Cardiff dementia sufferers fight to keep support service

FAMILIES have vowed to fight the threatened closure of the only service for people with early onset dementia in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Funding for the service, which is based in Cardiff, runs out at the end of March.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has said it cannot afford the £17,000-a-year cost of maintaining the service at Oldwell Court.

Families agreed a plan of action at a public meeting on Monday night to fight the closure and protest at the decision not to continue the service.

One former carer, whose husband died after being diagnosed with dementia, said: “Without this service I would probably have been in the Taff a few times.”

Dawn John, manager of the Cardiff branch of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “All the statutory authorities agree these services should be in place and everyone agrees that the number of people being diagnosed is on the up.

“A service such as this should form the very basis on which health and social care should work together to grow services, not cut them.”

And she added: “I don’t think we are in a position where we can be sweet – we need to be speaking from the heart and putting pressure on.

“We are going to keep fighting.”

The young onset dementia service was initially funded by the lottery. The development grants were awarded on the understanding that statutory services would meet the recurrent costs to sustain the service.

Jenny Randerson, AM for Cardiff Central, told the meeting: “When the health board agreed your funding via the lottery they will have agreed as part of that package of money to ensure there is sustainability in the future.”

The service provides vital information and support to people diagnosed with dementia and their carers. The current funding pays for two part-time staff, including Karen Collins, the information and support officer, to run the service.

A second tranche of funding pays for a respite service, which has been funded by Cardiff council. The council has invited the Alzheimer’s Society to re-apply for a £12,600 grant to cover the cost of the service.

But unless Ms Collins’ post is funded, the respite service cannot go ahead.

Peter Baker, 60, whose wife Joyce was diagnosed almost two years ago, said: “The memory team is great at what they do but they look at it from a health angle.

“Without Karen and her team we would have been adrift, not knowing what the next step is. I had being a carer thrust upon me at the same time as Joyce was diagnosed.

“Without that support we couldn’t have moved forward and would have been left feeling very alone.”

Mrs Baker, 59, a former teacher, from Cardiff, added: “I was able to meet people who had what I had.”

A Cardiff and Vale University Health Board spokeswoman said: “The board is looking at ways of continuing to support the service.”