Wickham Market: Pioneering carers’ project joins expanding dementia partnership

Wickham Market has been shortlisted for Suffolk Village of the Year.; The Wickham Market Family Car

Wickham Market has been shortlisted for Suffolk Village of the Year.; The Wickham Market Family Carers Support Group; L-R Ruth Trench, Eileen Elias, Jacqui Berry, Don Berry, Pam Bell, Vaerie Follows, Cheryl Youngman - Credit: Archant

A pioneering care programme run by volunteers in east Suffolk has been chosen as the latest partner in a growing network of dementia hubs.

The Wickham Market Respite Care Volunteers Project, which offers free, fully-qualified support to local families, is working with Sue Ryder to open a new “Synergy Cafe” in the village – offering patients and their carers a place to seek advice and relaxation in a safe environment.

Pam Bell, founder of the Wickham project, said the partnership offered “brilliant” opportunities to progress the group’s existing work.

“The volunteers have so far delivered, free of charge, almost 1,000 hours of qualified, fully-insured support care,” she said. “By working together we can achieve much more.”

The volunteer carer project began in 2009 in recognition of the difficulties in meeting the demands of an increasing number of vulnerable people in the village. With support from Suffolk County Council and the Family Carers project, Mrs Bell and her team organised training for 21 volunteers, nine of whom are now providing respite care for 42 registered members, free of charge.


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“We’ve got no premises, no assets, nobody is paid, and we’ve got no real income – we just get on and do it,” Mrs Bell said. “In Wickham we get off our backsides if there’s a problem and we deal with it – there’s no point crying to the government, we have a responsibility for our own community – it just makes common sense.”

Wickham is set to become the eighth village to host a Synergy Cafe under plans set out by the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, to provide an accessible support network throughout both counties.

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Jo Marshall, Suffolk services manager at Sue Ryder, said the projects had already proved a “huge success” with “extremely positive” user feedback.

“The best solutions arise when the community gets together themselves and works out what they need,” she said.

A meeting is being held on April 30 to discuss the partnership.

Meanwhile, Mrs Bell said there is a “desperate” need for more volunteers to join. Call 01728 747341 or email wmcproject@btinternet.com to find out more.

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