January 26th, 2017
On 25 January, Alzheimer’s Research UK announced its new president. The figurehead role is designed to represent the charity and encourage others to support it. But to the dismay of supporters of the charity, David Cameron’s name was announced. A man who helped wreck the UK’s national health service while Prime Minister.
Alzheimer’s Research UK announced the new position on its Facebook page. The post read:
We are proud to welcome our new President: former Prime Minister David Cameron. As our foremost ambassador, Mr Cameron will champion Alzheimer’s Research UK’s work, and support us in reaching breakthroughs with our research.
The post linked to a blog from Cameron, who stated:
It was the end of the week that I resigned as Prime Minister. I was in my constituency, visiting a care home. A woman with dementia, who was surrounded by her loving family, grabbed my hand and stared into my eyes. As I looked back at her I could see she didn’t know either where she was, or who was sitting with her.
That moment brought home to me, once again, the desperate sadness of this debilitating condition. And while I didn’t know then what role I could play outside No10 to help with the fight, I knew it was something that I wanted to do.
He then went on to state how he hopes to help the charity by “win[ing] a deeper public understanding”, “winning continued support for scientific research”, and “ensuring we work internationally to demonstrate that this is a global challenge that we will only beat by working together”.
But the announcement didn’t go down well with supporters of the charity. Comments on the Facebook post included:
In fact, Cameron did set out measures to improve research into dementia during his time as Prime Minister. In 2013, at the G8 summit in London, he announced that the UK government would double its funding for dementia research by 2025. Likewise, in 2015, he released a document [pdf] titled Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia 2020, which detailed how the UK would improve its dementia care services and its research facilities.
But at the same time, Cameron was responsible for drastically reducing the levels of social housing. His government also slashed £600m from mental health trust budgets, and introduced a tougher work capability assessment system.
On Cameron’s watch, thousands of people died after their benefits were cut because they’d been declared fit for work. The annual number of children and young people admitted to hospital for self-harm rose to around 19,000. And 200 children with a mental illness were held in prison cells in a single year for lack of hospital beds.
So while Cameron may have supported funding for dementia, he also cut vital social services. This resulted in 250,000 older people without home care support during 2010/14, leaving them extremely isolated, vulnerable, and unable to stay in their own home.
It’s quite shocking that, despite all this, Cameron is still rewarded with the title. While the role is unpaid, he has become a figurehead, which unfortunately may put some people off supporting the charity.