encourage individual organisations to commit to actions.

As part of this campaign, we will run a number of roundtables bringing together key individuals and organisations who are involved in the support of these groups to highlight the challenges they face, capture and promote existing outstanding practice, and to develop a ‘call to action’ which will be aimed at the health and social care system.

5. It’s all good talking…but it’s time to DO something

There can be no doubt that the stars of our conference bookended the day: Nigel Hullah who spoke about his experience with dementia and Harold, who eloquently summarised the thoughts of every delegate in the room; “It’s all very well talking about how we need to change, but when are we actually going to do something about it?”

It is with these words that members, supporters and speakers ended the day, each committed to taking tangible action that improves the lives of people living with dementia.

Andrea Sutcliffe said “it was a real privilege to speak at the Dementia Action Alliance conference today. I was able to share the findings of the CQC’s State of Care report which highlighted that social care is at a tipping point, which resonated with people in the room. It was an enjoyable discussion and it was great to see people being positive about the possibilities of working collaboratively so that people living with dementia are listened to, and receive good quality care. The most important question asked what we will do next – and taking action will be my commitment following today.” 

This event was sponsored by Quality Compliance Systems.

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