Blind and partially sighted people are on the verge of tipping from "just managing" into "not coping" and could end up spiralling into ill-health, isolation and depression, if local authorities don’t make small but significant changes, new research by the UK’s leading sight loss charity has warned.
The research, produced by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and public interest company OPM, found that local authorities could make a great difference to the lives of blind and partially sighted people by making modest changes.
With sight loss predicted to rise to more than 2.25 million people by 2020, the report *Quick wins and missed opportunities* warns that costs to local services could rocket if local authorities fail to take action.
Andy Kaye, RNIB’s Policy Manager, said: ‘‘Local authorities have the potential to transform the lives of blind and partially sighted people by making small but significant changes. If action isn’t taken now, costs to local services for health and social care could spiral, but the great news is it’s not rocket science. Often simple, cost effective, innovative actions make a huge difference.’’
Mr Kaye added: ‘‘The time is now for local authorities to help build a better future for blind and partially sighted people.’’
The report highlighted the need to listen to blind people and stressed the importance of supporting local voluntary organisations and key rehabilitation services, since these provide a key point of contact for many blind and partially sighted people.
Some local authorities are already finding practical solutions, which they often deliver in partnership with voluntary organisations.
Joan Barnett, 65, of Guildford, Surrey, who was registered blind in 2005, heaps praise on her local society Surrey Association for Visual Impairment (SAVI).
She explained: ‘‘I fell nine times in the first two years after losing my sight but since having some mobility training with SAVI I haven't fallen once. I was always really fearful of going out but my confidence definitely grew after the training. SAVI were great in letting me know about my entitlements and helping me fill out all the complicated forms. I don't know what we'd do if the council couldn't afford to give SAVI anything. What would happen to people newly registered? That doesn't bear thinking about.’’
Other authorities which have also taken the lead in improving their approach include South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council, Leicester City Council and Plymouth City Council.
For the full report and its recommendations visit RNIB's website at www.rnib.org.uk/quickwins
Written by Catherine Ridge