Roger Clifton the CEO for ELVis, discusses the various challenges faced in engaging with different sections of the population and how these have changed over time

When I was told that I would be required to submit a Blog once every 6 weeks, I thought that was ok, not too much of a task. Well, it’s surprising how quickly that 6 weeks has come round, or is that just an age thing!!

Talking of age, a number of meetings, events and conferences that I’ve recently attended have made me think about the various challenges we face in engaging with different sections of the population and how these have changed over time.

Vision Impaired young people are now generally educated in an “integrated”, “mainstream” setting with their sighted peers, rather than a “segregated” setting with other blind and partially sighted children. As long as this structure is resourced correctly, this has to be the right option, but it isn’t the cheap solution that it is often envisaged it will be. It can also bring other difficulties, such as involving the young Vision Impaired person fully in sport and physical activity and also inspiring them to achieve higher education, employment and an independent  life. Unfortunately, lack of knowledge amongst parents and teachers often means that the young people aren’t stretched and encouraged, leading to, in some cases, a life of reliance on others and living off of benefits becomes the pinnacle of an individual’s ambition.

The statistics relating to the employment of vision Impaired people are pretty horrendous and do not seem to be changing significantly. The best guess is that only around 25-30% of Vision Impaired people of working age are in employment and I know of one East London borough where this has been measured and the figure is actually 19%. Or, in other words, 81% of Vision Impaired people in that borough are not in work. Technology does create more access to information and should make finding and retaining a job easier, but progress also means that a number of opportunities that were available, say 30 years ago, no longer are. These include: audio typing, telephony and, whatever you think of them, the sheltered workshops. Unfortunately, we, within the Vision Impaired sector, often don’t help the situation as we develop programmes that don’t actually result in putting people into work and the success of other schemes, such as the Government’s Access To Work, often depend on who it is you speak to and whether you are determined enough to overcome, what appear to be, numerous barriers.

Finally, there is the section of the population classified as “older people”, whatever the definition of that may be. Although many medical advances have been made, such as Cataract operations, sight loss is still significantly more prevalent within this group and, with an ageing population, will only increase. So we must ensure that those people who are losing their sight are advised at the point of diagnosis about what they “can”, rather than what they “can’t” do. They should also receive the required support in terms of adapting and be informed that there are recreational, leisure and volunteering opportunities available.

So, what can we, as service providers within the sight loss sector, do to improve matters for all these groups. In my view, for too long, organisations providing services have been operating as competitors and not in unison. We must create effective and productive partnerships, allowing us all to contribute our specialist expertise, but always focusing on the individual and a genuine person centred approach. Difficult? You wouldn’t think so would you, but it clearly has been up until now. So that’s my challenge, as much to ourselves as anyone else, let’s make sure that, in 10 years time, we can look back, admit that we realised what could be improved, but be proud that we tackled the matters that existed and that we really do have joined up services that provide real benefit and life changing solutions.

Here is what the rest of the team have been up to in the last week:

  • Attended the Marion Richardson ‘cluster’ of schools’ Paralympic sports event in Tower Hamlet.
  • Met with Infosound to discuss social media
  • Delivered Vision Impairment awareness training to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (Better) staff in Hackney.
  • Met with Thomas Pocklington Trust to refine the monthly scorecard.
  • Chaired ActivEyes Redbridge members meeting
  • Delivered two Vision Impairment Awareness Training sessions to GLL
  • Attended meeting with Motivate East
  • Produced and circulated fortnightly LVIF Bulletin
  • Attended the quarterly meeting of the Tower Hamlets Vision Strategy Group.
  • Attended the quarterly meeting of the London Visual Impairment Forum (LVIF).
  • Tower Hamlets quarterly Vision Strategy Group meeting took place on 24th June – the findings of the Service User Consultation were discussed; this included a call to make GP practices more accessible to VI people, increased awareness training for frontline staff, increased communication between health, social care and voluntary sector, and greater awareness of the services available to VI people. These are already part of the Action Plan and will be prioritised for immediate action.
  • LVIF quarterly full forum meeting took place on June 26th, which included presentations on the London Eye Health Network, the NHS Accessibility Standard, amongst many others (agendas and minutes of these meetings can be found on the LVIF website: http://lvi

Sharon Schaffer, the Vision Strategy Implementation Manager


My turn in the blogspot hot seat.

