Read our latest Briefing

Your Briefing – 22 April 2020


Supporting you through this current crisis – this week including:

It’s all about the money – Funding news, opportunities and updates

Covid-19: A sector-wide approach – Sector updates for the current crisis


This week

Visionary latest – how Visionary can support you
Covid-19: A sector-wide approach – How the sector is working together
Member spotlight – How Visionary members are responding to this crisis
It’s all about the money – Funding news, opportunities and updates
HR Matters – HR advice and sources of information
Sharing the love – great ideas, successes and stuff that works
In the know – Latest Covid-19 Updates, news and resources


Visionary Latest

With a further three weeks of lock down confirmed last week, we are still working to keep you connected and ensure you feel cared for and supported by Visionary. We continue to hear what you are saying and adjust our offer to ensure we are meeting your needs. In these continued challenging times, we hope that the services and information outlined in this briefing will be of some support to you and your organisations.

Firstly – a bit of fun…
Enter a team in the Visionary Bank Holiday quiz!
Off the back of our infamous annual Conference Quiz, we are proposing hosting a quiz on 7 May 2020 at 3pm. Yes – there will be prizes and we will be welcoming Simon Curtis back as quiz master! If you would like to enter a team (please note, you do not have to be in the same place as your team mates), please email Sarah Cosby.

Advice and support
We can provide immediate advice and support via our Telephone Helpdesk on 020 8090 9264 or email.

Online support sessions
Thursday 23 April 2020 at 10am
Small Societies Support Session
To join, click here or use the dial in details below.
Hosted by Hayley Grocock, this session gives smaller Visionary members a chance to get together and share ideas, concerns and support.

Monday 27 April 2020 at 3pm
Planning and delivering beyond this crisis
To join, click here or use the dial in details below.
Hosted by Michael Conroy, this session will build on the first session held last week and give the opportunity to explore the long term impact of the pandemic on visually impaired people and eye health; and how this might be addressed, during the lockdown and in the world that follows.

Tuesday 28 April 2020 at 10am
CEO weekly support session
To join, click here or use the dial in details below.
This week hosted by Stuart Clayton, CEO of Galloways (Fiona is on holiday). This will be an opportunity to share experiences, talk about what is working and find some peer support with what isn’t working so well

Wednesday 6 May at 2pm
‘It’s the Future Jim but not as we know it!’
To join, click here or use the dial in details below.
In response to this ongoing crisis, we have all had to make significant changes to the way we run both our services and our organisations. As we emerge from it all, will it be as simple as just going back to the way things were or will life as we know it have just changed too much?! Hosted by Pete Hoey, CO at Halifax Blind Society, join this session for an open discussion on how to approach strategic planning in the post COVID-19 world. We will look at the constants – the things our organisations will continue to commit to, whilst acknowledging and exploring the areas that may remain changed post crisis (fewer premises visits, the elevated importance of IT, service delivery models and funding challenges).

To join any sessions, click here or dial in by calling:
(Toll Free): 0800 169 0432
Access Code: 780-863-517

Missed any sessions in the past week?
Tuesday 21 April 2020
CEO Support Session
8 CEO’s joined this Tuesday’s session – no agenda this time, just an opportunity to come together and talk. We discussed the importance of taking some time off work and how helpful it can be to recharge the batteries. This led to a discussion on general well-being and the difficulties around not having naturally occurring breaks which happen within an office environment. One organisation is insisting that staff take annual leave during the lock-down and from that we talked about how difficult it could be if everyone saved annual leave to be taken later in the year.

We talked about technology and how the current crisis has accelerated organisational learning and adaption to online work which led to a discussion around how we can make best use of creative practices post COVID-19. A few colleagues have contracted the virus and are now thankfully recovering so we talked about that and how it feels. We touched on safeguarding and how different issues are arising and how best to cope with them – a few colleagues are now recording all calls made by staff working remotely.

Are you or your colleagues having any technology issues now you’re working from home?
As you and your staff will largely be working from home at the moment, we’d like to hear from you if you’re struggling with any issues to do with your hardware or software, especially if you’re an accessible tech user. We’d also like to know if you’ve got good practice to share too. Please contact Eamonn Dunne (Working days: Monday, Wednesday & Friday).

Visionary Podcast now available – The Secret of Managing Brilliantly Remotely while keeping your sanity
On 14 April 2020, Leadership Coach, Nicki Deeson ran an online session for Visionary member CEO’s. Nicky has now recorded a podcast for us which you can listen to here.

