On 23rd October we brought together around 35 core members of the UK Meeting Centres Support Programme Reference Group for its first meeting as part of our new Big Lottery funded Meeting Centre Project.
The Hive library in Worcester provided a great central location for our group of academics, people engaged in running Meeting Centres, people from the charitable sector, Innovations in Dementia, DEEP, TIDE, NHS and social care statutory sector, commissioners, professional clinicians and care and support providers.
Following a welcome and project overview from our own Professor Dawn Brooker, the group heard about the current Meeting Centre situation in the Netherlands from Professor Rose-Marie Dröes, the founder of Meeting Centres.
Breaking the ice – with a tennis racket!
As people were from different backgrounds we had a great icebreaker session. Everyone was invited to bring and share an item representing why they thought they had been invited to be part of the Reference Group, and what they could offer. A very diverse range of items – including a pink tennis racket – emerged from people’s bags, but I think the most impressive was a tattoo of Dory from the ‘Finding Dory’ film.
Current Meeting Centres in the UK – who’s already doing what?
Representatives from a number of existing (or planned) Meeting Centres spoke to the group to provide an insight into what’s going on in the UK already. We heard from
- Alan Humphries (Droitwich Spa)
- Phillipa Bruce-Kerr (Leominster)
- Jacqueline Parkes (Lutterworth and Northampton)
- Sam Bolam (Powys)
- Graham Galloway (Kirriemuir)
What we learnt is that there is some fabulous work going on out there. While everyone has a slightly different way of implementing Meeting Centres to fit with their local situation, the common enthusiasm and drive was evident.
A focus on funding
The main theme of the first meeting was funding, considering some of the opportunities and challenges around it. After hearing about how Droitwich Spa and Leominster have coped with the whole funding issue over the past year or so, the Reference Group split into three groups to consider three different aspects of funding:
- What can each of us do to lever funding or support in kind?
- What can we do locally or nationally to initiate Meeting Centres?
- What can we do locally or nationally to sustain Meeting Centres?
Using listening rounds meant that everyone’s views were heard, and gave us a lot of food for thought. It also gave us a lot of information to try and synthesise and summarise!
The Reference Group in the future
Final discussions about the role and membership of the Reference Group proved useful, and the level of interest within the group suggested that we’re on to a good thing. Or maybe we all just enjoy a chance to get together and network…
Either way, we’re going to do it all again in six months’ time with a focus on where Meeting Centres fit in the dementia care pathway and what impact that might have. That doesn’t mean we’ll be quiet in the meantime though as we’ll be looking to involve subgroups from the overall Reference Group as and when we need to across all strands of the project.
Many thanks to everyone who made the day such a success, creating a positive and supportive environment for sharing our ideas.