Sharon Schaffer the Development & Vision Strategy Implementation Manager, shares her views on the Local Vision Strategy London Implementation Programme

The Vision of the Vision Strategy London Implementation Programme?

When we started the Local Vision Strategy London Implementation Programme 3 years ago it was, for me, a step into unknown territory… I had project managed before, but never in the public sector, and the thought of engaging with the ‘powers that be’ was somewhat intimidating.

Three years on and I have discovered that we all have a job to do, and are, more often than not, very thankful if there is help out there to enable us to do it.

With this attitude in mind I have set about drawing together people across the eye health and sight loss pathway, with the clarion call of ‘we are all in this together (even those who may not have known it at the beginning), so lets help each other to do our jobs’.

So where has this got us…. And more pertinently where hasn’t it got us?

Where it has got us is in to a position where we have, in each and every borough of east London:

• a healthy, well represented, cross sector Vision Strategy Group,

• a Vision Strategy (detailing eye health and sight loss needs, and gaps in provision)

• An Action Plan addressing these gaps, being implemented by each Group.

We also have ELVis implementing frontline projects and services to address the gaps identified in the strategies, and user led peer groups in each borough ensuring that support and activities are in place for VI people locally.

Where it hasn’t got us is into local ownership… the road to making each group self-sustainable is rocky. And I have been musing on why this might be so…My thinking is that, as this project was instigated by the Voluntary Sector, the public sectors (health and social care) do not feel bound to it – happy to participate, but not bound – as there is no obligation or accountability to it coming from ‘on high’.

So the emphasis is now on trying to ensure that each strategy is embedded into the local health and wellbeing framework (so that vision can be worked into the relevant priority strategies and remain higher up the agenda than it was previously) and endorsed by the local authority and clinical commissioning group (so that the strategy and action plan’s implementation can be monitored at top level).

The onus, nevertheless, currently remains on the third sector to drive it, and to hold providers to account on delivery…. The best way to ensure this must be to have vision impaired people actively involved, if not chairing, each Vision Strategy Group, and thereby driving it, and the stakeholders in it, forward…ensuring, by their very presence and best interests, that vision remains on the agenda.

But what if, like me when I embarked on this project, those people are not knowledgeable in the ways of health and social care protocols and structures? Or not used to holding a lot of busy professionals to account? …. I find myself echoing Roger’s call to action in his blog a few weeks ago…. “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”…. so that in 10 years time we really can look back and see that we have made a tangible difference.

Onward and upward…..

And with this in mind… here’s what the rest of the team have been up to this week:

• Good to see that the VS Groups are gaining momentum in terms of becoming recognised as a viable    resource amongst the decision making bodies in the Local Authorities and Health structures

• Chaired the SocialEyes Committee Meeting

• Chaired the VIPON Committee Meeting

• Attended the Waltham Forest Vision BBQ

• Delivered Vision Impairment Awareness Training to Thomas Pocklington Trust staff

• Attended the ActivEyes Redbridge Breakfast Club.

• Attended the Solutions to Everyday Living event, hosted by Action for Blind People at the RNIB

• Met with Metro Blind Sport to discuss various matters, including initial arrangements for the Metro Athletics Open Games next year.

• Held an investigatory meeting to look at how support can effectively be provided to Vision

Impaired people wanting to work in the fitness industry.

• Held a meeting with Waltham Forest vision to discuss further their fundraising ideas.

Have a wonderful week

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Hassan Khan the project co-ordinator collaboration directorate discusses the importance of his recent visit to Marion Richardson Primary School

Hi all,

I know some of my colleagues stated that they felt their turn came round rather quickly. I on the other hand feel as if it has been months since my last entry, that’s probably because I have had some career defining changes over the last few weeks or so. To cut a very long story short, since my last entry I’m now no longer an intern, but a project co-ordinator collaboration directorate for Thomas Pocklington Trust, working in the collaboration team.

The last 2 weeks have been incredibly busy for me, all of which have been valuable and no doubt will stand me in good stead, in improving and gaining useful skills needed to be successful in this post.

