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The Care Act 2014 will impact significantly on the lives and financial circumstances of many visually-impaired people in the coming decades. Crucially, the legislation acknowledges rehabilitation for blind and partially sighted people in statutory guidance for the first time. Barry Porter explains...

There are many requirements for local authorities which will impact directly on people with vision impairments including:

  • Contact with a visually impaired person should be made within two weeks of a CVI (Certificate of Visual Impairment) being issued and assessments must be carried out by a person with the “necessary skill, knowledge and competency.”,
  • Rehabilitation must be provided based on people’s needs and shouldn’t be limited to six weeks,
  • Minor aids and adaptations up to the value of £1000 must provided free of charge
  • The wellbeing of service users and their carers must be promoted – wellbeing is defined as: personal dignity and control over daily life, physical/mental health, social/emotional well-being, protection from abuse/neglect, participation in work/education/training/ recreation, economic well-being, and suitable living accommodation,
  • “Preventative” services  should be prioritised to prevent, delay or reduce the care needs of both adults and their carers,

  • Local authorities must provide information about available care and support and ensure their information is accessible to people with vision impairment

Many directors of adult social services will feel daunted by the new expectations placed upon them by the Care Act, particularly at a time of austerity and squeezed budgets. Although some of the requirements outlined will be ‘business as usual’ for many authorities, there are very real changes here – and changes that could require significant resources. And of course the duties relating to visually-impaired people are part of a much bigger picture.

Nevertheless, I sincerely welcome the ambition of the Care Act as I think it aspires to the kind of holistic, long-term, meaningful support that actually transforms lives.

The preventative services and wellbeing support provided by Blind Veterans UK is proof that the direction of travel endorsed by the Care Act makes sense. For example, our provision of equipment, technology and rehabilitation support means that many of our veterans can continue to live independently, reducing their need for more care. While our unique community, emotional support and social activities have a dramatic impact on veterans’ and their carers’ wellbeing, reducing the isolation and unhappiness that can all too often accompany sight loss.

Additionally we provide opportunities to try new activities like fishing, creative writing or tandem cycling, which obviously go far beyond the reach of most local authority, but have tangible benefits such as boosting confidence and enriching lives.

I believe Blind Veterans UK’s unique support complements and enhances the provision of local authorities, particularly in the light of the new obligations under the Care Act. But unfortunately many veterans don’t realise that they are eligible for our support. We help all ex-service personnel with severe sight loss, including those who did National Service, however they lost their sight.

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. New research with our veterans and carers has found that almost a quarter of our veterans struggled with sight loss for six years or more before accessing our free support and services. The good news is that many social services teams already signpost veterans to us: in our new research, veterans and carers identified local authorities as the best public service for explaining the ‘full range of support services’ available.  As The Care Act requires local authorities to provide information about available support, I hope this will result in even more veterans being signposted to Blind Veterans UK.

To ensure all veterans with sight loss are aware of our support we are 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 Blind Veterans UK. We are offering free packs of promotional materials and opportunities to speak with our welfare team to find out more. Visit www.noonealone.org.uk or call 0800 389 7979 to find out more.

Barry Porter,

Director of Welfare,

Blind Veterans UK.

 

Footnotes

1. January 2015 postal survey of Blind Veterans UK beneficiaries conducted by Clarient Research. 24% of 1506 respondents.

2. January 2015 postal survey of Blind Veterans UK beneficiaries conducted by Clarient Research. 52% rated them the best public service out of 1506 respondents.