Emergency Fund life-saver for local sight loss charities

Date posted: 29th January 2021

The Emergency Fund, launched last April to help support sight loss charities in the face of Covid-19, was “a life-saver” according to the many local organisations it helped to support.

A report evaluating the impact of the grant programme found the funding helped many charities to simply ‘stay afloat’ while others were able to adapt services and even establish new ones.

In April 2020 Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) suspended its regular grant funding programme and launched the Emergency Fund to support sight loss charities throughout the UK.  These frontline charities needed financial support as other funding streams were cut and support services were needed more than ever.

£495k was awarded to 55 organisations which received a grant of up to £10k. All recipients submitted a report at the end of the 6-month grant period to evaluate the impact the funding.

Evaluation of the programme showed the fund enabled half to simply keep their doors open.  Bradbury Fields Services for Blind and Partially Sighted People shared that: “The grant helped to fill an income shortfall of 45%”.

Northumberland County Blind Association was just three months away from closure.  It used the £10K from the Emergency Fund as seedcorn funding to lever a further £70K, securing the future of the charity (see case study 1).

New services to support local blind and partially sighted communities throughout the UK, set up as a result of the funding, included: virtual and telephone tech support services; delivery services for food, medication, specialist equipment and mobility aids; pet care; online cooking, fitness classes; and online activities children and families.

MySight York used the £10K grant from the Emergency Fund to launch its ‘Keeping in Touch’ telephone service which proved to be a lifeline for blind and partially sighted people in its community (see case study 2).

For those remaining open, adapting services that adhered to social distancing rules was priority number one.  This meant many services moving to an online format, including: 1 to-1 and group support sessions; low vision clinics; accessible exercise classes; employment services; and child counselling sessions.

To reach blind and partially sighted people in the communities who were not on the internet, a large number of organisations set up telephone befriending services or doorstep welfare check networks, most of which were delivered by volunteers.

Essex-based Blind and Sight Impaired Society (BASIS) adapted its befriending service from face-to-face to telephone to ensure its community of blind and partially sighted people retained contact. It also launched online fitness and a hot meal delivery service to those shielding or unable to shop for themselves (see case study 3).

Through these services the Emergency Fund helped to support around ten thousand blind and partially sighted individuals.  In some cases, the services provided by the supported organisations was the only contact many people have had during the pandemic, despite many of them being registered severely sight impaired.

And in addition to the direct contact with blind and partially sighted individuals, services delivered by the 55 charities also benefited hundreds of families and carers across all regions.  Many of the local charities experienced an increase in volunteers.

Visionary, the membership organisation for sight loss charities, supported Thomas Pocklington Trust to reach many of these local frontline organisations which needed the grants.

Fiona Sandford, CEO of Visionary, said: “The funding from TPT and the speed at which it was disbursed made a huge and significant positive difference to the many visually impaired people who rely on local sight loss charities.

“Local charities provide essential and sometimes lifeline services within their local communities and being able to apply for this funding quickly and easily offered a very welcome helping hand at a difficult and challenging time.”


Charles Colquhoun, Chief Executive of Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “The fund was specifically set up to help charities across the UK to continue to provide critical services for the physical and emotional wellbeing of blind and partially sighted people.”


View the full list of successful applicants.


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