Inspirational Service Delivery
This award is open to Visionary members that can demonstrate innovation and achievement in service provision within the sight loss sector. The service could be newly developed or established, benefitting a few or a large number of blind and partially sighted people, but we want to hear examples that will inspire others.
This year, we launched our very first app in collaboration with Web Developer, Thom Shannon. Guide dogs are an important lifeline for visually impaired people. When visiting an unfamiliar city, keeping your dog to a regular routine can be a serious worry. This app will help guide dog owners and other service dog owners find a suitable area of grass nearby for their dog to spend. It will show the distance, size of the grassed area, and link to Google or Apple Maps to give walking directions. This app is free and can be downloaded from the App Store. To date we have had 373 downloads.
We were a charity on the brink of closure, struggling to respond to the challenges of securing funding, delivering outcomes, and meeting increasing demand. A bold new Management Team pursued a radical ’top to bottom’ programme of change; cutting costs, challenging organisational inertia, professionalising and building partnerships. A new Community Support model evolved putting national strategy at the core of our service offer. The team also developed an innovative client needs assessment, the ‘Sight Loss MOT’, which identifies where support is available not only from the charity but from partners across the sight loss sector. The service provides an exciting opportunity to equip individuals, volunteers and communities with the skills and knowledge they need to tackle the practical and emotional impact that sight loss has on people’s lives, with the aim of increasing people’s independence, wellbeing and choice.
We arranged accredited training for a registered blind person to enable him to provide a personal safety class here at the centre, where people who have a sensory impairment can learn important tips and techniques to protect themselves, in a safe environment. Our blind course instructor was himself a victim of cruel attacks. He has been supported by us in conjunction with the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety to develop and deliver this innovative programme which empowers sensory impaired people to lead more independent lives. We feel this is a very inspirational approach to both empowering individuals and to raising awareness and promoting good citizenship within communities. This is in line with our ethos which aims to involve the wider community in understanding sight loss and to build positive relationships. We are now delivering our second block of the 8 week programme. Already there have been 11 direct beneficiaries. There have however been many more indirect beneficiaries due to the national press (Sun) and media (BBC) picking up on the uniqueness of the story and publishing awareness raising articles to highlight the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people. In response to this publicity we have received messages of support from around the world.
- Successful Volunteer Programme
This award is open to Visionary members that can demonstrate success in their volunteer programme. We want to hear how the programme benefits both the volunteers and blind and partially sighted people, and what makes it work.
Our sight loss charity has some wonderful volunteers who support our work. We provide a wide range of services for visually impaired people in our area and the volunteers work alongside our staff. They support social activities, fundraising, hospital service, talking newspapers, resource centre, administration, governance, befriending and children’s project. We are very grateful for their efforts and would be lost without them. Last year we held our first Volunteers Appreciation Day which gave us the opportunity to thank them. This award would allow us to formally recognize their work.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our work. Our volunteers enhance our services and lead projects around the county. Volunteers are invaluable in keeping the charity running efficiently: they provide support in our Low Vision Equipment Centres, man the telephones, and complete important administrative duties. Our volunteer programme is run by two part-time members of staff who work tirelessly to recruit, train, and manage our volunteers to deliver consistently high-quality service to improve our clients’ lives. We celebrate our volunteers on a biannual basis and this award would add further recognition to the immense contribution they give to us.
Our befriending service is funded through the Big Lottery Fund. As part of a 3 year project, Respite and Short Stay Befriending address loneliness and isolation within our two residential care homes. Befriending volunteers are trained and will visit the befriendee in the residential home for a period of 12 weeks. This service is very successful in helping our befriendees’ settle into the home, make friends with other residents and reduce feelings of isolation. Furthermore this service successfully helps residents who also have dementia to feel less anxious, by spending time with a befriender who can sit, listen or walk and talk to them. Whilst the visit may not always be remembered, a positive impact is noticed by residential staff. Our group has attended social functions arranged by the befriending service, including a train trip, a boat trip and lunch functions at a golf course. Our volunteer befrienders also benefit from the experience of assisting our service along with the befriendees.
- Together we are Stronger
This award is open to Visionary members that can demonstrate the positive impact of linking with others to develop and deliver services. We want to hear what you have achieved working in partnership with another organisation that you might not have been able to do on your own.
Research suggests that dementia sufferers with sight loss are being overlooked and not receiving the timely advice needed to keep them independent. Within our equipment shop we expanded our range to incorporate dementia equipment crossing both spectrums. With support from our local council dementia officer we applied to a local grant giver for funding. Local doctors are promoting the project via in surgery screens. Working with local housing , linkline, village agents and sensory/mental health teams we have reached so many new people increasing our footfall and sustainability. We are providing a try before you buy service for our community which excites other organisations.
Our Children and Young Peoples (CYP) project is a great, innovative example of how partnership working achieves positive outcomes for CYP and families living with sight loss. By joining skills, knowledge and expertise, we are able to provide Family Support and Eye Heath Education to families and communities across the city, reaching more people than ever, and more than we could have working alone. We, in partnership with the Sensory Education Team, Eye Heroes, SeeAbility, ophthalmologists, local College, Mahdlo and a local dance and theatre company are working together to go ‘Beyond Expectations’ for visually impaired CYP.
