Crucial lifeline for dementia sufferers in Sunderland must stay open – Julie Elliott MP

A young carer walking with an elderly woman.
A young carer walking with an elderly woman.
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The planned closure of a Sunderland support service which offers a crucial lifeline to thousands of people affected by dementia is a terrible blow – which is why I am calling for urgent action to save it.

The Alzheimer’s Society has blamed funding shortages for its decision to shut the Princess of Wales Centre in June. However, I believe there is still time for this decision to be reversed.

In the past few days I have written to the charity, urging them to re-think the closure, as well as to the Minister of State for Health and Social Care – asking for urgent intervention on this issue.

Years of savage Tory cuts to local council budgets undoubtedly played a key part in the decision to close. However, I believe the Society’s move to centralise fundraising in 2009 was a major factor too.

Under the old fundraising structure, money raised in Sunderland stayed in Sunderland. A vibrant and dedicated fundraising culture flourished, with thousands benefitting from the services provided.

When all regions were later subsumed into one centralised system, local funds ended up in a centralised pot.

Constituents predicted back in 2012 that this would result in closure, and sadly they were right.

I cannot help but think that, had fundraising been kept on a local level, the money raised could have helped buttress this crucial service against Government cuts and kept it thriving well into the future.

Most of us know of someone living with dementia – and each deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

A diagnosis can be a very lonely place, especially if help or support isn’t easily available.

It is vital that we try to save the Princess of Wales Centre, and I will be meeting with regional managers of the charity to discuss the issue further in March.

On a brighter note, I am absolutely delighted that a new opt-out system for organ donation cleared its final Parliamentary hurdle this week and is now on its way to achieving Royal Assent.

I have always supported a change to informed consent and, as many of you will know, it is now an issue close to my heart – as my daughter Rebecca is currently on the waiting list for a new kidney.

Informed consent will make a huge difference to the number of organs available for transplant. This change will save many lives. Thank you to all the campaigners who worked so tirelessly for this.