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Pupils explain how they tackle dementia stigma in ITN film

Children at Newent Community School were filmed by ITN Productions last week about the work they have done over the past three years to raise awareness of dementia in Gloucestershire.

The school was selected to pilot the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia in 2013, and since then, pupils have impressed their teachers and local communities with their understanding of the condition and their actions to tackle stigma.

After learning how to spot the signs of dementia and understand that it is not a natural part of ageing in class, the children started to work with local groups and organisations, including Gloucestershire Police Service, to raise awareness of the condition. They have already helped lots of people to understand the impact dementia has on families and communities across the county, sometimes within their own families.

The children’s enthusiasm caught the attention of local NHS, council and social care services. NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which commissions this work in schools, subsequently invited the pupils to take part in a short film about dementia that is to be aired at the NHS Alliance conference in London in December.

Dr Hein Le Roux, GP and Clinical Lead for Dementia at the CCG, said:

“It is wonderful to see how much these young people have done to understand dementia and raise awareness of the condition to help improve the lives of vulnerable people.

Many of the young people involved have relatives or family friends living with the condition, so have a real life insight into the misunderstandings and difficulties dementia can cause.

By educating the next generation and challenging attitudes, we can remove some of the stigmas associated with dementia and encourage people to seek help earlier.”

Head of Personal Health, Social and Economic at Newent Community School, Di Harrill said:

“It’s so important that young people have a good understanding of dementia and all the related issues, not only for those who have family connections, but equally for those who don’t. We hope that by educating young people, it will help to reduce the stigma often associated with this illness. We have found that the Dementia project has helped young people develop empathy, tolerance and acceptance of differences, and hope that it will enable people with dementia live better lives.”

Both the school and the CCG have also worked closely with the Forest of Dean District Council, which has been supporting the awareness raising sessions in schools as it acknowledges that raising awareness amongst young people is crucial to fighting the stigma about dementia.

Councillor Terry Hale, Forest of Dean District Council, Cabinet Member for Community added:

“The awareness sessions are designed to increase a young person’s understanding and will build their confidence so they can support, interact and communicate with people living with dementia in their everyday lives.”

The film will be aired at the NHS Alliance Conference in central London on 9 December 2015.

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