When we found out the local bus company decided to change, without any consultation, the bus stopping points outside of the charity office we quickly mobilised a campaign. The impact on the change to the bus stops meant a much longer walk to our facility which would have a detrimental impact on access for members. With the support of a volunteer to co-ordinate a petition and speak to councillors, the media, community groups and businesses in the area the issue quickly gained momentum. Press coverage followed and the decision was reviewed and overturned supported by over 600 signatures.
- Changing Lives
This award is open to Visionary members that can demonstrate the impact they have had on a blind or partially sighted person’s life. This could be related to a single intervention or a whole package of support. However, we want to hear about the individual, and what life was like for them both before and after through case studies, interviews, images and/or videos.
R worked for our out sourced work programme for over 4 years. R has always shown drive and enthusiasm and has recently accepted the position of BME Community Fundraiser. In addition to this, R volunteers his time to support all aspects of us including founding and developing the Blind Ten Pin Bowling teams, who within their first season won the National League.
“I was 28 when I was told I had a condition ‘RP’ that would lead to me going blind. I was working in a factory, I loved playing football and going for a drink on a Friday with friends and family. The biggest shock was leaving my job. After 18 years they put a cheque in my pocket and showed me the door. It was hard not to be able to work again. After I knew I’d got the condition I knew I couldn’t get another job. Who would give me a job, I thought? It was a hard pill to swallow. I’d always gone out to provide for my family and for the next three months I just stayed at home. ‘You’ll be alright,’ people would tell me. ‘There’s benefits you can claim. Just stay home and take it easy.’ So, I stayed home but it drove me mad. I was in the garden in the summer but in winter I felt trapped in the house. There’s only so much TV you can watch. So, I got in touch with the local council and they got me a place at the day centre at [the organisation]. I loved it. They were looking for volunteers so I volunteered. I’d go in a couple of days a week. I’d just be glad to get out of the house. The Centre? It’s my second home.”
Since 2012, we have actively expanded our sports provision for our members. Previously the get Active sports club provided taster sessions once a month to encourage mainly children to give different sports a try. This included tennis, skiing, skating, football, cricket, goal ball and tenpin bowling. In the past 5 years the sports programme has developed and includes a variety of sports available to all age groups. We know that through the opportunities that have been developed we have reached out to many visually impaired people who thought that sport was simply out of reach. We have been able to ‘open their eyes’ in a sense to a whole new world of opportunity. This enables them to try activities they simply thought impossible, benefit from being outside in some cases and keeping fit, meeting new people and making friends and competing in competitions and winning medals!
A, aged 35 and severely sight impaired attended our activity weekend and abseiled commenting “never again will I be afraid and not try something. If I can do this I can do anything”.
The RNIB estimated that in 2016, there were 3,730 people living with visual impairment across the local area. This is set to increase to 4,100 by 2020. The challenges of sight loss are made ever more difficult in the local area, which was ranked as the 80th most deprived local authority in the country in 2015. With limited transport links and local services, local people living with vision loss and blindness can become extremely isolated and unable to access basic support services. To address these local issues, we established a base in the local area in 2008 to spread our services across the county.
V contacted us three years ago, not long after her sight was damaged as a result of life saving hospital treatment. Our local manager visited V at home and found she was not coping emotionally or practically. Since this time V has used our services including IT training, emotional support, peer support groups, low vision equipment centre, welfare support, volunteer befriending and is in a much better place. So much so, V is now helping us and others by giving talks at meetings and promotional events and is proudly Club Secretary to the local VIP group.
A was registered blind in 2011 and this was when she was put in touch with us by the City Council Sensory Impairment team but at that time she didn’t feel the day group service was right for her. It was only in 2015 with the launch of the SocialEYES activity programme that A became a regular visitor to us after receiving a telephone call from the Services Manager about joining in with a singing event.
“If it wasn’t for [the organisation] I wouldn’t leave my house. I used to just sit in inside watching TV. When I go out with SocialEYES it’s like a big family outing, doesn’t matter how many of us there are we all help and support each other. As well as having a good time! I would be lost without [the organisation] and its services which give me the opportunity to be with others who also have sight problems. [The organisation] is like an oasis in the desert.”
S is 20 years old. The daughter of Turkish Kurds, who came as refugees to England in the early 1990s, she has had many more mountains to climb than the average teenager. She was born with albinism and has photophobia, nystagmus, astigmatism and oculocutaneous albinism. She has experienced a lot of bullying because of her cultural heritage, sight issues and albinism. She did not always receive the support she needed and only received long cane training when she was 16 years old. She came to us after finding out about the young people’s group.
“[The organisation] went the extra mile and did what no one else offered to do. Without their support I would have struggled and I don’t think I would have got to University”. Her mother said: “Over time I have come to see how much [the organisation] has invested in S as an individual and I have seen that this has increased her confidence and her communication skills. I now see how much [the organisation] helps people with sight loss. I am grateful and thankful that [the organisation] has supported and helped S through this time.”