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Smoke and fire

It is us

ually good to find ‘Alzheimer’s’ on the front page of the newspaper – It does not happen often – and perhaps most of the hot headlines prove to be red herrings. Today’s ‘Alzheimer’s charity ‘gave £750,000 in NDA Payoffs’ does not set the pulse racing: Alzheimer’s Society ‘paid out £750,000’ to staff amid bullying claims

The story is based on the witness of a whistle-blower, substantiated by comments from others who have worked for the society recently. It reports on an organisation where senior staff have been seen to be insensitive to alternative points of view, bullying and vindictive – and paying substantial sums to disgruntled staff who have left the organisation in return to their signing Non-Disclosure-Agreements (gagging Clauses).

It would seem that the senior staff concerned have all moved on from the Society to well-paid and responsible positions with other charities. This is not reassuring.

The Society has grown impressively since its modest beginnings in 1979. It has become a large company with a turnover of over £100 million pounds per annum. With its help dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have become well recognised and are now greatly feared, especially by older people – hence the massive donations to sponsor research and information activities. In addition the Society has become a major player in the delivery of community services.

Latterly the Society became centrally driven – HQ determining policy and rolling out plans to be effected in localities. All funds go to HQ to be distributed according to their priorities. Power and influence and finance are located there.

Some of us have been uncomfortable with this model from the time that it was inflicted on the Society.

It may well be that things are not so bad as headlines imply – Let us hope so. Whatever the outcome, perhaps this will be a time to look again at the way the society is organised. Even the change of name – from ‘The Alzheimer’s Disease Society’ to ‘The Alzheimer’s Society’ seemed wrong. We are not about Dr Alzheimer but about dementia and similar conditions. Let’s make that much clear. A return to local groups and branches with their own elected officers and a budget determined by their local fundraising will be welcomed and allows scrutiny close to home. The Wolverhampton Branch of the 1990s was determinedly against providing services itself – it was proud to run regular support and information activities for carers and other interested people, and chivvied the powers that be to provide what they should be providing. Such a model is probably corruption-proof.

Turning a difficulty into a positive is always good for the soul.

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