The Cumberland Gives Vital Help To Dignity in Dementia Charity


Cumbrians living with dementia received crucial support thanks to a grant from The Cumberland building society.

When outdoor activities were stopped by lockdowns, staff from the social enterprise Dignity in Dementia switched online.

“It was a really difficult time for people living with dementia,” said Diane Smillie, a director of the company.

“The pandemic restrictions destroyed people’s routines; things like going for a walk in the afternoon or for a cup of tea in a café, or dementia activities, which are so important for emotional wellbeing.”

A £20,000 grant from The Cumberland building society funded two part-time activity co-ordinators who were able to launch online, telephone and letter writing support.

Heather Ruckledge and Gilli Goodfellow from Cockermouth ran weekly online activity sessions on topics such as crafts, food, poetry and music.

“It occupied people for an hour, and aimed to be fun and entertaining, potentially giving the carer a bit of time to themselves, and providing a sense of routine,” said Diane. 

“Heather and Gilli were able to help about 12 different families in Penrith, Workington, Cockermouth, Keswick and Whitehaven.”

Following lockdown, they also started groups at Under Skiddaw Village Hall and in Seascale Library which may continue.

The grant from The Cumberland also enabled Dignity in Dementia to begin delivering dementia training courses for family and carers online, as well as a monthly support group, reaching many more people than previously. 

“The money really made a huge difference,” said Diane. “There will always be a need for work like this. The medical services can only do so much.

“The emotional wellbeing aspect of caring for someone with dementia doesn’t get a lot of assistance.”

One family member said; “Definitely the pandemic would have been a lot more bleak without the blessing of the Dignity in Dementia staff bringing some stimulation, reminiscence, music, fun and social contact to our lives.”

Every year The Cumberland building society gives out grants to local charitable causes from its Community Fund. 

Phil Ward, brand manager with The Cumberland, said: “ We believe it’s important for businesses like ours to support people in our communities who are vulnerable or when they need extra help.

“We are proud to have been able to help Dignity in Dementia carry out this crucial work.”