Charity Law support in partnership with Russell Cook
We continue to work with our legal support partners Russell Cooke. They are offering support by telephone to any Visionary member who needs it. Call 020 3826 7510

HR Support from Roots HR
As a Visionary member you can access one hour’s free advice to help you at this tricky time. Call 01562 840060 or email them.

Visionary CEO Fiona Sandford on BBC Radio 4’s In Touch programme 
Listen to our CEO Fiona talking last week to Peter White on BBC Radio 4’s In Touch programme about government funding for charities during COVID-19.


Covid-19: A sector-wide approach

Important update from Sector Response Meeting
Our CEO, Fiona Sandford, continues to attend the weekly Sight Loss Sector Response Group made up of leaders from Visionary, RNIB, Guide Dogs and Thomas Pocklington Trust. The group’s purpose is to inform a sector-wide, unified response to the current crisis.

The group have agreed that the key priority is to get information, advice and support out to people with sight loss. To achieve this, each organisation in the group is reaching people to all people they have direct contact with and are sharing a template letter for any of you wanting to do the same. You can access the letter here. The group is aware that local organisations have contact with a huge number of people that other organisations do not and hope this letter can reach as many people as possible. In addition, they want to make sure people have local information on sources of support. We would therefore ask for you to send this letter to people who use your services if you possibly can.

We are conscious that you may already have reached out to the people on your contact lists, and if you have done this, you may consider this to be an additional opportunity to make contact.

We understand and appreciate that you may not have the capacity or resource to send at the moment so RNIB are offering to undertake a secure and confidential mailing on your behalf. Please note, if you want to take up this offer, RNIB are not seeking transfer of data – the data will only be used for this mailing and destroyed immediately after the mailing has gone out. The purpose of this is simply to get the priority information to as many people with sight loss as soon as possible. If you would like RNIB to do this on your behalf, please contact Campbell Chalmers.

Please feel free to adapt the content to include local information and add your logo. In order to gauge the distribution, it would be really valuable if you could email Visionary if you do use this letter for a mailing to let them know how many people you have sent it to.

Even if we all reach out to all people known to us, we know that this will still not be enough to reach all blind and partially sighted people. We are also hoping to secure a mailing via CVI registers and more information will follow for local organisations that hold the register.

Policy and influencing
Influencing the Government to work more closely with supermarkets
In previous briefings, we have told you that Visionary has come together with RNIB, Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Vision UK to ask the government to work with supermarkets and ensure blind and partially sighted people have access to vital supplies. The petition received a total of 22,653 individual signatures and has now been submitted to DEFRA. We will let you know if and when we hear anything!

Demanding action over the lack of accessible COVID-19 information
Visionary and TPT have been working alongside other charities, led by Action on Hearing Loss and RNIB to influence the government over the way the particular needs of disabled people are not being taken into consideration in official communications. Last week, we sent this joint letter to the Prime Minister. This action also resulted in an interesting news feature on Channel 4 news on Monday evening. You can watch this here.

Updates from National Organisations

Thomas Pocklington Trust – Launch new Student Support Service
Thomas Pocklington Trust are delighted to announce the launch of their Student Support Service. The service is aimed at students with a visual impairment in England, aged 16+ that are in or would like to enter Further or Higher Education in England. They have produced a range of resources for students and professionals, including important information in response to COVID-19. You can find out more here.

As part of their web based resources Thomas Pocklington Trust would like to direct students to existing resources, information and events that may be of interest to them. If there is any content that your organisation would like to promote, then please email. Read the full press release here.

Blind Veterans UK and Oxford University Survey
The Impact of COVID-19 on health and well-being
The Research and Innovation Department at Blind Veterans UK are working with the University of Oxford on a survey to explore the experiences of individuals during COVID-19. The captured data will be used to inform appropriate responses in support of those communities.

Having launched the survey on 1 April, they have received responses from a variety of organisations and from countries across the world. The survey, which is currently available in six languages and in an accessible format and should take just 15 minutes to complete, can be found here. The COVID-19 pandemic goes beyond our sector, but this is a great example of how the sector can pull together for the benefit of all.

Guide Dogs
A reminder that Guide Dogs Covid-19 Sight Loss Information line (0800 781 1444) has now launched to support people with sight loss, and their family and friends, as they face the unique challenges of living with a vision impairment during the coronavirus outbreak.

A reminder that RNIB’s Helpline (0303 123 9999) remains open on weekdays from 8am-8pm and now has extended Saturday opening times from 9am-5pm.


Member Spotlight

How Visionary Members are responding to the current crisis
Thank you for all sharing your service updates with us during this crisis. We still want to hear from you! If you have anything to share, please email us. Below we have shared just a few examples from members on how they are responding to this crisis.

