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

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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

Sharon Schaffer, the Vision Strategy Implementation Manager

Greetings.

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,

Sharon

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

Hassan