Over the last 4 months it has been an honour to work alongside some inspirational people in organising the East London Vision Sight and Information Day, which I’m now pleased to report went smoothly and rather successfully. Although, I was shall we say, a little frustrated in the lack of donations we received from shops and well-known companies. I approached about 60 shops and organisations. Sadly many of them refused us on the basis that they were aiding other charities. Though Boots in Wood Green were fantastic, the Entertainer and Nandos in Westfield Stratford were also extremely generous, to name a few. Lloyd’s banking Group who volunteered at the event itself and match funded us up to £500 have been tremendously generous and a pleasure to work with.
At the East London Vision table I had the opportunity of demonstrating the iPhone, which I sincerely hope people found useful. I even managed to get a few tweets out there, not to mention to do a bit of networking. One of my colleagues has something special coming up in regards to the Sight and Information Day, so I shall leave the rest to her, but can I just add, the cakes on the day were to die for and our sincere thanks to everyone who donated.

Information Day

On the 24th of June, I was asked to attend the Marion Richardson ‘cluster’ of schools’ Paralympic sports event in Tower Hamlets.
Thirty nine children with differing disabilities, who attend 6 mainstream schools in East London, gathered at Marion Richardson School, to take part in a day of multiple sporting activities and to celebrate sporting accomplishments.

I had the honour of talking to year 6 and year 5 students. I must admit I was a little frightened, as I felt I may not have their full attention and they may choose not to listen. However, they were so engrossed and genuinely interested in every word I uttered, which was rather pleasant. Predictably I spoke glowingly about sports and in particular Blind cricket and how it changed my life for the better. I then spoke and demonstrated the importance of Braille and education, displaying medication boxes and books, which were written in Braille. The Year 6 students had the unique opportunity of receiving some vital tips on how to guide Vision Impaired people.

The presentation ended with an half an hour Q&A session, surprisingly I had a bucketful of questions to answer and later on at lunch time, the same children had further enquiries and questions for me. I believe, they wanted to know more about how to guide and in general how to communicate with a Vision Impaired person. I did explain that ELVis offer such a service and it would be our pleasure to offer VI Awareness training to Year 5 and year 6 students in the future free of charge. We’d be happy to deliver such a session to any School and I know Schools tend to have Non- Uniform days or sports days where they raise funds for activities and charities. I suggested to the teachers, to perhaps use one of these days, to raise funds for ELVis in return for our Vision Impairment Awareness Training. I know the staff certainly supported this idea and I do hope Schools take this offer up!

The day ended with a medal ceremony, where I was required to give a short speech, in which I spoke about dealing with sight loss, breaking barriers in order to achieve my goals and my experiences of playing for the England Blind Cricket Team. I also underlined the importance of having aspirations and that anyone, regardless of their disability can achieve their dreams, as long as they work hard for it. Finally I had the absolute privilege of handing out medals to all participants and to children who had volunteered on the day. I deem this visit to be successful, as I had the chance to do a little bit of networking during the lunch break, which will allow me to visit other Schools in the upcoming months.

I’m passionate about visiting the local communities in East London, in order to speak to Children, parents/Guardians, teachers and schools to discover and encourage Vision Impaired Children to register with ELVis and Metro Blind Sport. Through my work for Change Foundation, formally known as Cricket For Change, I had the opportunity to visit mainstream schools that contain VI Units. And it was so sad to learn that during PE lessons Vision Impaired children sat on the side-line whilst their peers played sports and got the benefits of physical exercise. In my personal opinion, I would have had a better standard of education at a mainstream School, but the lack of sports and social activities may have had a negative effect on me and for this reason alone I’m pleased that I attended a specialist school, where I was given the opportunity to study, learn living skills and take part in sporting and physical activities.

I believe with the help of Thomas Pocklington Trust and Metro Blind Sport, we will be able to reach out to younger VI people in order to involve them in sporting – social activities and consequently improve the quality of life for them.

Until next time, kind regards
Hassan:)

Our Administration and Information Officer Chris Edmead discusses the importance of having Peer Support Groups in East London

Hi all

Just wanted to share with everyone how important Peer Support Groups are and what a great job East London Vision is doing by supporting these groups. I know I might be a bit biased, but I want to share my opinions with you all.

Peer Support Groups help people from feeling isolated, allows people to meet up and have a chat, make friends, helps people to build up their confidence in going out, helps to improve the socialising aspect and also helps with building new skills. Peer Support Groups also help with making vision impaired people become more independent.

This week we had two great days, one going to Southend with one peer support group it was great fun, a day by the beach, the weather was perfect. Lots of different activities took place: fun fair, arcades, the members had fish and chips, buy rocks and fudge. What fun we had, everyone had a great day!

