A BARNSLEY charity is bringing laughter and friendship to the former Barnsley County Court building and providing an invaluable lifeline to the town’s dementia sufferers, their families and friends.

Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support (BIADS) has moved into the premises on Eastgate and has launched a day care centre offering a range of activities and services.

With plans in place for an alcohol-free bar, a multi-sensory room and an outside courtyard, the flourishing centre wants to spread the word about the unique experience it offers.

The charity which was launched in 2010 was formed by Barnsley people to provide support to those who have any form of dementia and their families and friends.

As an independent group serving the metropolitan borough of Barnsley it guarantees that all funds raised and donations received will be used here in the town.

Since its launch, the charity’s main aims have been to offer support for carers and activities from drop-ins and holidays to gym sessions and singalongs.

Chief officer Linda Pattison said: “It started out on a small scale, in a small office and we worked hard to get the activities going and the organisation just took off from there.

“We do very well with donations and are very grateful for them every penny given to us stays in Barnsley and we make the most of every pound.

“The day care centre was always a dream and in 2018 we were offered the space rent-free by Kevin Liddey at Kevin Liddey Solicitors.

“We were busy preparing and getting ready to open when Covid hit and everything was put on hold.

“We had to make staff redundant and once we were able to actually look at opening the day centre, it was virtually like starting again but, thankfully we were able to open in April 2021.”

Securing funding gets harder and harder and, although BIADS has been able to win funding through the Henry Smith charity and the Big Lottery Fund, Linda and the team are keen that the charity becomes as self-funding as possible.

There is a charity shop in Royston, preparations are underway for a second to open in Cudworth and the hope is to open a third next year.

Linda has also paid tribute to businesses which have supported the charity: “It’s amazing how willing people and businesses are to help if only you ask.”

Day care manager Ryan Heckler said: “When Nando’s opened in town, we applied to their community fund. They came out to visit us and agreed to help us with the bar plan.

“They’re giving us a large television, pub lighting, new flooring, a bar area and seating. They have put the contractors in place and we are liaising with them on the project.

“As well as that we have a freezer full of Nando’s chicken and we also receive surplus food from M and S Foodhall at Cortonwood so our centre users eat very well when they are here.

“We’re also very grateful to Amey who have agreed to transform our outside area into a small courtyard space as well as refurbishing a room which we have applied for funding to turn into a multi-sensory space.”

The day care centre is currently open four days a week - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am until 4pm with the longer term aim being to offer a seven day a week service.

With capacity for 15 dementia sufferers per day, Linda is keen to spread the word about the day care centre and what it offers.

“It’s mainly through self-referral as we don’t have a contract with the council so all people have to do is get in touch.

“We offer wrap-around care for people with dementia and their carers. We offer advice, support and the opportunity to take part in activities both together and separately.

“We encourage people to come along at an earlier stage of their illness too if people join us early in the process, they get more out of it. We have seen some lovely friendships made, and basically we will try to provide whatever activities the centre users are interested in. It offers a break for the carers and we can offer support for longer.

“We aren’t just here for the final stage of the illness, we are just like a club we have parties with singing and dancing and have all sorts of activities going on. I would urge anyone with a relative or friend with a dementia diagnosis to get in touch.”

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BIADS also has premises, the Joseph Exley Centre, on Dodworth Road which offers a menu of opportunities including carer support sessions, singing, reminiscence, yoga as well as tea dance socials and drop-in cafes. There is also a tranquil garden which was created by volunteers which anyone can visit during the centre’s opening hours.

The idea for the day centre was borne after Linda learned about The Hogeweyk Dementia Village in the Netherlands which is a gated community village designed specifically as a pioneering care facility for elderly people with dementia.

“It’s a fabulous project and I want the day centre to offer that protected environment so that our users can do what they used to do. I would eventually like to have a shop here and we are going to have the bar. This is the best way for them to get the stimulation they need, form friendships and take part in activities.

“We are giving them something else in their lives and relatives are safe in the knowledge that they are in a safe, protected space. We offer support to users and their families throughout the journey.”