LEADING sight loss charity the Macular Society has received a £40,000 grant from The National Lottery Community Fund to help provide an increased range of remote services following the coronavirus outbreak.
With all of its face-to-face services in the UK currently suspended due to the outbreak, the grant funding will enable the Society to offer enhanced telephone and online support services to people in Northern Ireland during the lockdown period.
This will include increasing the capacity of its Advice and Information, telephone befriending, counselling and working age and young people’s services to help address increased demand from people with macular disease who are currently in isolation.
It will also allow the Society to train and recruit additional ‘Tech Talk’ volunteers to help visually-impaired people to make the most of things like tablets, smart speakers and other useful web-based services such as online shopping, reading recipes and listening to audiobooks.
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 this latest grant takes the total amount of funding awarded to the Macular Society by the National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland to £690,000 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 in the past 11 years.
Cathy Yelf, Macular Society chief executive, said:
“We’re seeing increased demand for all of our telephone and online services at present, so this additional funding from The National Lottery Community Fund will make a huge difference.
“People affected by macular disease are often older and many have other underlying health issues. The current social distancing guidelines mean that they may feel increasingly lonely and isolated without any face-to-face contact with anyone. Our remote support services offer a real lifeline to those people, so in a situation like this when they need us more than ever, it’s absolutely vital that we’re here for them.
“We’re extremely grateful to The National Lottery Community Fund, and all of the lottery players, who’ve made this possible.”
Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland director of The National Lottery Community Fund, said:
“We are delighted to support this great work, helping connect people from their own homes during what could be a lonely and isolating time. This is a great example of how groups are using Lottery funding to adapt their services so they can continue to help and support one another. National Lottery players can be proud that the money they have raised is funding this work.”
For more information on macular disease, call the Macular Society on 0300 3030 111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org