My name is Sharon Schaffer and I am the Vision Strategy Implementation Manager, working with both East London Vision (ELVis) and Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT).

My role is to set up and manage a Vision Strategy Group in each of the 7 East London boroughs (though having said that, there were already thriving vision strategy groups in Havering and Barking & Dagenham when I embarked on this mission three years ago). I am pleased to say that we now have our full 7 groups in operation, each consulting with local service users and sight loss societies to identify gaps and address issues in sight loss services in each borough.

Each Vision Strategy Group meets quarterly, bringing together reps from across the sight loss and eye health spectrum (opticians, GPs, decision makers and commissioners, service users, councillors and charity organisations) to ensure that the three outcomes of the UK Vision Strategy are happening at a local level. These 3 outcomes are:

  1. Prevention: Everyone in the UK looks after their eyes and their sight.
  2. Provision: Everyone with an eye condition receives timely treatment and, if permanent sight loss occurs, early and appropriate services to support are available and accessible to all.
  3. Participation: A society in which people with sight loss can fully participate

With it being June we are currently in the second phase of quarterly meetings, so I have been doing the rounds in Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest over the last fortnight (not to mention Havering and Barking & Dagemham who held their quarterly meetings in May) and have meetings in Tower Hamlets and Redbridge in the coming weeks….

I must say, no-one ever said it was going to be easy – especially in these times of austerity and dwindling resources – but thanks to the commitment and support of all those round the various tables, we are definitely having a positive impact in raising eye health and sight loss up the agenda, addressing the gaps in current provision, and providing a fertile forum that enables stakeholders to join-up and link one end of sight loss services to the other.

The past month has also brought the annual Service User Consultation in Tower Hamlets, where around 30 local people with vision impairment joined Vision Strategy Group members to feedback on the Action Plan successes and challenges over the past year, and prioritise areas for next year…. Good discussion, and afternoon tea, was had by all, and I look forward to feeding the findings of this consultation into the Tower Hamlets Action Plan.

On June 16th Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) held a Collaboration Day, where staff across the ‘Collaboration Directorate’ (which includes ELVis) got together to look at the various arms of the department and to identify ways of working effectively together … again, good discussion and food was enjoyed by all….. this is becoming a bit of a pattern!

And just to really drive home the debate and food theme… June 18th saw the vision sector conference, ‘VISION 2015’, an annual must-do event for everyone in involved in eye health and sight loss.  Hosted by UK Vision Strategy and held at Westminster Central Hall, this conference is a chance to network with colleagues across the sector, discuss and debate diverse topics from improving eye health to transforming lives through digital technology…. Whilst also, you’ve guessed it, enjoying a lovely lunch (or maybe its just me??)

Or perhaps not, as elsewhere in the ELVis team there have been various local society (support group) meetings, no doubt involving plenty of tea and biccies, a cooking session in Hackney, a breakfast club in Redbridge, as well as the laying of plans for future events and outings with the local groups.

Here’s wishing you all a tasty and relaxing week…

Till the next time,


Hassan Khan’s blog Entry, covering VI Bowls and Make a Noise in Libraries fortnight

Greetings to one and all

I’ve certainly waited rather patiently for my turn and I’m pleased to present my entry at last!

My name is Hassan Khan, I’m an Intern for Thomas Pocklington Trust, working with Islington Advisory Group, South-East London Vision and East London Vision respectively.

One of my duties is to manage and maintain social media channels. I always appreciate feedback from our followers, fans and readers. Your opinions are vital and just to reiterate, if you would like to feature something in this blog, on Facebook or Twitter, we would love to hear from you, please don’t be shy! Although this blog points out what the ELVis team have been up to, we are just as interested in knowing what you’ve been up to as well!

