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Thames Water becomes Reading’s first dementia friendly business

Monday 20th July 2020 15:00

Thames Water people with dementia friendly sign

Thames Water has become the first business in Reading to be recognised as “dementia friendly” by a local dementia action group.

The water company received the accreditation in recognition of its work to raise awareness of the condition amongst its staff, from Dementia Friendly Reading, a support group recognised by the Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia friendly communities initiative.

In 2019 more than 250 employees attended dementia awareness sessions at Thames Water’s offices in Reading, Swindon and Rickmansworth. They learnt how to recognise symptoms and how best to offer support to friends and family living with dementia, and customers they may meet in person or speak to on the phone.

Michelle Berry from Dementia Friendly Reading said: “It’s been a delight for us to work with Thames Water on working towards a dementia friendly status. Its staff and management have been very committed to the values of being dementia friendly and really took on board how important it is to understand the needs of someone living with or affected by dementia. Thames Water truly deserves its dementia friendly status and I look forward to continuing to work with them to carry on the excellent work.”

In total, ten sessions were run by representatives from the dementia friendly group during Thames Water’s annual ‘Learning at Work Week’, when employees can take time away from their days jobs to learn valuable life skills such as personal finance management or more about other religions and cultures.

Sandra Davie leads Thames Water’s extra care team and took part in one of the dementia awareness sessions. She said: “After a family member developed dementia and passed away at a fairly young age, I was keen to learn more about what’s behind this horrible disease. The sessions were a real eye-opener and now I’m hoping to train as a dementia champion so I can run them myself for colleagues, especially those in my own team who are in touch with our most vulnerable customers every day.”

Tania Christie, Thames Water’s partnerships coordinator, said: “We’re immensely proud to be the first Reading business to be recognised as dementia friendly. It’s important to us that our people understand dementia and recognise when someone, be that a customer or a colleague, may need extra support. 

“The awareness sessions really challenged our perception of dementia and brought colleagues together who either had a personal experience of it or work in roles where they’re likely to be in touch with people affected by dementia. If we can identify and build relationships with those customers, it means we can make sure they’re well looked after should, for example, their water supply be interrupted, or they need help understanding or paying their bill.”

Dementia patients qualify to join Thames Water’s free Priority Services Register – a secure database of customers who would struggle to get by should their home’s water supply be interrupted or need help managing their account. In such circumstances priority service customers are contacted by Thames Water’s customer care team who can deliver bottled water directly to the homes of people unable to get to a collection hub or give them advanced warning of planned work which may interrupt their water supply. The company has 83,000 customers on its Priority Services Register and plans to increase it to 410,000 by 2025. 

Find out if you qualify for the Priority Services Register and sign up online or by calling us on 0800 009 3652.

You can also find out more information on the Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia friendly communities initiative.