People across England will be able to sign up for sessions to become a ‘Dementia Friend’ from this week in a new scheme by the Alzheimer’s Society and the government.

Dementia Friends is an Alzheimer’s Society initiative that aims to give a million people a better understanding of dementia by 2015. People becoming Dementia Friends will attend free sessions, which are being rolled out across England.

Just over 12,000 people have already registered their interest in becoming one of the Friends. These will be coached in local sessions, church halls and work places on how to spot the early signs of the condition and understand the nature of the illness and its symptoms.

Now those people and many more will be able to attend information sessions to find out more about what it’s like to live with dementia, and then turn that understanding into action in their local community, according to the DH.

It is hoped that the move will not only speed up detection of the disease, but also help create a new army of helpers in all corners of society able to provide support to patients within the community or care setting.

As well as encouraging people to sign up as Dementia Friends, the Alzheimer’s Society is also calling on people to volunteer to be a Dementia Friends Champion.

These are volunteers who talk to people about being a Dementia Friend in their communities. They will attend a training course, receive on-going support and be part of a growing network of people creating dementia friendly communities together.

There are already 60 Dementia Friends sessions and 30 Dementia Friends Champion sessions lined up across England over the next three months, with more due to be announced soon.

The initiative is jointly funded by the Department of Health and the Office of Civil Society, and the Alzheimer’s Society will be working with a number of partners to deliver the programme across England.

This follows on from the Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘Dementia Challenge’, launched last year, which aims to inject more funding and understanding into a disease that affects 800,000 people in the UK.

Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Janssen UK launched a new £150,000 prize fund to help encourage innovation in dementia care.