Call for safeguarding after Tonbridge’s Dementia Friendly Community wins top Kent award

Pam Mills
TOP TEAM: Tonbridge DFC members (l-r) Suzy Abbott of tmactive, Julie Rhodes of St John’s Church in Hildenborough, Gail Hall of Warners Solicitors, Terry Hill of Castle Cars, Chris Parker, Chair of Tonbridge DFC, and Symone Salwan of Home Instead Senior

Tonbridge was also recognised in the Small Business category with Castle Cars winning the award for firms with less than 50 employees.

The company’s Manager, Terry Hill, hopes to use the success to persuade the council to introduce safeguarding for private hire drivers when they have elderly clients to help combat fraud.

The judges are people living with the condition – Kent, Fire and Rescue volunteers went out to groups of people with dementia and their carers to gather the votes.

It is the first time that the town has won the community award, though it was also shortlisted last year.

Other nominees included tmactive, part of Tonbridge & Malling Parish Council, for its dementia friendly sport and leisure activities.

Chris Parker, the founder and Chair of Tonbridge DFC, was nominated for the Emma Kent Outstanding Individual award.

And a children’s art calendar was included in the inter-generational activity category after they were asked to create images on the theme ‘Living well with dementia’.

The winners were announced at a gala ceremony at The Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel on Friday October 5.

‘Hopefully this award will give me a bit more clout when I go to the council’

Mrs Parker, Managing Director of Abbey Funeral Services, said: “I am so delighted that Tonbridge has done so well this year.”

“We have only been going for three years and in that time we have engaged with many different sectors in our local community, which has all played a part in raising awareness of dementia and making Tonbridge a better place for those who live with it and their carers.”

She added: “There is still an enormous amount to be done and we should like more Tonbridge businesses and organisations to ensure that their staff become dementia aware.

Mr Hill told the Times: “Castle Cars have great feedback from our customers but it’s nice for the drivers and all the staff to get recognition on a wider scale. It makes you proud – and makes you think you’re doing things right.

“We’re trying to be more responsible to our customers. If they’ve got a firm they can trust, I think that’s a good thing.”

The company has been proactive in trying to protect elderly passengers from con artists.

“We realised the numbers of elderly customers who were being scammed by clever but bad people and we decided to do something about it,” said Mr Hill.

“We saw that when we were taking them to the banks, they would say that someone had asked them for money and they would give it back the next day, that sort of thing.

“So we have tried to work with the banks and the police to stop scams going on. It one of our regulars wanted to go on an unusual journey the drivers will gently question them without being too obvious and then alert the police.”

One client told him of an occasion when his mother got in a taxi in Birmingham and asked to go to Whitby in Yorkshire. “The driver who took her there probably thought ‘that’s a good earner’.

“We have accounts set up with families which gives us a point of contact so we can check with them if journeys are okay.

“I think there should be some sort of safeguarding scheme for all private hire drivers when it comes to the elderly, like the one that’s already in place for young and vulnerable people.

“Hopefully this award will give me a bit more clout when I go to the council to ask them.”

The DFC hopes the recognition will also help to spread awareness of its activities. “We still need to get the word out that the group exists – there’s such a wide number of people suffering with dementia or who know someone who does.

“They don’t know what the group is about, and they don’t know where to turn,” said Mr Hill.

Mrs Parker added: “We regularly run awareness sessions which we advertise on our website and on social media. They are free of charge and open to the public.

“We would love to hear from anyone who is interested in helping us move forward with making Tonbridge a dementia friendly community.”

For more information visit

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter