FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 2010
Sheffield City Council Takes Care of Eye Care
for People With Learning Disabilities
Sheffield City Council is the first local authority in the UK to fund a worker to support people with learning disabilities to get the eye care they need.
One in three people with learning disabilities has a sight problem, yet this group is least likely to get the help they need, according to SeeAbility, formerly The Royal School for the Blind. As part of its national eye2eye campaign, SeeAbility has joint funded the post of Sensory Development Worker since 2005. The post is now fully funded and permanently part of Sheffield’s Community Learning Disability team.
Keith McKinstrie, Service Manager, Social Care, Joint Learning Disabilities Service for Sheffield City Council, explains how this will make a difference, “Our work with SeeAbility has enabled us to uncover sensory impairments in people with learning disabilities who we thought we knew very well. A sight test can enable things to suddenly improve for a person.” Sensory Development Worker Pauline Hargreaves explains what she will be doing to improve care for people with learning disabilities, “The City Council want me to concentrate on raising awareness of the eye care needs of people with learning disabilities. As well as supporting individuals to have eye tests, I’ll be offering training for support staff across supported living and residential care services. It is great to have wholehearted backing from the City Council to support this work.”
SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye manager for the Yorkshire and Humber region Laura Christie says, “Pauline Hargreaves has a very specialized role. She supports people and their carers to get the right eye care, builds links with opticians and helps them develop the skills they need to work with this group. Pauline has also developed links with the sensory impairment team who help people who have lost some sight. It’s fantastic that the work of the eye 2 eye campaign has been embedded in Sheffield’s services for people with a learning disability”
The work done by SeeAbility has made a real impact in Sheffield, making contact with over 1000 people with learning disabilities and more than 2500 professionals in health, social and eye care. Now that the post is permanent this can continue. Jane Hobson, Development Manager for day and accommodation services within Sheffield City Council works closely with Pauline Hargreaves. She says, “Working alongside SeeAbility in Sheffield is such a valuable experience on so many levels. For the people we support it means improved eye care, access to resources and the opportunity to have eye surgery where previously it would not have been considered. For carers it enables them to get access to the right equipment and appropriate support services involved.” One carer says, “Our experience was really positive and has made me aware of how much can be done to enhance the lives of people like my son by getting them proper eye care.”
Keith McKinstrie concludes, “If you are serious about addressing health issues for people with learning disabilities, sensory impairment is a key part.” And Sensory Development Worker Pauline Hargreaves has a message for all local councils, “Look at what we’re doing here in Sheffield and see how it is helping people with learning disabilities. Improved eye care can lead to a better quality of life and empower people to do more for themselves. I feel that people are lucky to get this support in Sheffield but worry about all the other people with learning disabilities in the country who aren’t getting the eye care and support they desperately need”
– ENDS –
Issued by SeeAbility, for further information please contact:
Monica Cornforth on 020 8997 1261 or 07811 147 192
NOTES TO EDITORS
- SeeAbility is the operating name for The Royal School for the Blind, a national charity which has for over 200 years provided support for people who are blind or partially sighted and have additional disabilities.
- SeeAbility currently provides a range of services in; Birmingham, Bristol, Devon, East Sussex, Hampshire, Humberside, London, Sheffield, Somerset, Surrey and West Sussex.
- SeeAbility offers a wide range of specialised residential, community and rehabilitation services for people with a visual impairment and additional disabilities. Our aim is to provide each individual with the support they need to develop essential life skills for greater independence and a fulfilling life.
- SeeAbility’s eye 2 eye Campaign, a community-based initiative, is improving eye care and vision for people with a learning disability.
- Look-Up www.lookupinfo.org provides information and advice on eye care and vision for people with learning disabilities.
- SeeAbility’s Central Office is based in Epsom, Surrey. For further information call 01372 755000 or visit www.seeability.org