Holistic approach to increase access to services for people in Birmingham

Date posted: 30th October 2019

Holistic approach to increase access to services and activities for blind and partially sighted people in Birmingham.

Blind and partially sighted people in Birmingham will have greater access to sports, employment and social activities following new arrangements unveiled at a meeting today.

These services, funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust, were previously delivered via Birmingham Vision.  Following a sustainability review, the Birmingham Vision board took the decision to close the charity on the basis that Thomas Pocklington Trust will redirect funding for the services to other organisations established in the area.

Charles Colquhoun, CEO at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “Research estimates there are more than 28,000 blind or partially sighted people in Birmingham with 8,620 actually registered blind or partially sighted*, yet only a fraction of these access the services and activities available.  We want to change this.

“By redirecting funding for these services to established charities in the city, the new arrangements will enable more people to access these.  Local provision for sport, employment, social activities and the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer role will not only continue but the pathway for these services will be streamlined to increase access to these in the city.”

Focus Birmingham will deliver a Health and Wellbeing Project and Peer Support and Social Project which will form part of its new Sight Loss Support model.

When a person comes to Focus they will be given a ‘Sight Loss MOT’ – a holistic review of employment aspirations, technology, social and support needs.  This support model for both older people and those of working age improves access to, and extends the reach of, services and activities including pub nights, art, technology and Braille sessions and ‘Living with Sight Loss’ courses.

The local charity will run IAG sessions within the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre (BMEC) and Queen Elizabeth (QE) hospitals to reach and support as many people as possible.

The charity will also build upon its health and wellbeing program by extending its range of well-being activities including light exercise, 1:1 health and well-being sessions and specific activities including cricket, sailing, yoga and fishing.

Cate Burke from Focus Birmingham said: “We will ensure our activities are both accessible and relevant by working with the people we support and with other local organisations and groups that represent the needs and interests of their communities.

“We are particularly excited to extend our activities to people of working age.  Once the dates, times and locations for activities are set, we will contact existing service users directly to let them know how to access these and make the transition for them as smooth as possible.  We will also publish these on our website and across social media to encourage more people to get involved.”

National disability charity Sense will run courses and activities to enhance employment opportunities for blind and partially sighted people.  This will include a pre-employment course, one-on-one sessions, peer support, job fairs, assisted job search sessions and benefits information. This will continue to be delivered by Zoe Bates and will be run from the Sense TouchBase Pears centre in Selly Oak.

David Ash, Head of Operations at Sense, said: “This will help people who are seeking paid employment, as well as those who are already in paid employment who want to retain work through sight loss or are navigating a career change.

“There is so much technology available now to support blind and partially sighted people in the workplace.  We will offer advice and information and help people develop their skills and confidence to navigate the job market through personal and social barriers.”

Under the leadership of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO), Russell Stephenson, will continue to deliver advice and services from Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre (BMEC) at City Hospital Birmingham.

One of the largest facilities of its kind in Europe, BMEC receives referrals from hospitals and GPs across the region.  Working closely with medical and nursing staff in the eye clinic and the sensory team in social services, Russell provides those recently diagnosed with an eye condition with the practical and emotional support they need to understand their diagnosis, deal with their sight loss and maintain their independence.

Transferring the running of the ECLO service at BMEC to RNIB will ensure that those newly diagnosed with sight loss in Birmingham and the Midlands will continue to have access to this important source of information at a time when they need it most.

Carolyn Chamberlain, Head of UK Eye Care Support Services at RNIB, said: “It can be an overwhelming and isolating experience being told you are going to lose your sight. ECLOs are of vital importance during this time, and are there to provide advice, guidance and information that can help people newly diagnosed with sight loss to maintain their independence.

“RNIB already supports ECLOs across the country, and we are looking forward to continuing to provide this crucial service in Birmingham.”

People can find out more on each of the services as follows:

The ECLO can be contacted on russell.stephenson@nhs.net  0121 507 6737

The Retinal Support Group will be delivered in John Lewis Community Hub for details, contact Clair Pudaruth, clair.pudaruth@retinauk.org.uk Mobile: 07841 481 423

Employment services will be delivered by Sense at Touchbase Pears, 750 Bristol Rd, Birmingham, B29 6NA. Email: michelle.williams@sense.org.uk

The social and sports services will be delivered by Focus Birmingham info@focusbirmingham.org.uk 0121 478 5222

* RNIB, Sight Loss Data Tool V4, Dec 2018


For further information or images please contact: Penny Wilkinson, Thomas Pocklington Trust, penny.wilkinson@pocklington-trust.org.uk  020 8995 0880 or 07974 578 637.

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