Jude, from Staffordshire County Council, fought off competition from 10 other leading lights in local government when she was declared the winner at the LGA annual conference in Harrogate last week.
Jude received the accolade from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, and will receive up to £10,000 from the Bruce-Lockhart scholarship, set up in memory of the late Lord Bruce-Lockhart, former Chairman of the LGA and Leader of Kent County Council.
She won over voting delegates and judges with her, ‘Thinking Active’ project that aims to combat vascular dementia through physical activity. “The idea is to deliver a sustainable community-delivered programme, which uses physical activity and cognitive stimulation to reduce the number of residents with pre-cursors to vascular dementia from developing the disease and to slow the onset in newly diagnosed patients,” explained Jude.
“That probably makes it sound more complicated than it is, but essentially it is about confronting an issue that is not only one of the largest, but one of the fastest growing health and social care challenges that we face. Given the agenda around the integration of health and social care is one of the key issues facing local government over the coming years, it made the project all the more prescient.”
Dementia in the UK affects over 850,000 people: a figure that is set to double in next thirty years. Health and social care costs generated by dementia amount to over £26 billion a year – more than cancer, strokes and heart disease combined. Currently there is no cure and, for those suffering with vascular dementia, no medical treatments exist.
Research shows that during middle age, regular participation in physical, mental, social and leisure activities is associated with a potential 47 per cent reduction in dementia; however 60 per cent of people are not active enough to obtain these preventive benefits.
Jude will use her prize money to start the delivery of her project, working with voluntary sector organisations in Staffordshire to begin with, but eventually rolling it out far and wide. Jude even has aspirations to deliver the project in other countries in Europe.
This year’s annual LG Challenge, now in its sixth year, saw competitors take part in a series of real-life challenges in host authorities around the country that tested their individual and team working skills. Jude’s success in the competition is made all the more remarkable by the fact she only joined Staffordshire County Council 18 months ago following a career in elite sport.
LGA Chairman, Cllr Gary Porter, said: “LG Challenge just keeps on unearthing talent and this year’s collection of superbly gifted individuals showed a real passion for local government and an understanding of the challenges that face us. However, more than that they showed innovative ideas of how to meet those challenges head on and none more so than Jude.
“The quality of the ideas put forward and the level of creativity on display have impressed many of our delegates gathering at our conference this week. It is reassuring to all of us to see what a wealth of talent we have working in local government.”