Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) to Visually Impaired people during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Henshaws have been operating a new model of service delivery for their visually impaired service users since 17th March.

Thank-you to Henshaws for sharing what they have learned during the last few weeks.



Henshaws Top Tips for offering IAG to Visually Impaired people during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Here at Henshaws we have been operating a new model of service delivery for our visually impaired service users since 17th March. We thought it might be helpful to share some of what we have learned during the last few weeks.

You can also download the below details as both word and PDF handouts.

First of all, our general IAG Quality Service Principles are that IAG services should be:

  • accessible
  • professional and knowledgeable
  • client and needs led
  • impartial
  • responsive
  • friendly and welcoming
  • enabling

These principles continue to guide our IAG delivery at this critical time.

Our IAG service has been well-established for a number of years with our First Step, Patient Support and Community Services Enablement teams delivering an average of 250 IAG interventions per month under normal circumstances.  All our staff have received IAG training, as per our Matrix Standard Accredited frontline service ( We were therefore well set up to move towards a proactive and outward reaching service to our community once the implications of the pandemic became apparent in mid-March.

Over the first 4 weeks of lockdown, our team have made:

  • 2040 outward bound calls providing direct support to 1416 visually impaired individuals (NB. Some people are called more than once)
  • 73% of the calls made were between 15-30 minutes in duration.
  • Of the people we have spoken to and rated in terms of their support needs using our red-amber-green approach (see tip 2) – 84% are green; 13% are amber; 1% are red.

This is what we have learned along the way..

 Tip 1

Preparation is vital.

We knew we needed to try and reach our most vulnerable service users first so we produced lists of all our service users by local authority area and prioritised them by age, whether they lived alone and whether they had any other medical conditions.  These lists were then passed on to staff to work through and reach the people who really needed our help first.

Tip 2

Adopt a system to manage your calls.

We needed a system to ensure we could record our outbound calls and assess peoples’ needs.  We implemented a red-amber-green (RAG) approach to determine their vulnerability and inform our actions – there is a clear process for staff to follow about how to assign the RAG status to people they speak to.  We record this in a shared spreadsheet so we have real time information about progress and actions. 

Tip 3

Get people across the organisation involved if possible.

We utilised our team of volunteer Group Leaders, who were able to directly contact their Group members and feedback any concerns to our central staff team.  As well as offering a welfare check, this also acted as a be-friending service to allow Group members to keep up to date with each other’s well-being.

 Tip 4

Gather local information.

We very quickly realised it wasn’t much help making calls if we didn’t know local information about how to help people with issues that may arise such as shopping requirements etc.  All staff are responsible for researching their local area and mapping the provision available and recording this on a central spreadsheet.  This is a live resource and updated daily as the situation changes frequently. 

Tip 5

Have a script.

Work out what you want to say and how you want your staff to be handling the calls and then set it all out in writing for them to follow.  This way you will have a consistent and professional approach across the board.

 Tip 6

Prepare for the call.

Advise staff to have everything they need to hand before picking up the phone.  For us this includes:

  • The spreadsheet of contacts open
  • The client database open
  • A copy of the RAG process to hand
  • A copy of the script to follow
  • Pen and paper
  • A cup of tea!

 Tip 7

Talking to people.

Have some key questions you can ask people to help support them.  Examples might include – How are you finding things? What support do you have at present? or What are you struggling with?

Tip 8

There will be difficult calls.

Staff need to be prepared that some calls will be difficult and could raise serious concerns.  A system needs to be established for staff to report issues on and raise concerns they may have.  You should ensure clear safeguarding processes are in place and lines of reporting understood by all.  Clear principles should be in place if referrals are to be made to counselling services (internally or externally).

All frontline staff and volunteers at Henshaws have undertaken additional mental health training, and are now all certified Champions of Mental Health (

 Tip 9

Keep track of your progress

Monitor and report on calls made and actions taken – this way you can track what the issues are in your community and act accordingly.

 Tip 10

Keep in touch

Many of the people you speak to may be managing fine and have support in place, however we have found things can change very quickly in this situation.  Keep them on your radar and call back if you can – we have also set up an informal telephone befriending service so those people who are managing their day to day lives well but may be feeling lonely and isolated have a regular call to just have a chat.


For more information about Henshaws IAG service or response to Covid-19, please contact:


Telephone: 0300 222 5555



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