West Yorkshire Police promotes closer working with people with dementia

PCSO Gareth Price with resident Hardeep Kaur Kalsi whose husband has dementia. (S)
PCSO Gareth Price with resident Hardeep Kaur Kalsi whose husband has dementia. (S)

To coincide with Dementia Awareness Week, West Yorkshire Police is launching a new campaign to raise awareness of the condition and promote closer working between police, those with dementia, and their carers.

The Force has been working to raise awareness among staff and officers of what dementia is and best practice in dealing with people with dementia since joining the Dementia Action Alliance earlier this year.

A campaign is being launched today (May 18) to coincide with the start of Dementia Awareness Week to challenge some of the misconceptions associated with dementia and to make carers, relatives, and friends of members of the community with dementia aware of how they can support the work being done by West Yorkshire Police and how the Force can support them in return.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: “It is vital when those with dementia have contact with the police that our officers and staff are aware of the signs to deal with the incident appropriately and the processes for referring that individual for further care and support – if that is not already in place.

“The focus on increasing understanding of dementia has already paid dividends with a recent incident highlighted to me where an officer was called to a report of a shoplifting offence but was able to spot the signs that the alleged suspect had dementia and had not intended to take the items without paying.

“By better understanding the condition and the visible symptoms of it, the officer treated the individual with dignity, care and respect and not as a suspect for a criminal offence.

“While we are putting significant efforts into ensuring that our own officers and staff understand the individual needs of those with dementia, we also want to raise awareness in the wider community and ensure that we are all playing our part in looking out for vulnerable residents of West Yorkshire.

“We are also keen to work with registered carers, friends, relatives and those with dementia to make sure that we understand how we can support them and in turn how they can aid us in our work.”

West Yorkshire Police has been working with care providers over the last year and encouraging them to sign up to the Herbert Protocol which ensures that key information is kept on file by the care home or sheltered housing provider to speed up the process should a resident be reported missing. This has been extended with individual carers, friends and relatives now also able to sign up to the scheme.

Carers, family members and friends can complete in advance, a form recording all vital details, such as medication required, mobile numbers, places previously located, a photograph etc.

In the event of their family member or friend going missing, the form can be easily sent or handed to the police to reduce the time taken in gathering this information. The Herbert Protocol initiative is named after George Herbert, a War veteran of the Normandy landings, who lived with dementia.

Community Champions have recently been introduced in each of the districts to actively engage with dementia community groups and organisations to better understand the needs of those with dementia and any particular areas of concern for them.

They also act as dedicated points of contact for officers and staff who require advice after coming in to contact with individuals with dementia as part of their work whether that be as a victim, witness or suspect for a crime or as a missing person.

Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “People with dementia are potentially vulnerable and need treating with care, compassion and dignity. I am pleased to be able to support the Herbert Protocol and that West Yorkshire Police are doing what they can to ensure officers and staff understand the individual needs of those with dementia.

“It is great that Community Champions will be on hand in each of the districts throughout West Yorkshire to help and promote awareness. I applaud West Yorkshire Police and core partners for their work in this dementia campaign.”

For those interested in finding out more about West Yorkshire Police’s work in this area, a live web chat is due to take place on May 21 with Sergeant Vanessa Rolfe from West Yorkshire Police, Michael White, Regional Manager for the Alzheimer’s Society and Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick of North Yorkshire Police who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s national lead for dementia.

The web chat will be available via the following link, where you can also arrange for a reminder to be set ahead of the date: http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/helpadvice/dementia-awareness/live-web-chat-thursday-21st-may

More information about the dementia campaign and the Herbert Protocol is available at http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/dementia

The Herbert Protocol form can be accessed via the following link: http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/dementia/herbert-protocol