Join us in The Hardest Hit campaign

The Government's Budget announcement today continues to drive forward with its plans to reduce the number of people claiming benefits.

We're concerned that people affected by Parkinson's may no longer be able to receive the financial support they're entitled to if they incur extra costs due to their condition. Many people affected by Parkinson's have told us about their experiences, which have been included in a Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) report (PDF file) published today - so thank you to all of those who responded.

We're a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium which is a national coalition of over 40 different charities and other organisations. Today's report highlights the issues faced by disabled people and those with long-term conditions such as Parkinson's, their experiences of the benefits system and the impact of proposed reforms.

We've also joined The Hardest Hit campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the impact cuts to benefits will have on disabled people. People affected by Parkinson's can get involved in a number of ways:

To find out more about other ways that we're lobbying on this issue, visit our disability benefits campaign page.

If you'd like to share your experiences of the benefits system with us, get in touch on 020 7963 9307 or email

Parkinson's UK Together events

Last week over 300 members and staff from all over the UK came together in a series of events to share successes and discuss our plans for the future.

The Parkinson's UK Together events provided an excellent forum for members of our local groups to feed back to staff what they think has worked well and help us identify new ways of working together toward our ambitious 5-year strategy.

Members picked out our presence at the World Parkinson Congress, our work with Nintendo Wii and our rebranded information resources as some of our most impressive achievements in recent months.

They also stressed the importance of our educational work with GPs and other health professionals as well as our 'Get it on time' campaign.

Members felt that current work to improve communication between staff and local groups needed to continue. And they welcomed further events to increase interaction and shared understanding between staff and people affected by Parkinson's.

One person at the Glasgow event said: "It's nice to hear what other branches are doing and to share ideas with staff. Sometimes as a branch you can get stuck in a rut. The event has been really very informative and useful for that".

So staff returned to the office this week with a strong sense of what we are doing well and areas for improvement - as we move towards our ultimate goal of finding a cure.

From genes to treatments

This week, researchers in the US discovered that a drug currently used to treat a rare genetic childhood condition can stop the development of Parkinson's in mice. The drug, phenylbutyrate, is now being tested in people with Parkinson's.

The drug works by turning on a gene, called DJ-1, which helps the dopamine-producing nerve cells usually lost in Parkinson's to survive.

But what's exciting about this breakthrough - aside from the promise of a new treatment that could slow or stop Parkinson's - is that the foundations were laid by the discovery of problems in the DJ-1 gene in people with Parkinson's back in 2003.

Now, understanding why the DJ-1 gene is important for the nerve cells lost in Parkinson's has led to this potentially neuroprotective treatment. We funded a lot of the early work around this and discovered 2 key genes that are involved in Parkinson's.

And there's more to come.

Researchers at the John Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering in the US have unravelled how another crucial gene causes nerve cells to die in Parkinson's.

And just last month 5 new genes linked to Parkinson's were identified in the largest genetic study of the condition to date. This brings us up to 11 genes that we now believe play a part in Parkinson's.

We are now beginning to see the pieces of this complex puzzle of genes fitting together. And this is leading to the first tantalising glimpses of treatments that tackle the root causes of Parkinson's by targeting the genes involved in the condition.

No one has to face Parkinson's alone

For many people, a diagnosis of Parkinson's can be a frightening and isolating experience, and it can be difficult to know where to go for help and support.

We have 350 local groups across the UK, offering friendship and support and a chance to talk face to face with others going through the same experience. The groups are not just for people with Parkinson's but for carers and families too. There are new groups forming all the time - recent additions include Orkney and Porthcawl.

We've just redesigned our local group finder on our website, so it's now a lot easier for you to find the group that's nearest to you.

If you feel this isn't for you, there are also 'virtual groups' that meet online. Our Facebook page, our discussion forum and also Twitter offer places for people affected by Parkinson's to interact with others in the same situation and get support.

The theme for next month's Parkinson's Awareness Week - 11-17 April - is 'Join us'. There are so many ways that you can get involved with us - over the coming weeks we'll be letting you know more about what's planned. In the meantime, why not locate your nearest local group - or take a a look at our forum, Twitter or Facebook pages - and take that first step?