East London Vision, in conjunction with Metro Blind Sport, Walthamstow Borough Bowling Club and Motivate East, organised the first Vision Impaired bowls taster session

As someone who is an enthusiastic sports person, it was a pleasure to be able to help run the first ever VI Bowls taster session in East London and here is a short report.

On a glorious Thursday afternoon, the sun most definitely played a big part in ensuring our first ever Bowls session in East London, was a success!

The obsession with the weather means, we often start a conversation with the weather and as our members were introduced to the bowling club staff, we are pleased to report, they certainly maintained the tradition. Although perhaps as a Cricketer who spends his life praying for the sun, it is probably me who is a little obsessed! 🙂

After a quick introduction to VI bowls, rules and the equipment. We had a tour of the six Bowling Rinks and only then did the members have the opportunity of throwing a Jack and the wood. This would stand them in good stead for a competitive game later on in the afternoon. I do sincerely hope, no one had the camera out, when yours truly had their first ever go at throwing a wood, let’s just say, it won’t live long in the memory! 😦

Visually Impaired Bowls England was founded in 1975 and is made up of more than 50 clubs and has around 600 members. Globally, there are 5,000 blind and partially sighted members of the International Association, which makes lawn bowls the largest outdoor activity for the blind in the world.

Bowls is not only a great game to take part in socially; it also helps improve confidence and general fitness of players.

Although the snacks probably didn’t help our general fitness, everyone involved had their competitive juices flowing as we wrapped up the day by playing a couple of games. When the final scores came in, one or two were left perplexed, as both teams drew 3 all. Although, VI Bowls was the big winner on the day!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank, Ian Francis (Sports Development Officer) Metro Blind Sport, Both of the VI bowling champions from Metro Blind Sport, Motivate East, our members for attending and last but most definitely not least, Walthamstow Borough Bowling Club, your continued support and effort is much appreciated.

I also had the pleasure of attending a coffee morning at Wanstead Library, as part of Make a Noise in Libraries fortnight. It was rather encouraging to learn that libraries in East London want to do more for Vision Impaired People and I’m happy to report I presented some ideas of what events and activities the libraries could organise. I also discovered as well as ‘Books on Wheels’ people can now download talking books on their smart phones, tablets and iPads by downloading the Overdrive App. Incidentally, I should add, I’m now a proud owner of a Library card.

The ELVis team is always incredibly busy, so here is what the rest of the crew have been up to:

  • Coordinated National Eye Health Week activities, and possibilities of including a question on eye tests in routine Health Checks, with Hackney Public Health
  • Co-Chaired Newham Vision Strategy Group meeting – welcomed new stakeholders, said goodbye to ‘old’ stakeholders and continued to drive the Action Plan forward… this quarter focussing on Children’s pathway and services.
  • Hosted a Service User Consultation in Tower Hamlets, in association with Beyond Barriers – Around 25 service users (from BB and Deafblind UK), and 15 staff – so a good pulling together from the Vision Strategy Group. Discussion groups looked at what was working, what was missing, and key priorities for change in 4 areas: Health & Prevention, Social Services, Access and Inclusion. The event received positive feedback… and we await the Findings Report.
  • Attended meal at the Harvester as part of our support to ActivEyes Redbridge
  • Various preparation in advance of delivering Vision Impairment Awareness Training
  • Attended meeting in Hackney to provide feedback and support for the pan disability training they wish to develop.

Have a wonderful week


ActivEyes Redbridge quarterly members meeting

ActivEyes Redbridge quarterly members meeting

The Next quarterly members meeting for ActivEyes Redbridge will be held in June:

Date: Monday 22 June

Time: 4.45-6.15

Where: Training room, 5th Floor, Forest House, 16-20 Clements Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1BA


4.45pm Welcome – Introductions and apologies

4.50pm update on current ActivEyes position

5.05 Future activities

5.25pm Odette Battarel, from the Thomas Pocklington Trust will demonstrate a range of equipment.