The second one was the East London Vision Sight and Information Day, great to see so many people from the local peer support groups supporting the event. There were cakes and drinks on sale, an auction and various exhibitors including: Waltham Forest Sensory Team, Human Ware, Optelec, Metro Blind Sport, Guide Dogs, Transport for London and of course East London Vision. What a great time was had by all!

Rest of the team have been extremely busy this week too:

Met with staff from Lloyds Banking Group in advance of them volunteering for us.

Held the first East London Vision Sight Information day, where we were supported by Lloyds Banking Group staff as volunteers for the day.

Handed over administration of Redbridge Vision Strategy Group to the Sensory Team.

Attended Stakeholder Group meeting of the Royal College of GPs – regarding the Clinical Priority in Eye Health meeting.

Attended meeting to discuss opportunities to work collaboratively across Barking, Havering and Redbridge with the Vision Strategy Group Chairs.

Attended Southend with Beyond Barriers, it was a really good day out, everyone enjoyed themselves.

Demonstrated the iPhone at the ELVis table, at the Sight and Information Day.

Having provided Vision Impairment Awareness training to the performers, attended the Tether play at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham

You can now read this week’s excellent entry from our Service Development and Delivery Officer Laura Ross

Hello again everyone, it’s my turn this week to let you know all the things I have been up to on the East London patch, and luckily for me it has been quite an eventful one. Firstly, I would like to say Eid Mubarak to all those who celebrated over the weekend.  This week I have done a lot of work with the Challenge Network in Hackney. For those of you who don’t know about the Challenge Network, they are an organisation who work with groups of 16 – 17 year olds over the summer on various different ‘challenges’. Part of the programme requires getting involved with local communities and we are lucky enough to be working with them in 6 of the 7 boroughs ELVis cover. So this week we worked with the Challenge Network in Hackney over two days wherethe group of young adults met the Hackney Vision Impaired group and had the opportunity to ask them questions, have some Visual Awareness training and gain new skills. I have met with them again today, as they will be putting together a campaign and volunteering with us in September, where we will hopefully have a picnic and some games.

I’ve been helping out with the final preparations of the ELVis Sight and Information Day, or SID as we’ve been calling it, which is on Thursday 23rd of July from 10.00 – 16.00 so hopefully I will get to meet some of you there! I am also pleased to say, that added to the list of stall holders will be ‘Extant’, who have pioneered theatre practice with the express inclusion of visually impaired audiences and performers.

The rest of the Team have also been busy around East London:

Chaired Redbridge Vision Strategy Group meeting.

Presented Vision Strategy to Redbridge Health & Wellbeing Board.

Chaired Team ELVis meeting.

Attended Tower Hamlets CCG Planned Care Board meeting.

Attended LVIF Planning Group meeting.

Attended Hackney Drama Challenge.

Attended the Bulldog Trust’s ‘Get Social & Get Noticed’ Social Media Workshop

Attended VIPON Meeting, very interesting learning all about mystery shopping.

Have a good week:)

Our new intern Richard Hart talks about his experience at ELVis so far

Hi my Name is Richard Hart

I’m a new member of ELVis. I joined the team on 2nd June, on a 6 month contract, working as an intern.

Having worked at ELVis for a month, I can say I’ve had the opportunity to learn new stuff and gain useful experience. Although I am not in my comfort zone as yet, which no doubt will come with time. I have certainly tried to do my best in whatever I have been asked to do, from attending various meeting, working with the local society groups and working on the Newham Talking Newspaper.

Everyone at ELVis and the Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) have been open and friendly, so far my first month has been a great experience. I look forward to whatever comes next! I hope to find out what my line manager has thought of my work so far, when I have my review with her, so wish me luck.

The rest of the ELVis team have had a busy week:

  • Delivered Vision Impairment Awareness training to actors working on a play called Tethered, which they will be showcasing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
  • Met with Outpatient Services at Homerton Hospital to discuss Vision Impairment Awareness Training.
  • Viewed Redbridge Central Library in advance of the volunteering day with NCS the Challenge in September.
  • Attended briefing with Newham CCG who are looking to introduce a Community Ophthalmology Service
  • Attended TPT staff conference, where it was good to meet colleagues from other departments and directives, and gain a sense of the breadth and vision of the charity moving forward.
  • Met with B&D Social services to discuss a targeted eye care campaign over the coming few months in the run up to National Eye Health Week and beyond – aiming to increase uptake of sight tests young low-income residents in B&D.
  • Attended Waltham Forest Management Committee
  • Attended Beyond Barriers Group Meeting it was a good meeting.

