Since my last column, work for you at Westminster and here in Angus has been incredibly busy. However much that has been for me and my team, it pales into comparison to the work that millions of people do for their loved ones, friends and relatives each and every day.
Down at Westminster, I attended Alzheimer’s Society’s drop-in event for Dementia Action Week. It was a privilege to meet with this outstanding organisation and hear first-hand about the importance of a good diagnosis experience, and what we can do to reduce the current diagnosis postcode lottery. They informed me that, here in Angus, our diagnosis rate falls just below the national target – so there remains work for the NHS Tayside, the Scottish Government and voluntary-sector partners to do in this regard.
Alzheimer’s Society’s sister charity here is Alzheimer Scotland, and I also had the privilege of visiting them in Arbroath, for a cuppa and a chat about the work they do here with services delivered from Arbroath and outreach across Angus. There were service users there, both living with dementia and those caring for them, together with staff to help set out the work that is done to help improve the lives of everyone involved with dementia and in caring roles. Dementia is something that almost everyone in Scotland will have some experience of, and those who offer support are critical to ensuring that nobody faces dementia alone.
This was a very positive visit with lots of laughs in amongst the very serious business of discussing the pressures of the voluntary sector which supports families and also the demands on carers.
Earlier this month, of course, was Carer’s Week, celebrating the vital work done by unpaid carers to support people with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or who need extra help as they grow older. According to new research – half of the population have experience of providing unpaid care yet nearly three-quarters of people with that experience don’t identify themselves as unpaid carers.
Caring is invaluable – that is why I have joined seven charities in calling for the UK Government to give unpaid carers the support, including access to breaks, that they sorely deserve.
It takes a special kind of person to give themselves to supporting others, and I want to put on record the scale of my admiration for every single person who does so.