It comes as Alzheimer’s Research UK reveals 94 per cent of dementia researchers are concerned progress is at risk due to fewer funding opportunities.
The charity has revealed that over three quarters – 77 per cent – of the public believe the Government’s pledge to increase its funding for dementia research to more than £160 million a year is either still important – 59 per cent – or more important – 18 per cent – since the coronavirus outbreak.
One in five people think it is even more important because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen people with dementia among the hardest hit.
Despite this, only seven per cent of people believe the Government will deliver on the promise made during the 2019 election.
There are almost one million people living with dementia in the UK today, but there are currently no treatments to slow, stop or prevent the diseases, most commonly Alzheimer’s, that cause it.
In 2019, the Government promised to double funding for dementia research as part of a ‘moonshot’ effort to find a cure. But to date no further details have been given about how or when this funding will be made available.
In response to the findings, Dame Julie – whose grandmother died with vascular dementia – says the Government cannot cast aside the promise it made to the public. The award-winning actress, who was born in Smethwick, is urging people to take action by signing Alzheimer’s Research UK’s petition.
She said: “As someone who witnessed the effects of dementia growing up, I am proud to be standing with the tens of thousands of people who are calling on Government to deliver on its election promise to double investment into researching the condition.
“My grandmother had vascular dementia and she lived with us when we were kids. We didn’t really understand her symptoms, but we all loved her to bits. I still don’t know how my mother coped having to care for her and look after three young children.
“It’s appalling that over half of us know someone affected by dementia, yet there are no treatments to slow, stop or prevent it. Far too many families are being forced to experience the pain dementia causes on a daily basis because of the lack of treatments and to put it simply, enough is enough.
“There is an urgent need for research to bring about life-changing treatments for people affected by dementia. With the tragic impact Covid-19 has had on those with the condition, the funding promised by Government is more critical now than it ever has been.
“I urge everyone to sign this petition, so we can make it clear to Government we will not let their promise be cast aside.”
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “While it’s right that the response to the pandemic has had to take priority, dementia is our greatest long-term health crisis and the lives of people affected by dementia are being torn apart by Covid-19. The search for life-changing dementia treatments has never been more critical.
“We are so grateful to have Dame Julie Walters standing with the thousands who have signed our petition calling on government to deliver on its election promise.
“With research efforts at risk and people with dementia bearing the brunt of the pandemic, this instrumental investment must be made a reality and it cannot come soon enough.”
To sign the petition, visit alzres.uk/sign-our-petition.