Read this week’s brilliant entry from our Operations Manager Masuma Ali

Hello everyone, it is time to check in with you lovely people again and give you an update from me. Though I must say it has come round far too fast, the last few weeks have flown by. It would be wrong of me not to mention how London has been fortunate to be basking in some rather glorious sunshine recently, after all, we Brits are known to start many a conversation on the weather!! The weather forecast takes great pride in telling us when Britain is warmer than countries abroad, so it seems we were hotter than Rio De Janeiro on Tuesday (30 June) and Barcelona on Wednesday (1 July), making it the hottest day of the year so far, and I reckon it will stay that way too, 36.7C is a rarity after all. Don’t panic I’m not about to become a weather forecaster, but I’d say I’m pretty safe in saying temperatures over the weekend will be slightly cooler, but still warm and sunny!

Since my last update I’ve been rather busy working with the ActivEyes Redbridge committee on various matters to try and get some regular activities up and running. I’m please to say that weekly tennis sessions will commence on Wednesday 22 July, 11.00-13.00 at the Redbridge Sports and Leisure Centre, the monthly breakfast club continues to be held on the first Friday of each Month at Snax Cafe, and some possible gentle exercise sessions to start shortly, but further details to be confirmed on this. 24 and 25 August will see the group working with young people from NCS The Challenge for drama based activities at Woodbridge High School. The young people will also carry out a day’s volunteering as part of there Real Challenge Design day on 19 September, where ActivEyes Redbridge members will have a picnic and quiz put together by the young people. I attended the ActivEyes Redbridge meal to the Harvester in June, which was a great afternoon enjoyed by all, you can read the full article on our website.

I also delivered two Vision Impairment Awareness Training sessions to Greenwich Leisure Ltd staff in Hackney, and continue to work on several future programmes to be delivered to various organisations such as Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) and Hackney and Redbridge Library staff. It is great to see the uptake and demand for our Vision Impairment Awareness Training programme by organisations and for them to acknowledge the value and benefit it holds in being able to provide a high quality service to blind and partially sighted people. In advance of Lloyds Banking Group staff volunteering for us at our Sight Information Day event, we will be putting them through their paces with a short sighted guiding workshop on 22 July.

Attending the accessible iPad session at Gants Hill Library as part of Make a Noise in Libraries fortnight, clearly highlighted how many blind and partially sighted people are not making the most of current mainstream technology out there, and the importance of such sessions. We have been fortunate to receive a grant from the Greater London Fund for the Blind for our technology support project, which will allow us to hold sessions of this nature. As well as work with community centres to ensure technology is accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

Staying on the technology theme, we will be holding a Technology session for complete beginners on 6 August, 13.30-16.00 at the ELVis offices, 90 Crownfield Road. This session is part of the RNIB Online Today project, which will deliver training and advice on how to browse the internet and use smartphones, tablets and computers. Spaces are limited, so please book early if you are interested in attending.

Along with Metro blind Sport met with Motivate East to continue working on the bowls project following the success of the taster session held in June. Watch this space for further details. Also as part of the interview panel I assisted in interviewing for the Project Coordinator post for the Collaboration Team for TPT. Congratulations to Hassan Khan who was successfully appointed. Hassan will continue to work with ELVis, SelVis and North London as part of his collaboration role.

With less than 3 weeks left, Final preparations for ELVis’s Sight Information Day are well and truly underway with floor plans in the process of being completed, auction sheets being created, refreshments being stocked up, etc. We look forward to seeing many of you at the event on 23 July 10.00-16.00 at the Epicentre, 41 West Street, E11 4LJ. You will have the opportunity to explore a range of daily living, technical, communication and mobility equipment that is suitable for people experiencing some form of sight loss. Come and meet experts on the day that can provide you with a practical demonstration of equipment on display. Confirmed exhibitors include:

  • ELVis
  • Guide Dogs
  • Humanware
  • Metro Blind Sport
  • Optelec
  • RNIB Reading Options
  • Transport for London
  • Waltham Forest Sensory Team

Also for those of you, who like me have a sweet tooth, we will have light refreshments on sale including some rather delicious cakes. You’ll know where to find me then!! a tombola and auction will help raise funds and there will be various giveaways too.

All funds raised will be match funded by Lloyds Banking Group, up to the value of £500.

Have a great weekend all, stay cool, and I’ll be back before you know it, but it only seems right to end with a summer joke:

Q: What did the air conditioning say to the man?

A: I’m your biggest fan.

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