This week we were delighted to chat to Rachel Watkinson, Head of Services for Galloway’s. Rachel shared the adapted and new services that the team at Galloway’s have put in place to support their service users through the current crisis. Like many members Galloway’s began by identifying the most vulnerable and isolated amongst their user group offering regular telephone based support and signposting through their advisory team. Galloway’s are also undertaking a range of innovative initiatives that you can find out more about on their website and social media pages. Here are some of the highlights:

Alexa Skill
Galloway’s have launched a brand new ‘Alexa Skill’ so people can listen to their latest talking news service, hear information about eye conditions and when they are back up and running), about Galloway’s events. You access the skill by simply asking Alexa to ‘Open Support through Sight Loss’. Further information can be found here.

Up to Date Information
Galloway’s Coronavirus information hub is regularly updated with the latest information on local support initiatives that they have been working hard to establish and build links with. The Galloway’s ECLO is also gathering up to date information from surrounding eye clinics

Active Eye-solation
Galloway’s are sharing an online, audio described workout video twice a week and are also running a ‘Walking Wednesday’ where their fitness expert will be recording his daily walk and describing the local scenes, plants and the wildlife so people can listen as they take a walk too!

Be My Eyes
Galloway’s are the first local sight loss organisation to be collaborating with the app ‘Be My Eyes’ a free app which connects blind and partially sighted people with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through a live video call. The sight loss advice team will be on hand to receive calls and offer specialist support.

Talking Together
This new telephone based service gives users the opportunity to connect with friends from their usual social groups over the phone. Users simply call the talking together number at a specific time to be connected with 6 or more of their friends. This is being grouped depending on social groups at the moment but will be extended to include live quizzes and information sessions.

Talking tech
Galloway’s have a resident expert who can provide tech support to anyone who needs it – he runs an online Q&A or can talk over the phone and even login to peoples’ devices to give support if they wish. He also runs a Tech Thursday session where he demonstrates a new piece of equipment each week. Galloway’s also have a Talking Tech news page with video tutorials and information.

Beacon Vision – #BeaconofHope campaign
The Beacon team have been sharing inspirational stories of kindness every Friday on Facebook/Twitter including stories of their paper boy donating Easter eggs to their care home residents and thank you’s to their amazing Care team.

Beacon jointly run a care home and offer support in the community and have adapted services to respond to need including now delivering meals in the community and offering medication collection. They have set up a community ‘pledge £5’ crisis appeal to try to secure funding for some basic tablets so they can facilitate video calls between residents in their care homes and loved ones. This has already raised over £6,000. Beacon CEO, Lisa Cowley has also shared her own account of the harsh reality of the challenges presented by COVID-19 which you can read here.


It’s all about the money


Visionary Member Success Stories: Local Council Emergency funding
Visionary members are reporting success in securing this funding. N-Vision secured £25,000 from Wyre Borough Council to support their charity shop. They report that the application process was very simple. The local authority wanted basic details about the organisation and property, for example, business rates payable, owned or leased, The whole process took 3 days – from application to receiving the grant!  N-Vision receive discounted business rates for the charity shop – but this didn’t make any difference to their successful claim. Accrington and District Blind Society have also received grants for their Sight Resource Centre (£10k) and Bookshop (£25k) based on the Rateable Value of their properties.

See what your local council is getting here and then go and ask them how they are using the funding to support those vulnerable people experiencing sight loss.

2.6 challenge
This campaign is intended to support charities who are losing the funding they would usually have secured through challenge events like the London Marathon. The 2.6 Challenge can be any activity you like – from running 2.6 miles to holding an online workout with 26 of your friends. The idea is to get sponsorship and people can either donate directly to the campaign (who will then distribute funds) or to a charity of their choice. The website shares lots of ideas and you can encourage people to get involved on 25 April 2020 and donate funds to you!

Virgin Money Giving removes platform fee until the end of lockdown
Virgin Money Giving (VMG) will waive its platform fee on all donations until the end of lockdown. The platform will not charge its fee, which is normally set at 2%, on all donations and fundraising activity from 18 April. Read More.

New Coronavirus funding updates from the DSC
More updates from their research team in Liverpool, this blog of theirs is being constantly updated so check back regularly – for more information on over 8,000 funders check out their Funds Online.

