Photograph credit: George Pennock Photography/Macular Society
Leading sight loss charity the Macular Society is set to significantly expand its services in Northern Ireland after receiving a £400,000 grant from the National Lottery.

The Society has been awarded the funding from the National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland to help it support people with macular disease all over the country for the next five years.

The grant funding will enable the Macular Society to provide a comprehensive suite of accessible services for people with central vision loss of all ages across the country. The charity will work closely with visually-impaired people and their families; health, education and public services; employers, teachers, volunteers and other charities, to deliver these services and help anyone affected by macular disease to fulfil their potential and live healthier, more independent lives.

Through the project, the charity will also offer peer support, access to low-vision training, equipment and technology, daily living skills, volunteer development, health and wellbeing support and a young people’s service.

In addition, the Society plans to recruit a second regional manager for Northern Ireland who will be responsible for overseeing the charity’s operations and strengthening its presence in the western half of the country.

Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently affected and many more are at risk. The disease can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces. Many people affected describe losing their sight as being similar to bereavement. There is still no cure and most types of the disease are not treatable. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of macular disease, affecting more than 600,000 people, usually over the age of 50. In Northern Ireland, it is estimated that more than 55,000 people have macular disease, with 10 new cases being diagnosed every day.

The award of the new grant takes the total amount of funding awarded to the Macular Society by the National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland to £650,000 since 2009. This has enabled the Society to provide a wide range of support services all over the country and more than triple the number of peer support groups for people with macular disease.

Tessa Barrett, Macular Society director of services, said:

“The award of this latest round of funding opens up lots of exciting possibilities for us. Crucially, it will allow us to introduce a number of services that we’ve previously only been able to deliver widely elsewhere in the UK and reach far more people in Northern Ireland who urgently need our support.

“We’ve already been working closely with people affected by macular disease across the country to find out what kind of services they would like to see us offer. We’ll continue to liaise with them, as well as our other partners and healthcare professionals across Northern Ireland to develop the service and ensure it continues to meet their needs.

“The National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland has been a great supporter of the Macular Society over the years and we’re delighted that this partnership will continue.”

Kate Beggs, the National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland director, said:

“I’m pleased to award this funding to the Macular Disease Society which will make a big difference to people with macular disease across Northern Ireland. It’s great to see National Lottery money being used by people who are taking the lead in developing ideas to help their communities thrive.

“This year we’re celebrating the 25th birthday of the National Lottery, and I want to thank all the National Lottery players who have helped make work like this possible.”