Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB) and its division Rotherham Sight & Sound (RSS) provides services for people with sight and/or hearing loss locally.
This week is Loneliness Week, which raises awareness of loneliness and encourages people to talk about it. SRSB is painfully aware how many of its clients are, in normal times, at risk of being lonely. So with the added challenges of lockdown, they are potentially even more at risk.
They want to ensure that anyone requiring their support is aware of the services that they are currently offering which cover: benefits advice, support on the telephone, issuing equipment, some virtual groups, activity packs and a shopping service for essential food and medication. Also, urgent one-to-one appointments (observing social distancing and infection control) and new referrals are now being taken. If anyone requires advice, or if you are concerned for a friend, neighbour or family member, they are asking that you get in touch.
Throughout the last few challenging months, even though they have had to make many changes, their priority has remained the same; the welfare of their clients.
Many of their services had to cease, and as a result, many staff be furloughed. Still, the charity has managed, with a skeleton staff and some volunteers to maintain essential support for its clients.
In Sheffield, they currently have over 3,600 clients, and in Rotherham, they have over 1,500.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, staff have delivered over 200 lots of shopping to 45 of our most isolated clients. Volunteers have made regular weekly phone calls to over 225 of our clients who normally attend the Sheffield and Rotherham centres and other volunteers have made in excess of 1800 calls to check on other clients. Over 80 clients are receiving Activity Packs every week now and over 100 new referrals for new clients have been received since the start of lockdown.
Deputy General Manager Joanne Ardern said:
“The wellbeing of our clients has been an important consideration, as many of our clients are at risk of being socially isolated and lonely in normal circumstances, something that the social activities at our centres were there to address prior to lockdown, so it has been hard to not be able to offer that social contact. We are very aware how critical our services are to our clients, and have done all we can to maintain support within the guidelines during this difficult time. We don’t want anyone to feel lonely.”
One client, Sarah talks about what she has missed:
“As a client, I miss my family. The comfort of walking in the centre and seeing and hearing warm friendly voices that make you so welcome. There is no barrier between staff and clients, I walk in and instantly feel at home, safe, like putting on your comfy dressing gown! There’s always someone to talk to, no matter how you feel when you walk in, you leave feeling happy and with a tale to tell! The laughter, there is so much laughter, nothing is held back! We share our highs and lows of living with sight loss. My sight loss ruled my life, it was my excuse not to do anything. Now I own it, SRSB and RSS have taught me that. I dread to think how lockdown would have affected me I had I not gained the confidence from our centres!”
General Manager Steve Hambleton said:
“I have been with SRSB for 20 years and of course, we have had some challenges during that time – the rebuild of our centre for example. But, like so many other organisations, we have never had an experience like this. However, I have been so proud of our team, both those still working and those furloughed for their dedication to the welfare of our clients and ultimately to our charity. SRSB has been in Sheffield for 160 years this year, and we have to ensure that we are still here for people with sight loss in the future.
“We have also been very lucky to have the continued support of several volunteers who have expanded their calls to clients over the last few months. The strength of the local community has been incredible too, its been fantastic to witness how people have pulled together.”
You can contact the charity on 0114 272 2757 in Sheffield, and 01709 722 420 in Rotherham, or email firstname.lastname@example.org