sccTHE WORK OF A SUNDERLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL in helping to raise the issue of dementia continues to receive national recognition.

Some of the millions of pounds raised by Comic Relief through the generosity of the British viewing public over the years, has been used to help fund community projects such as the ‘Living Room’ at Bernard Gilpin School in Houghton.

With continuing support of Sunderland City Council including initial funding from the Coalfields Area Committee, the project raises awareness of dementia and provides help and support to those living in the area with dementia and their carers.

The dementia friendly school in Hall Lane has made key steps towards reducing the stigma those results in many people with dementia experiencing loneliness and social exclusion.

This includes learning about dementia in the school curriculum, which teaches the children about the disease and how they may understand and support those affected by it.

The school’s ‘Living Room’ also provides advice and support and a range of physical and social activities when many of the pupils join those with dementia and their carers to enjoy time together.

Many of the governors, staff and children have also become part of the city-wide network of ‘Dementia Friends’ who are equipped with the knowledge and training to provide advice and support to people in their communities and the help and resources available including those at the school.

Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Pat Smith said: “We can all be very proud that Bernard Gilpin School continues to get national recognition for its work promoting awareness of dementia, and its role in helping to create a community based network of help, support and advice.

“As a city we are committed to helping all those suffering from the condition and their families, working with community mental health partners such as the Tyne and Wear Care Alliance and the Alzheimer’s Society as part of the National Dementia Strategy.

“The school plays a vital role in that, and we hope that the ‘Living Room’ can help set a national example other schools and communities might want to follow.”

British Olympian Denise Lewis OBE visited the school in November on behalf of Sport Relief to see the inter-generational education work of the dementia project, the film made was recently screened on BBC One during The Great Sport Relief Bake Off and is available online at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Afpv61btfPI&index=6&list=PL5KXCGEFbuhIPX0oZb18g5nBNEl-XrT50

During her visit Denise met local couple Linda, 67, and Hughie McGill, 66. The film describes the impact a diagnosis of dementia has had on the couple and their family and the support provided to them at Bernard Gilpin School which includes weekly singing, dancing and social activities, which helps them live well with dementia.

Linda said: “It’s nice to meet other carers in the same boat – we share our stories and keep each other going. As for Hughie, he loves coming, he has made so many friends and is so happy to connect with the children. It helps both of us.”

Over the last two years £25,000 donated from Comic Relief has helped the school to provide the additional facilities and resources enjoyed by Linda, Hughie and members of the local community.

The school’s dementia project has gone from strength to strength with the generous funding of Comic Relief, winning Alzheimer’s Society best dementia friendly educational initiative in 2015, featuring in the Times Educational Supplement and being visited by Angela Rippon OBE, in her role as Ambassador for dementia friendly schools.

Headteacher, Andrew Bainbridge, said: “Our school is right at the heart of our community and we are determined to do our bit to make Houghton a place where people with dementia can live well – we are proud of what we do in helping those like Linda and Hughie and in turn they give so much back to all of us.”