The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest health crisis for generations, and it is having a devastating impact on the lives of people across the world. However, the restrictions required by all of us during lockdown have consequences for people already facing challenges in their everyday lives as a result of sight loss.
We realised the pandemic presented our community with a unique challenge, so we set out to survey blind and visually impaired people early in the lockdown to evidence the issues they are facing. Our final survey report (based on responses from almost 1,000 visually impaired people) has revealed a number of key concerns.
The final report has been shared with all ten local authorities across Greater Manchester and key decision-makers across the region and beyond. Key findings in the survey report show:
- The overwhelming majority of respondents had not been contacted by their local authority sensory team during the early stages of the pandemic.
- 41% of respondents had not received any of the public health messaging about COVID-19 in a format which is accessible to them.
- One quarter of respondents had been informed they are at very high risk from COVID-19 (extremely vulnerable and should be shielding).
- There is considerable variation across Greater Manchester with regard to the support people with sight loss received during this time.
Kevin Brady, Chair of Trustee Board at Henshaws says “We have shared our findings with our partners across GM, and all local authorities have now agreed to send priority information out to the 11,000+ people who are registered blind or partially sighted in their areas. But our findings raise critical questions which we must address to ensure we are better prepared to respond to the needs of our community in the future.”
Robert Cooper, our Director of Community Services says “Our survey has revealed that many people within the sight loss community had to rely on the support of family, friends and neighbours during the initial lockdown phase. We want to ensure that blind and partially sighted people are not the forgotten community across Greater Manchester and the UK – charities like ourselves are playing a vital role in ensuring our community get the support they need. We now need an integrated approach between health and social care which fully includes and recognises charities to ensure support is in place to reduce the risks of the longer-term impacts this could have on our community.”
We have been supporting our service users through this challenging time with telephone advice and welfare checks, remote technology training, specialist counselling, support for children and families, and a volunteer-led befriending service. Call 0300 222 5555 if you need support yourself or for a family member.