Building a Dementia Friendly society

We are backing Alzheimer's Society's Dementia Friends programme, the biggest ever national initiative to change the perception of dementia.

There are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK – a number which is set to rise to over 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2050*. With a growing number of people living with the condition, its essential that we live in a dementia friendly society. That is why we are backing Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme, which is the biggest ever initiative to change the perception of dementia by transforming the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition.

As part of the programme, over 21,000 of our people have become Dementia Friends which includes thousands of engineers and call centre staff. This enables us to better understand the challenges people with dementia may face and improve our support for them. Many employees have also become Dementia Friends Champions, delivering dementia awareness sessions to share their learning with those in their local community.  

We have additionally reviewed and tailored processes and procedures to ensure they are dementia friendly.  For example, we reviewed our Power of Attorney process to make it easier for customers and their loved ones to manage their energy. We have also worked closely with the Alzheimer’s Society to encourage families, friends and carers of customers living with dementia, to contact their energy company if they are concerned about the energy account of a loved one.

Following the success of the programme at Centrica, we wanted to help other utilities become dementia friendly. So, we were delighted to be asked by the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge Group, to support the creation of a dementia-friendly guide for utilities which spans energy, water and communications. We chaired the Utilities Working Group and co-wrote the guide which was published in February 2018. The guide represents the views of people living with dementia and their carers, alongside best practice learning and experiences of the working group and other organisations. 

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society CEO said: “Dementia is the biggest health and social care challenge facing society, with over 1 million set to develop the condition by 2021. Yet we hear too often from people with dementia and their families who are struggling with their Utilities providers - from the woman in her 90s, living alone, who had her phone line cut off just before Christmas to the man paying hundreds of pounds for TV services he didn’t even realise he had. Some businesses are already doing great work to address these issues, but too many vulnerable customers are being failed and urgent action is needed to change this – including ensuring their needs are being met, they are given clear, timely information and are charged a fair price. Utilities companies must unite now and commit to the principles of this guide to improve the lives of people with dementia.”

Our efforts to ensure our customers in vulnerable circumstances receive the help they need has been recognised. In 2017, the Alzheimer’s Society awarded British Gas as the Dementia Friendly Organisation of the year. British Gas also achieved the British Standards Institution verification for providing inclusive services to vulnerable customers in 2017, the first energy supplier to do so. But the hard work won’t stop -  we will continue to work hard and ensure our customers receive the help they need.

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* Alzheimer’s Society, Facts for the Media.