Prestigious award for Newtownabbey Learning Disability and Dementia group

Sarah Travers with Tracy Smyth, the Skyway Club Fortwilliam Day Centre, The Everton Day Centre, Community Day Centre and Bernadine McCrory; Director Alzheimer's Society.  Picture: Elaine Hill Photography.
Sarah Travers with Tracy Smyth, the Skyway Club Fortwilliam Day Centre, The Everton Day Centre, Community Day Centre and Bernadine McCrory; Director Alzheimer's Society. Picture: Elaine Hill Photography.

The Dementia Friendly Awards last week celebrated many individuals and groups across the province who are working to support those living with dementia.

Tracy Smyth from Ballyclare was awarded along with the learning disability and dementia group that she leads, helping them to raise awareness of dementia to their peers.

The winners of the fifth Northern Ireland Dementia Friendly Awards were announced at a prestigious event in Belfast’s Europa Hotel on November 25, where television personality and Alzheimer’s Society Sarah Travers hosted the ceremony.

Learning Disability and Dementia Champions from Newtownabbey and north Belfast day centres, along with Tracy Smyth from Ballyclare celebrated, as they were awarded the Championing Diversity award.

This award recognises action taken to increase connections with diverse communities making sure we are truly here for everyone affected by dementia.

Adults with learning disabilities across Belfast were keen to access information about dementia. Together with Tracy Smyth they worked hard to set up an innovative, collaborative working partnership.

Service users from four day centres across the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, including The Skyway Club, Fortwilliam Day Centre and Community Day Services North, have taken part in adapted dementia friendly communities workshops; 68 adults with learning disabilities have attended dementia friends sessions for people with learning disabilities. They now have the skills and confidence to help those affected by dementia.

The group have made their day centres and community centres dementia friendly by being more informed and aware of the needs of someone living with dementia.

They have put up notice boards in the day centre reflecting their learning on dementia and made dementia their topic of the month, sharing their learning with other service users in the day centres.

Upon winning the award, Tracy said: “We are so overwhelmed and excited to have won this award. We all jumped up and down with joy when we heard our group called out!

“I think everyone was in shock, but I’m just so proud of each and every one of the group and so happy that their hard work has been awarded and recognised.

“Many of the group have already listed brilliant ideas on how we can expand the work that we’ve done, to ensure we can train more people with learning difficulties to understand dementia.

“The cause is so close to the hearts of many in this group, some of whom has relatives or friends with dementia but had no idea what that meant. They all show so much passion to learn more and teach others about dementia.”

The group also worked with Alzheimer’s Society to create easy-read fact sheets, so that resources to help people understand dementia are now readily available for those with learning disabilities.

Dementia is the 21st century’s biggest killer. Someone develops the condition every three minutes – but too many face it alone. Alzheimer’s Society’s 2019 Dementia Friendly Awards recognise, celebrate and promote the inspirational achievements of those uniting to making a real difference to people living with dementia.

Bernadine McCrory, Alzheimer’s Society Northern Ireland Director, said: “This year’s awards celebrate individuals, organisations and communities leading and inspiring a change that will transform the lives of people living with dementia forever, challenging misunderstandings, changing attitudes and taking action.

“Everyone at Alzheimer’s Society has been impressed by Tracy’s contribution to all areas of our work, and we are delighted the judges have also recognised her work alongside the Learning Disability and Dementia Champions group.

“The level of nominations received this year was truly phenomenal and there were some exceptional stories heard at the awards ceremony.

“There are over 441 Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland ensuring people with dementia are empowered to live a life they.

“All the finalists and winners at the Dementia Friendly Awards have demonstrated how we can unite against dementia and support those affected by the condition.”

This year there were nine awards in categories for Trailblazer of the Year, Dementia Friendly Community, Dementia Friends Champion, Dementia Friendly Organisation (Small/Medium), Dementia Friendly Organisation (Large), Inspiring Young Person, Youth Organisation, Championing Diversity and 40th Anniversary - Lifetime Achievement.

Details of the awards, including a full list of winners for the different categories, can be found online at