A MAJOR consultation into the future role of rehabilitation services for visually impaired adults has been launched by Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
The initiative, on behalf of the visual impairment sector, is designed to increase the chances of blind and partially sighted people achieving and maintaining independence and well-being.
The consultation will target visually impaired people, rehabilitation workers and other social care practitioners; senior managers and policymakers in social services/social work departments;
voluntary organisations (working with visually impaired people and those working with older people); and central and local government politicians.
Country-specific consultation exercises have commenced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland today. Consultation in Scotland will begin shortly to coincide with the Scottish Executive’s Eyecare Review implementation conference.
The consultation is being managed by Guide Dogs on behalf of The Rehabilitation Project Group (RPG) – a body comprising representatives from across the voluntary, social care and health sectors
Many people who lose their sight still face isolation and social exclusion because their emotional, daily living and mobility needs are not being met.
The RPG seeks to reconfigure services, and consultation is essential to making sure that they are developed in a sustainable way and fully meets the needs of needs of blind and partially-sighted people.
A core principle of the RPG is that ‘the dignity of blind and partially sighted people is paramount’. However, recent research shows that a lack of basic rehabilitation support is undermining such aspirations:
One-in-five blind and partially sighted people in the UK don’t go out on their own, because they haven’t received appropriate training.
Forty percent of people with sight loss who are assessed are not offered services based on that assessment. And, nearly two-thirds of visually impaired people surveyed do not receive mobility training.
Tom Pey, GDBA’s Director of Public Policy and Development, said: ‘It is ironic that in our 21st century risk-averse society that many thousands of blind and partially sighted people face unacceptable risks because their needs are poorly understood.
‘Through our consultation with blind and partially-sighted people – and associated professional and voluntary bodies - we aim to make recommendations to government and social services about addressing the shortcomings in rehabilitation services.
‘Guide Dogs and other RPG members want to work constructively with the various service bodies to ensure provisions are put in place to enhance independence and mobility for people with sight loss.’
The Rehabilitation Project Group (RPG) was established by Guide Dogs in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), Action for Blind People and the National Association of Local Societies for Visually Impaired People (NALSVI) to ‘enable radical improvement for blind and partially sighted people, through the provision of better rehabilitation services.’ It includes representatives from across the fields of health and social care.