Tireless campaigner Tommy Whitelaw has been awarded the British Citizen’s Award for services to healthcare in recognition of his work to raise awareness of dementia and promote a fuller understanding of the carer journey. Tommy, who is our Dementia Carer Voices Project Engagement Lead at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) has been working to ensure that people with dementia and their families and carers are listened to and are at all times treated with respect and compassion. He himself became a full time carer for 5 years for his late mother Joan, who had vascular dementia.
His campaigning journey began in 2011, when he undertook a walk around Scotland’s towns and cities to collect hundreds of life story letters detailing the experiences of individuals caring for a loved one living with dementia. He felt passionately that no one should have to face the confusion, loneliness and isolation that he himself felt, and has channeled this passion into raising awareness of dementia and its impact on families.
Tommy began working on the Dementia Carers Voices project at the ALLIANCE in 2012, providing a platform for carers to express their views and experiences with the aim of changing policy and practice. In pursuance of this, Dementia Carer Voices embarked on a campaign entitled ‘You Can Make a Difference’, which has seen Tommy give over 180 talks to health and social care professionals, students, and policy makers about his experience. The campaign asks people to reflect on Tommy’s journey and the experiences of those who have shared their story with the project and to make a pledge to make a difference.
Speaking of the award, ALLIANCE Director Irene Oldfather said:
“The ALLIANCE is delighted that our Project Engagement Lead Tommy Whitelaw has received this prestigious award. Tommy is a tireless campaigner, raising awareness of dementia across the UK and advocating for carers rights. He inspires a greater understanding of what it is like to care for someone who has dementia, and through sharing his personal experiences, he changes the hearts and minds of people in the process.”
Dr Joyce Cavaye, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health & Social Care at the Open University explained her motivation behind nominating Tommy for the award:
“I met Tommy as a result of my research with former carers and was immediately impressed by his commitment to improve the care and support provided to people with dementia and their carers. He is an inspirational speaker who motivates others to do the best they can by sharing his heartfelt story of caring for his mum. Through sheer hard work and dogged determination he has succeeded in making a difference not just in Scotland but increasingly across the UK.
What is astounding about this is that Tommy has achieved a huge amount in a relatively short period of time and has certainly influenced practice quicker and to a greater extent than managers, researchers and policymakers.”
Derek Barron, Associate Nurse Director at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said:
“I was privileged to second Tommy’s nomination for this award. Throughout 2014 especially, Tommy worked tirelessly across the UK to share the message ‘make a difference’ in the compassionate care of people with dementia and those that care for them. We were honoured to share the journey with him in NHS Ayrshire & Arran where he held ten talks to over 500 of our staff. This award is very richly deserved – my personal congratulation to him.”
We are so pleased to share this wonderful news with you all – the British Citizen Awards is a prestigious honour which recognises people who make a huge difference in their communities and throughout the UK, and we’re thrilled that Tommy has received this fitting tribute.
From a very proud team, congratulations Tommy!!