The University of Worcester has been awarded the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community title in the coveted Times Higher Education Awards.
In a glittering ceremony in London last night, the University of Worcester was recognised for its Association for Dementia Studies’ work to establish and develop Meeting Centres to support people living with dementia.
Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies, said: “I am so proud to have collected this award on behalf of the University of Worcester. Our work on Meeting Centres has been a sustained team effort dating back to 2014, incorporating true partnership working between the Association for Dementia Studies at the University, international colleagues from many countries, national charities, health and care providers and local people determined to make a difference to the lives of those affected by dementia. In my opinion, this wonderful work could not have happened within any other university except Worcester. The ethical leadership, inclusivity and person-centred value base that epitomises the University of Worcester means that our work in person-centred dementia care has flourished.”
The Association for Dementia Studies was created as a research centre at Worcester 10 years ago. In 2014, it began work to set up two pilot local meeting centres, in Droitwich Spa and Leominster, for people with dementia, offering them a place to talk to others, to get help that focuses on their needs, and to have fun.
But 2017-18 was a crunch point for the project as research funding ended, bringing the prospect of closure for centres that users had come to see as a lifeline. Resolving to do all they could to keep the centres open, the Association for Dementia Studies team helped them to become charities so they could continue their work.
The team also applied for funding to scale up the programme to national level, securing nearly £600,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund, which created a National Reference Group. There are now eight dementia meeting centres operating across the UK, with a further 20 expressions of interest.
The judges said Worcester’s Meeting Centres were “innovative, practical and the result of a genuine partnership between a research centre and local help points”, describing the Association for Dementia Studies team as a “truly dedicated group who stepped in decisively when funding was at risk”.
Professor Brooker added: “The Meeting Centres at Droitwich Spa and Leominster were instrumental in helping us to research what helps people to adjust to all the challenges that dementia brings. Winning the funding from the National Community Fund has enabled the University to spread the know-how across the whole of the UK.”
This latest achievement comes in a line of recent successes for the University, which include winning Sustainability Institution of the Year in the Green Gown Awards and being shortlisted for University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards. Earlier this year Worcester won the Guardian University Award for Internationalisation in recognition of its world-leading work in inclusive sport.