What would we do without foreign scientists?

This week we announced that Parkinson's UK-funded researchers are paving the way for potential new treatments for dyskinesia, one of the most distressing side effects of Parkinson's medication.

This research at Cardiff University is being led by Professor Riccardo Brambilla, who divides his time between research institutions in Wales and Italy.

It is only by researchers outside of the UK collaborating and sharing their expertise that Parkinson's research can flourish and move forward - and the UK can continue to be a world leader.

There have been fears that skilled migrant workers including talented foreign scientists would be deterred from working in the UK due to proposed immigration caps.

Home Secretary Theresa May this week outlined plans for strictly controlled immigration quotas for those with 'exceptional talent', including scientists and other professionals from outside the European Union. 1,000 individuals will be allowed in.

The exception for scientists is indeed good news. Charities like us, as well as universities and many businesses have lobbied hard in the run up to this announcement to make the case that top class researchers must be exempt from any caps.

How exceptional talent will be defined by the Government remains to be seen. Every Parkinson's researcher entering the UK potentially holds the key to finding a cure for Parkinson's. There should be no cap on creative and enquiring minds.

If you have a passion for research, post your comments below. To find out more about our plan to find a cure for Parkinson's, read our innovative 5-year research strategy.

Fairer social care?

Yesterday, the Government set out its vision on social care, stating that everyone eligible for social care should have access to their own personal budget by April 2013. Personal budgets can offer much more choice for people in accessing support and care services they want.

The Government also wants to see more integration with health, local information and advice, and a role for the voluntary sector in helping shape local services.

We think that these all seem like worthy ambitions, especially the promise that carers will see more money from the NHS to fund respite breaks

But many remember the last time that the NHS was given money for carers breaks and very little of that money found its way to the intended recipients

And that's the crux of the problem. Whatever national government sets out - in terms of vision or money, it's local delivery that really matters.

When it comes to social care, there's a postcode lottery in the variable quality of services - from who is eligible, to how much they are charged and major concerns about funding.

People with Parkinson's tell us they want a fairer system that provides quality care, wherever they live. If today’s vision delivers on this, then it will be worth the paper it’s written on.

What do you think of the announcement? Post your thoughts here or email campaigns@parkinsons.org.uk

Our response to the Welfare Reform White paper

Yesterday, the coalition Government published its White Paper on Welfare Reform, which included further proposals to change the benefits system.

Iain Duncan-Smith spoke at length about getting more people back into work, rather than remaining on benefits. His aim is to simplify the benefits system through the introduction of a Universal Credit

While this simplification of the benefits system is a positive step forward we need clarification around the disability supplement for Jobseeker's Allowance and the proposed taper.

The Government needs to clarify how these disabled people will be identified to avoid duplication of the problems that have arisen when assessing people for other benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance

We need a much more robust assessment method that takes into account the nature of fluctuating conditions like Parkinson's.

How do the announcements in the recent White Paper affect you? What are your concerns for the future?

Tell us your stories by emailing campaigns@parkinsons.org.uk

Day 2 and all the latest from York

Our third and final keynote speaker, Dr Mark Cookson from the National Institute of Ageing, discussed what we've learnt from looking at the genetics of Parkinson's.

Over the past 10 years, researchers have found changes in a number of different genes that affect the risk of a person developing Parkinson's. Mark described his research which focuses on unravelling how these subtle gene changes cause problems inside the nerve cells that die in Parkinson's.

Next, we heard from Nazir Rampersaud who presented his exciting research into exendin-4 (a drug currently used to treat diabetes) which helps rats with early stage Parkinson's to recover.

And Parkinson's UK research fellow Patrick Lewis described how his research is investigating how changes in the LRRK2 gene cause Parkinson's.

In the final session we heard from researchers on physiotherapy, potential new treatments for uncontrollable movements (dyskinesias), and the long-term effects of taking levodopa.

Our Director of Research, Dr Kieran Breen, sums up:

"Our mission is to inspire, nurture and develop the next generation of Parkinson's researchers. It was fantastic to see so many talented and enthusiastic scientists here in York, and to know that Parkinson's research in this country is in safe hands".

Listen to Kieran's interview with BBC Radio York that was broadcast yesterday.

Parkinson's UK research conference - news on day 1

Today, we welcomed 195 researchers from around the UK to share ideas, discuss challenges and work together towards a cure for Parkinson's.

Our first keynote speaker, Dr Deniz Kirik from Lund University in Sweden. Deniz discussed our progress towards a new generation of treatments that aim to slow the development of Parkinson's and repair the brain.

He said that Parkinson's research is really leading the way in gene therapy and cell transplants. And there are currently several trials underway of gene therapies for Parkinson's that are looking promising.

Next we heard from a string of Parkinson's UK-funded researchers:

After lunch we heard from our second keynote speaker Dr Valerie Voon from the University of Cambridge.

Valerie said that compulsive behaviours affect up to 13% of people with Parkinson's, and these problems may stem from changes in dopamine release inside the brain.

Our Director of Research, Dr Kieran Breen, was interviewed by BBC Radio York, and we'll report on that tomorrow. It's been an exciting and stimulating first day.