Managing funder relationships in a crisis
Since COVID-19 came along and affected services we’ve regularly advised people to discuss issues with their funders. Hear from DSC Director of Policy and Research, Jay Kennedy, and his 7 top tips for managing funder relationships in a crisis. Listen here.
Financial planning

Coronavirus and your charity’s finances – Free webinar
The Charity Finance Group are hosting another free webinar ‘’Coronavirus and your charity’s finances – update” this Thursday 23 April at 1pm. Sign up here. This webinar will provide an overview of the latest government announcements, including the package announced by the Chancellor on 8 April, and how your charity may be able to benefit. You can also email questions to their expert panel.

Income falling? Losing Money? Services/organisation at risk? – You might need to tell the Charity Commission
Many Visionary members are facing significant financial issues as a result of COVID-19, especially loss of income. You do need to consider whether you need to report the issues you may be dealing with to the Charity Commission. Working with our legal advice partners Russell-Cooke we have developed this guidance regarding the reporting of financial issues due to COVID-19.

Guide to cash flow modelling
The current environment is forcing us all to face complex and urgent decisions. To make the best choices requires an explicit understanding of potential outcomes and a robust cash flow model can help provide the basis for the judgements that need to be made. This blog sets out the basics of creating a cash flow model.

Accounts – Auditor and independent examiner reporting issues
You still need to ensure that you continue with your usual audit and financial examinations. You may be able to delay such work but you need to discuss that with your auditors/examiners and may also need to apply to the Charity Commission for permission to delay certain reports – see here for Charity Commission guidance upon delaying returns .  This Government guidance is directed at auditor and independent examiners and their Charity Commission reporting requirements, but it gives you an idea of how they are responding to COVID-19 and its impact.

Charities at increased risk of fraud and cybercrime during Covid-19 pandemic
Fraudsters are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to target charities, the Charity Commission has said in an alert to the sector. The regulator has said that police have reported an increase in coronavirus-related scams. Read more.

Financial support for businesses during COVID-19
Find out what financial support you can get for your business. Updated with details of the Future Fund and business support finder.

How Visionary can help you

Please do get in contact to discuss how we could support you during these times – the Visionary team are experienced in providing support to organisations who maybe facing financial and operational challenges.


HR Matters

Visionary HR Matters Knowledge Hub
The current crisis raises significant HR issues. On our HR Matters page, following wading through the mountain of advice that is out there, we have shared the most relevant up to date information.

Update on Furlough Leave as of 21/04/20
The scheme opened for claims this week and there have also been further updates and clarity upon eligibility and other very important details. Visionary’s’ HR partner Roots HR have produced this very useful update – if you are furloughing staff then it is a must read.

Furlough Leave 1 month in – Roots HR CIC webinar 3pm Thursday 23rd April 
Jan Golding, CEO of Roots HR will lead you through using furlough leave for the sustainability of your organisation, taking you through the most recent updates to the rules and guidance, including timescales, gaining agreement to furlough, roles paid for by public funds, other work whilst furloughed, how to treat annual leave, sickness and absence for childcare and how to bring employees onto and off furlough (and even rotate them!). To register contact Roots HR CIC direct.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme up and running
We are sure you already know about this announcement but here are details to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which went earlier this week with businesses able to claim up to £2,500 a month towards staff wages. And here is the link to the official step by step guide.

Protecting jobs and incomes during the Covid-19 crisis 
Ben Willmott of the CIPD examines the Government’s schemes to support workers through the coronavirus pandemic, specifically looking at wage subsidies and the self-employed. Read the full article here.

750,000 volunteers signed up, but more will be needed and this is how employers can support
Claire McCartney examines the Emergency Volunteer Leave sections of the Coronavirus Bill 2020 in this article.

CIPD calls for more flexibility from coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
On the day that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the Government’s Job Retention Scheme would be extended until the end of June, the CIPD’s Chief Executive, Peter Cheese, wrote to him calling for the scheme to be made more flexible to allow short-term working. Read the letter here.


Sharing the love

Tough Times for Trustees Too
Trustees are worrying about their day jobs, family and of course the charity. They are having to think quickly about their approach to risk, change decision-making practices at short notice, and contemplate circumstances like borrowing significant sums, closing down key services, or even furloughing and redundancies.  Things they would never consider under normal circumstances. Check out Debra Allcock Tylers take on how to keep trustees informed during the crisis and also hear a trustees perspective from Phyllida Perrett.

Rehabilitation Workers Professional Network (RWPN) – Update from Simon Labbett  
The current situation
We have been asking members about the current situation. Almost all are contacting those on their current case load, on the waiting list and where possible, people they have worked with in the recent past who they know are isolated. Very few new referrals are being received as CVIs are no longer being processed and generic hospital discharge referrals seem not to be focusing on the vision element in those cases. Additionally it seems that setting up new care packages for vulnerable people means passing a very high threshold of need. Very few face to face visits are taking place and an emergency-visit-only option still exists in most places where there is a sensory team that can understand the isolation felt by blind and partially sighted people.

