New research has found that many veterans with sight loss are missing out on the free support offered by Blind Veterans UK. The charity is urging councils to signpost veterans which will also help them to meet their duties under The Care Act 2014, which comes into effect next month (April 2015).
The research has found that almost a quarter of those supported by national military charity Blind Veterans UK struggle with sight loss for six years or more before accessing the charity's free support and services1. Signposting to Blind Veterans UK could help local authorities to fulfil their obligations under The Care Act 2014 which include promoting wellbeing, increasing preventative services and providing information about available care and support. The research with Blind Veterans UK's beneficiaries and carers also identified local authorities as the best public service for explaining the 'full range of support services' available2. In response, Blind Veterans UK's No One Alone campaign is encouraging local authorities' sensory impairment teams and adult social services staff to ask residents with sight loss if they have a service history and to signpost those that do to the charity for free services and support.
Blind Veterans UK supports all ex-Service personnel with severe sight loss, including those who did National Service. It doesn't matter when they served or how they lost their sight. It could be due to an incident while on active service or simply the result of an accident, illness or ageing. The charity has a UK-wide network of welfare officers and three centres in Llandudno, Brighton and Sheffield, providing rehabilitation and training. It also provides emotional support, equipment to make life easier and social activities, as well as opportunities to learn new skills, such as IT, and to try new hobbies from fishing to photography.
Blind Veterans UK is contacting all local authorities in England and Wales this week to make them aware of the support the charity offers. There are offering free packs of promotional materials and opportunities to speak with one of the charity's welfare team to find out more.
Barry Porter, Director of Welfare Services at Blind Veterans UK said: "Sadly many veterans don't realise that they are eligible for Blind Veterans UK's support and services.
"We currently help more than 4000 veterans and their families but we would know there are many more that could be slipping through the net. To help them access the support they need, we are asking sensory impairment and social services teams at local authorities to check if residents with sight loss have a Service history, and if they do signpost them to Blind Veterans UK. We are here and waiting to help them to discover a life beyond sight loss."
Alan Powell, 83, from Norfolk is a National Service veteran who lost his sight from age-related macular degeneration. He was living in Wales when he was registered blind and a member of staff at his local council told him about Blind Veterans UK.
Alan says: "I can't praise Blind Veterans UK enough, the support I have received has been superb. I lost my sight very quickly, but I've been able to cope quite well with their help. I was always in to computing and photography, but I was struggling to see my computer at home.
"When I went to their Llandudno centre for the first time, they gave me lots of equipment and training to help me keep using my computer, as well as things to help me at home, including a little gadget which helps me make a cup of tea. I've visited the centres quite a few times now, I've done more training and arts and crafts courses including pottery and painting. The staff are just excellent and the centres have such a family atmosphere."
If Blind Veterans UK can help you or someone you know call free on 0800 389 7979 or visit www.noonealone.org.uk