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Sunday, 27 September 2020

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New research reveals the challenges of London’s sight loss community

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LONDON is proving very challenging for the more than two hundred thousand blind and partially sighted people living in the capital, with younger people being particularly affected, according to new research by the Vision Foundation, London’s sight loss charity.

Lockdown is compounding the exclusion, isolation and anxiety already faced by many blind and partially sighted people. Measures such as social distancing mean that the usual support isn’t available to allow people to get around, taking away autonomy and independence. Younger people, living on their own without a local support network in place, describe feeling the loss of control and isolation acutely, with delays in securing the relevant technology and support for homeworking increasing the stress. Access to key services, such as shopping deliveries, has been a problem for many although local shops are now finding ways to cope with this, while supermarkets try to find a solution.

The Vision Foundation’s research found that organisations which support the visually impaired community in London are working hard to stay in touch with their members and adapt their services to suit the different needs. The charity has committed £100K to the London Community Response Fund to ensure these organisations have the money they need to adapt and innovate quickly and effectively. It is also offering free fundraising and income generation advice and hands-on pro bono support to enable small, local sight loss charities to access emergency funding opportunities. In line with its aim to make London a shining example of a sight loss city, the Vision Foundation together with the RNIB has written to the Mayor of London to draw his attention to the challenges faced in the current crisis and has launched a new social media campaign #BlindLockdownLife.

Judith Brodie, the Vision Foundation’s interim chief executive said:

“The Vision Foundation has moved quickly to help address the problems faced by London’s blind and partially sighted people by providing funds to enable the excellent local organisations, which support this community, to deliver their services where and how they are needed.

“The £100K we’ve committed to the London Community Response Fund is in addition to grants of more than £900,000 that we allocated earlier this year to organisations supporting blind and partially sighted people. We’re also offering practical hands-on help, sharing best practice and using social media so that the stories of blind and partially sighted Londoners living through lockdown can be heard.”

Interviews by the Vision Foundation with blind and partially sighted Londoners aged between 25 and 80 found that those of working age, who may not have family support nearby and are not on the radar of local community services, are finding the lockdown particularly hard. Interviewees reported difficulty in sleeping, problems in getting food, isolation and loss of autonomy and independence with the associated effect on mental health. Some described being unable to take up offers of help as they are not able to read information and leaflets which come through the door and local Facebook support groups do not reach the digitally excluded.

With face to face activities no longer possible, organisations working with London’s visually impaired community have turned to technology to stay in touch and provide continued service. For example, BlindAid is linking with leading hospitals such as Moorfields so that those requiring medical support don’t drop off the radar and are able to access appointments. Croydon Vision is offering IT at-home services, setting up social networking access and tips on using the internet for food shopping. The Amber Trust is trialling musical workshops via video links.

London organisations working with blind and partially sighted people can apply for funding to London Community Response Fund. To receive fundraising and other practical advice, please visit https://www.visionfoundation.org.uk/coronavirus/funding-available/

COVID-19 Living in a Lockdown: the experiences of London’s Sight Loss community can be downloaded at https://www.visionfoundation.org.uk/news-category/covid-19-living-in-a-lockdown/

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