6.05pm AOB

6.10 Date of next and future meetings.

6.15 Close

If you are attending, or would like to be met at Ilford Station, please call or email:

Tel: 020 3697 6464


Vision Impairment Awareness Training

Vision Impairment Awareness training

All our training programmes are tailored to the specific requirements of the client and designed and delivered by Vision Impaired people.

We know that clients gain the maximum benefit by learning from people who experience Vision Impairment on a daily basis. A participant who had attended a Vision Impairment Awareness Training session stated: “I have to say it is the first time that I’ve been on an awareness course presented by people with sight loss and it’s about 100% more effective/powerful!”

What we offer

We run a variety of training courses covering topics aimed at anyone who wishes to provide a high quality service to blind and partially sighted people.


The aim of our workshops is to provide those attending with relevant information relating to sight loss so that they can provide effective, person centred assistance to Vision Impaired people. In addition, attendees will also benefit generically from:

  • An increased ability to communicate effectively
  • enhanced interpersonal skills
  • Being able to provide a better overall customer service.

Another participant added: “the entire course was great and I learnt so much from it, and now feel much more confident in assisting blind and partially sighted people. A very worthwhile day.”

General course content

The following is just an example of topics that can be covered as part of the workshop, but as our training is tailored to the specific requirements of the client, the actual content is up to you:

Terminology, including language and Vision Impairment culture and etiquette

Sighted guiding, with practical demonstration and participation

  • The effect of common eye conditions, including the use of simulator spectacles
  • Communications, covering verbal, written and listening
  • Equipment, including specially designed and everyday items
  • Registration referral system, explaining the end-to-end process
  • When does meaning well become unacceptable, role play scenarios to demonstrate how the best intentions can sometimes be inappropriate.

Masuma Ali, the Operations Manager for ELVis said: “It is great to see small voluntary sector organisations as well as commercial companies undertaking such training in order to be able to provide a high quality service and an effective assistance to vision impaired people.”

Other details:

  • The workshop can range from an hour to a full day.
  • The maximum number of people that can attend is 20, but we recommend that 12 is most effective.
  • Cost of delivery will be agreed once requirements of the workshop have been finalised.

Target audience:

  • people who have not previously worked with Vision Impaired people, but will, or are likely to, be doing so in a paid or voluntary capacity in the near future
  • people who have previously attended basic vision impairment awareness training, but would like a refresher
  • People who would simply like to enhance their basic knowledge further.

Further information

To learn more about our vision impairment awareness training programmes, or to book a specific course, please contact Masuma Ali via:

T: 020 3697 6464

M: 07952 658614


Registered Charity No. 1154207

Christine Edmead, the Administration and Information Officer (Weekly update)

Yes, it’s my turn for the blog entry!
I’m Christine Edmead and I’m the Administration and Information Officer at ELVis.

In this blog I will let you know, what the ELVis team have been up to during this week and inform you of some forth coming events.

We had a new addition to the ELVis Team, who started with us on 2nd June.  So let us welcome Richard Hart! Richard will be working with us, as an intern on work experience for 6 months.

Also on the 2nd of June there was a Local Societies meeting and a SITs meeting.  There was a presentation from the RNIB, from the Online today team, the course is to encourage Vision Impaired people to use their smart phones, tablets and iPads. It was very interesting.

As mentioned by Masuma in her blog a couple of weeks ago regarding the Vision Impairment Awareness Training, the leaflet is now available to download from our

Various meetings have taken place this week at the hub:-

  • With Infosound
  • Services Leadership Team
  • Hackney VSG
  • Redbridge CCG
  • ActivEyes Breakfast Club
Forthcoming events:-
The Hackney Group will be meeting on Monday 8th June.
Tower Hamlets Vision Strategy Group in association with East London Vision, Consultation will be taking place on Thursday 11th June.
Be sure to put the following event in your diary, Sight and Information Day, (SID) When:
On Thursday 23rd July from 10am till 4 pm.
The Epicentre, 41 West Street, Leytonstone, E11 4LJ.
Please feel free to check out our information on our Website, Facebook and Twitter, where we share information giving updates of our work and on events that are happening across East London.