Rotherham volunteers, aged 73-90, named national champs

1st April 2019
A group of South Yorkshire volunteers, aged 73-90, have won a national award for the support they provide for local people caring for someone with dementia.

The 19 volunteers from Rotherham were named nationwide unpaid carers of the year at the Great British Care Awards, beating off competition from eight other regional finalists. They were presented with their award during a gala dinner attended by over 1,000 people at Birmingham’s ICC.

Each year for the past decade, the Rotherham volunteers have clocked up thousands of hours between them at dementia carer support groups – known as dementia cafes. All have had experience of caring for a loved one with dementia themselves.

The volunteers spend time each week chatting, playing games, dancing and singing with the carers and the people with dementia they care for.

They were nominated by adult health and social care charity Making Space, which coordinates dementia carer support services inRotherham.

Six of the volunteers, Sandra Brockley, 79, Alec Senior, 90, Roy Ashton, 89, Betty Parkin, 73, Dorothy Bolland, 75, and Maggie Smith, 79, attended the ceremony, along with Cath Magee and Steph Johansen from Making Space

Volunteer Sandra has raised over £1m for a range of charities in Rotherham in the last 30 years and was awarded her MBE in 2006 as a reward for her community work.

She said: “Dementia cafes provide an invaluable form of support to people living with dementia and their carers. The friendships people make there sustain them when their caring responsibilities come to an end.

“Dementia cafes simply couldn’t function without volunteers as we bring our own experience of what people are going through.

“It feels fantastic that we have all received this recognition for what we do  – and that we have helped to raise the profile of dementia cafes and of volunteering.”

Cath Magee, area manager for Making Space nominated the team.

She said: “When Making Space took over the coordination of dementia carer support services in Rotherham last year, we were amazed by the dedication of the team of volunteers that served the dementia cafes.

“For over a decade they have given their time to talk, play games, to do a spot of dancing and singing and most importantly, to listen to carers and people living with dementia.

“They are committed to helping to improve the resilience of carers coming to the cafes. They also offer a friendship network to carers who are bereaved following the loss of their cared for person. I don’t think I have ever met more enthusiastic and hard working volunteers. I knew I had to nominate them for an award and am not all all surprised that they are now national winners.”

The volunteers received their trophy from the Independent Care Group which sponsored the award.

Its chair, Mike Padgham said: “These volunteers do a quite amazing job. Being a carer for someone with dementia can be a really demanding, stressful task and these volunteers, who have been through it themselves, are a real lifeline.

“In their time volunteering at the dementia cafes they have helped hundreds of people through a really difficult period and they richly deserve this national recognition.”

The volunteers won the regional Unpaid Carer Award at the Great British Care Awards for the Yorkshire and Humber area at the National Railway Museum last November, a victory which qualified them for the national awards.

Making Space runs monthly dementia cafes in Dalton, Wath-upon-Dearne, Thurcroft and Maltby. You can find out more by calling 01709 910889 or emailing