The post COVID-19 future
RWPN is keeping in touch with professional bodies who provide similar community services to assess how we move from the current remote delivery back to home visits. I think IT (phones and video apps) will become a bigger feature of work, whether it is to aid assessment at a distance or for our clients directly to future-proof further isolation measures if the virus returns. Finally, I think all of us working in local government (whether under contract or directly) are going to have to look after ourselves very carefully when the lock down measures are eased.  I predict that after the initial slow return of referrals and CVIs there will be a blizzard of activity and some extreme pressure on workers and managers to get back to normal. I wonder if this pressure will be particularly noticeable with contracted-out services? Read Simon’s full article here.

Macular Society creates audio versions of Government COVID-19 communications
The Macular Society has recorded an audio version of both the COVID-19  leaflet and the letter from the PM to allow everyone the same access to the information. The audio versions of the Government’s communications can be heard on the charity’s website.

British Blind Sport Survey
British Blind Sport want all organisations to come through this pandemic in the best position possible to be able to continue to support people with a visual impairment to be active. They are working alongside Metro Blind Sport to understand the difficulties clubs and organisations are facing and what support they need to continue to function and be in the best place to support people with sight loss be active together when this is possible.

British Blind Sport have constructed a short survey to assist in collating information to understand the support that is needed and where they could assist organisations moving forward, and would appreciate it if you could fill this in. The survey will close on 11 May and can be found here.

Royal National College for the Blind – Virtual Open Day
The RNC will be running a virtual open day on Friday 24 April between 10am and 3pm. Link to the event on their Facebook can be found here.

Making better decisions
We know lots of you are having to make difficult decisions at the moment to balance the things you need to do, with the staff, volunteers and money you have available. One useful resource is:

  • The art of critical thinking – watch the DSC’s recent video for top tips and approaches to make those difficult decisions a little easier. Take a break, grab a cuppa, and watch this short video

Is now a good time for some core staff training?
During these unprecedented times of furlough (remember furloughed staff can still attend training) and reduced workloads for many staff at local societies, now might be a good time for your team to complete that training that they have wanted to do but could never before find the time.

IHASCO are an online training provider that some Visionary members are already using and they have now offered a discount of over 50% to all Visionary members. To find out more please contact the Visionary Account Manager, Jack Pitts via email or on 01344867088 or 07881556196.

Food supply Survey from House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
MPs on the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, are seeking a range of views from the public on whether the response of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been sufficient, and to suggest areas where more support is needed. Has the current crisis affected your ability to get food? If so, they would like to hear from you. The survey will be open until 5pm on 28 April. Complete the survey online here. This will add further weight to our petition to the supermarkets.


In the know

Are charitable services essential or just desirable? Shouldn’t essential services be made statutory and universal by Parliament?
A lot of the arguments around the support charities are getting from government at the moment (and forever!), hinge on how much importance is placed on the support we provide. Reads this blog, as Andrew Purkis asks some tough questions of government and charities, and challenges the view that what we deliver is “nice to have”.

Politics can wait – Scotland’s coronavirus response
Marek Zemanik looks at how the UK Government and the Scottish Government are supporting businesses, and what can be done differently during the pandemic. Read the article here.

Coronavirus guidance for the charity sector
Official guidance here to help with running your charity during the

DBS Checks – COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions
The Government has compiled a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions related to DBS and the COVID-19 outbreak. These will be updated regularly and can be found here. Information includes a Safeguarding Factsheet, designed to address specific concerns that people providing support in their community may have. The factsheet includes an FAQ document and covers a number of scenarios, and whether a DBS check would be needed.

Updated ID checking guidelines
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, DBS has made some temporary changes to the ID checking guidelines for standard and enhanced checks – and basic checks, when submitted through a Responsible Organisation. These changes have been made to limit face-to-face contact and speed things up, and can be found here.

Government launches new coronavirus business support finder tool
A new ‘support finder’ tool will help businesses across the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Grant funding provided to businesses by local authorities in England
Some charities might be eligible for support under such schemes. Check out details here.

COVID-19 guidance for people receiving direct payments
Advice for people who buy care and support through a direct payment, as well as local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and those who provide care and support.

COVID-19 – admission and care of people in care homes
Some member operate such services. Here is an update on how to protect care home residents and staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): social care guidance
Information here for the social care sector on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.


Font Resize
Change contrast