First dementia friendly church team in the diocese

A CHURCH team in Castleford has become the first Dementia friendly church team in the diocese for its work toward making a difference for people with dementia, their families and their carers.

After working in partnership with Livability, the UK’s largest Christian disability charity, to gain this recognition, almost 40 members of the four churches that make up the Castleford Team Parish in Castleford, Glasshoughton, Smawthorne and Hightown are now official Dementia Friends - an Alzheimers Society initiative to create over one million friends that can work in communities raising awareness of the condition and offering help and support to those living with it.

Pauline Etim- Ubah is Special Projects Co-ordinator for Livability, the Christian charity which campaigns for choice, independence and opportunity for disabled and disadvantaged people. She said: “The Castleford team are real trailblazers and a perfect example of how our churches can engage with their communities and really make a difference where they are.”

It all started with the rector, Fr Michael Wood, who was conscious of the ageing population and some of the issues this was raising amongst the congregations and in the local communities and wanted to explore ways the four churches could better serve and support their parishes.

In November a dementia awareness session was run by Livability, and it attracted 39 people who all signed up to be Dementia Friends. This then caught the attention of the local authority for the church team's commitment to helping support those people living with dementia in their towns. It was all the Church team needed to realise they had identified a growing need. 

In February a second dementia awareness session was held by the Wakefield branch of the Alzheimer’s Society. The second part of this session also had a guest speaker, Anita Ruckledge Lead Dementia Nurse for Mid Yorks NHS Trust. This session gave an overview on what the NHS (Pinderfield’s hospital) are doing to support patients who come into hospital with dementia.

Fr Kevin Greaves, who was ordained priest in 2014, is now leading on this initiative. He works alongside the Alzheimers Society as well as local groups including the Fire Service, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, local councillor, Tony Wallace and Age UK. Last month he was  made chair of the Wakefield Dementia Action Alliance – which recognized the church team for its training and commitment to dementia.

Said Fr Kevin: “Our churches are quite traditional and at first I was worried that this might be a negative thing; but I know now that people living with dementia often retain memories from earlier in their lives – a time of traditional hymns and priests in robes.

“Now we are more confident and are looking at the possibility of organising our first dementia friendly service in summer,” he said. 

Earlier this month, the parishes raised just short of £300 when they organised Time for a Cuppa for Admiral Nurses – Dementia UK’s equivalent of the Macmillan Nurses. Members of the parishes baked buns, cakes, scones, just turned up and served all day – and shared life stories and experiences of living with dementia. It was a real success.

Said Fr Kevin: “The response from within the parish to this initiative has been fantastic. There’s a real sense that we are all in this together, we are all learning as we go along and we all have something to give.”

Adrian Barnes-White, Dementia Action Alliance Co-ordinator at the Alzheimer’s Society for Wakefield and Five Towns said, “We are delighted to be working with Castleford Team Parish. In February we ran a Dementia Friends information session at Castleford Parish Rooms and will be running another one at the end of this month. These are excellent examples of their commitment to being dementia-friendly within the wider community."


The Dementia Awareness Session on April 29 is FREE and open to everyone.  It runs from 10-12.30pm in The Parish Rooms, Bradley Avenue, Castleford and will be presented by Adrian Barnes-White with guest speaker,  Anita Ruckledge, the Lead Dementia Nurse with the Mid Yorks NHS Trust.

Please book places through the Alzheimer's Society website.

Any church or church group interested in finding out more about dementia training possibilities should email joinin@livability/

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And this month, Fr Kevin is appealing for anyone handy with the knitting needle to join congregation members to knit twiddlemuffs. This is the latest initiative from Anita Ruckledge, lead dementia nurse. 

She explained: "They are a knitted band that we can attach items to that a patient living with dementia can twiddle in their hands during their hospital stay. They help provide stimulation whilst on the wards and we’ve found they are simple and valuable to our patients."

Said Kevin: "Members of the congregations are digging out their knitting needles to help support her worthy cause, we are hoping that more people in Castleford will help out as well.  The ideal would be that as you approach Castleford you will be able to hear in the background the steady clicking of knitting needles as Twiddlemuffs are made across the town. "

You can find the pattern on the  Castleford Team website at


Kevin is always looking for volunteers and help - kevin.greaves [at] or T: 07947 400466


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