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Thousands of electricity workers take action on dementia

Thousands of electricity workers have discovered new ways to help customers living with dementia through Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme.

From Press releases - 24 May 2018 12:00 AM

One year ago, UK Power Networks pledged to give its entire workforce access to a specially-designed course which helps people understand dementia, a condition which is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
 
As it stands today, during Dementia Action Week 2018 (May 21-27), over 3,000 employees are now ‘Dementia Friends’, after gaining a new perspective on dementia and learning ways to make sure people with the condition feel understood and included.
 
Carol Hole, customer service trainer and Dementia Friends champion at UK Power Networks, said: “We train all our new recruits in the call centre and people are enthralled by it. I have led about 20 sessions and I find that everyone engages with the programme. Personally, it has made me a lot more aware of the struggles that people go through with dementia and I can relate better to people who are forgetful or slowing down. I am a lot more patient.
 
“The training made a big impression on me and I’ve applied it outside work. In a local supermarket, for example, I noticed an older lady kept trying to pick up a pepper with a reduced label on through the mirror that it was reflected in. I would have helped her, regardless of the training, but rather than finding the situation strange I instinctively understood her difficulty.”
 
Beyond training its own workforce, UK Power Networks has also spent the last year delivering the Dementia Friends programme to other gas and water companies, as well as community engagement teams tackling fuel poverty in London, the South East and East Anglia. The company helped produce a Dementia Friendly Utilities Guide with Alzheimer’s Society to share best practice with other utilities.
 
Customer service managers have looked at all the points of contact that people with dementia might have with the business and have devised improved services, from ensuring that phone calls from people with dementia get answered quickly to having a nominated person who the company will contact as for back-up support if they need support. Before bad weather the company prioritises weather alerts with these customer groups so they can be better prepared if they need extra help and there are more frequent reminders before planned interruptions to supply.
 
Kerry Potter, priority services manager, said: “Our business awareness of dementia has increased exponentially. The commitment from senior management has been inspiring from the first day our directors became Dementia Friends. Our teams are better equipped to understand dementia, so we can be more patient and provide the extra care people need, especially in an emergency situation. Our people are more understanding and considerate as a result of Dementia Friends.
 
“The staff feedback has been incredible. Most people love the bookcase video, which resonates with people, so they understand dementia is not just about memory loss. Making this part of our customer experience training has made it easier for us talk about the dementia, which affects so many of our staff, some of whom are carers. It means people no longer feel isolated.”
 
Tomorrow (May 25) fundraising events are taking place across UK Power Networks’ offices to support Alzheimer’s Society’s work during Dementia Action Week (May 21–27).