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“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

Networking is not a new concept, but I’ve been contemplating the power of networking in connecting us to each other and providing a valuable bridge for people and a path to achieving our ambitions. The first Essex Mind and Spirit (EMS) conference that took place in April 2017 at Chelmsford Cathedral, was a beginning for our focus on the role that spiritual care can play in supporting dementia and has become a great example of the impact a network can create.

Fostering shared values and objectives is key to helping people find what connects them and encourages innovation and collaboration A consistent theme running through the post conference report (available to view on the EMS website- www.essex.mindandspirit.org.uk) was for EMS to network more effectively with those living with dementia and their carers. With this in mind I joined both the Dementia Action Alliance Local Chairs meetings, and the Pan Essex Dementia Action Alliance group, both of which meet at the Essex County Council, and have recently delivered training courses on spirituality and dementia; Understanding Faith and Cultural Needs in Dementia’, facilitated by Shama Kamar, STP Mental Health Programme Manager for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, achieved courtesy of another network connection.

The newly formed Essex Faith Covenant is also proving a useful conduit for networking and as a portal for information between EMS and other voluntary and statutory organisations. I was pleased to hear that our South Essex Cluster Group ‘Women Together’, run by our secretary Sidra Naeem, was recently awarded funding to provide services in Basildon, which will support the aim of the Covenant to promote open, practical working and strengthen community cohesion.

Laying strong foundations has been vital to enable us to build a network that can deliver impact for the people of Essex. EMS through its contacts and website, wanted to offer support, guidance and information to anyone who might come seeking the same, perhaps as a carer or someone who has recently received a diagnosis of dementia. We are delighted that Mark Neville, who is the DAA Coordinator for Essex and who facilitated my joining the local DAA group and the Pan Essex Dementia Action Alliance, has agreed in turn to join the EMS Steering Group, and in due course we are hoping to work with him to progress another of the post conference report recommendations, to work with other faith groups and organisations to offer advice and resources to help them become more dementia friendly.

Our association with Mark and The Alzheimers Society also means that we can create a Society space on our website to let people know what resources are out there and some of the help that is available to those living with and managing dementia. Mark writes……..

“One clear message from people living with dementia, their loved ones and carers is that timely and appropriate information and support is vital in helping them manage dementia and the Alzheimer’s Society is committed to being the ‘go to’ service for people living with dementia, etc. However, to meet the needs of the growing number of people with dementia (a person is diagnosed every 3 minutes in the UK) services and organisations must work in partnership and pool all our resources and knowledge. We must also have clearly identified goals and ways of assessing and monitoring our successes’ in ensuring that people with dementia are still able to participate in society.”

I am truly thankful to our partners; and by continuing to build this thoughtful network I am confident that together we can create social impact.

Ivor Moody

The Rev’d Canon Ivor Moody is chair of EMS and Mid Essex Inter Faith Forum and is also a member of the Essex Faith Covenant Steering Group.