From fundraising, to our new community model, 2017-2018 has been great. This year we:
- Announced our Five-Year Strategy outlining the ways in which we would continue to provide high-quality national support to blind veterans.
- Launched a new community model; introducing 19 community teams across the country.
- Supported 2,818 veterans in their homes or at our centres.
- Grew our membership by 922 members.
- Continued to grow our volunteer network, with a 23 percent increase in volunteers.
- Raised £29.8 million - £1.2 million higher than 2016-2017.
- Continued to develop resources to reverse the effects of blindness.
Read our full Impact Report below to learn more about our key achievements in 2017-2018, and our future plans.
One of our key changes was the implementation of a new model that delivers local services to members.
In 2017, we welcomed 42 new operational staff to form 19 community teams, allowing us to provide more local services to those veterans who are immobile.
Having more staff in the community means that we can provide a better continuity of service, as well as tackling isolation.
As a result of this new model, we now have regular lunch clubs, day trips, coffee mornings and sports activities for members, as well as 37 annual reunion events across the country.
Community rehabilitation officers visit members in their own homes. This enables us to see how they are living, and how simple adaptions such as improved lighting can make a huge difference. They assess every aspect of the member’s life, and will fully support their independence.
New ways of working
We’ve continued to develop our services to offer greater support to our veterans – in some unexpected ways.
You may think that ducklings have no place in an impact report, but since their introduction at our Brighton centre, they’ve proved a huge hit with our members.
The feathery friends arrived to us in egg form and were hatched and reared by our staff and veterans. They brought joy to everyone, including those watching updates via webcam.
Introducing the ducklings was just one way we’ve developed the services we offer to improve the wellbeing of our members. Our Llandudno and Brighton centres were rated as ‘excellent' and ‘outstanding’ after their inspections.
We've also begun introductory weeks for members of a working age. These provide younger veterans with an overview of our work, and detail the support they can receive.
“People staying at Blind Veterans UK Llandudno receive a high standard of care and support from a service which is committed to enhancing their lives”.Care Inspectorate Wales, February 2018
Health and wellbeing
In the capital, things have been equally as busy, with our London office hosting a range of popular member activity days.
These promote health and well-being among our local beneficiaries, and have included sessions on music appreciation, art and crafts, drama and cooking.
The days will continue with more member-led activities, and allow our members to share their knowledge and pass on information to others, while reminiscing and feeling useful.
Since Joan joined Blind Veterans UK, she has found a new lease of life.
We're aware that there are still another 50,000 veterans who need our support, but at the same time membership continues to grow.
At 91, Joan might have been forgiven for thinking that life would stay quiet and unchanging. Having served in Burma during the Second World War, Joan had been widowed, has Glaucoma and macular degeneration in both eyes and is registered as Severely Sight Impaired.
She missed the camaraderie of talking to others in a social setting, and when we first got in touch, she was unsure how much we'd be able to help her.
We started with her retrospective application for her war medals, something that meant a great deal to Joan, who felt like she had been forgotten in that respect.
Listening to stories
We gave Joan a Sonic USB player and registered her with the Royal National Institute for the Blind talking book service, and she loves listening to the stories it supplies.
Additionally, she received a new magnifier to help with her reading, and we marked her microwave with brightly-coloured ‘bumpons’ – self-adhesive dots that help her to locate the controls and door easily.
Joan also attended one of our Reunions in Sheffield. These are social events where she can meet up with other members, and are ideal for making new friends.
Joan has a sporty side to her nature. Soon after joining us, she went ten pin bowling in nearby Mansfield and tried her hand at blind archery classes.
This is just the start of Joan’s journey with us.
Increased volunteer numbers
We value the hard work and support provided by our dedicated volunteers. No matter what role they fill, they enrich the lives of our veterans and allow them to live the life they choose.
When Jacque was at home after a period of ill health, she started helping out at a local breakfast club. While there, she met one of our veterans and had an idea,
“If I’m coming here anyway, why can’t I bring somebody else with me? So I started to bring Beth.”
Jacque quickly became more involved, and now takes two of our veterans to a similar club run by us in Leyland. She also gives up some of her time to act as a home visitor to one of our veterans who needed her help.
“He's had a bit of a bad year. He had his driving license taken off him… and he lost his wife to Alzheimer’s in March, so everything's still raw [and] new. He lacked a bit of his confidence when going out."
We asked Jacque what motivates her and she summed up by saying,
“I think of what happens when you’re losing your sight, such as not being able to walk and catch a bus anymore, because of the way you are and how you cope with that situation. It's about encouraging our veterans to be independent, not just in the house but outside as well.”
For Jacque, it’s also about seeing the changes that we bring to our veterans’ lives.
“They get so much out of it. There's one gentleman that travels by bus. He noticed a fellow traveller was wearing a Blind Veterans UK pin and asked if he was going to the same place. That was a year ago, and now they're firm friends. It's about companionship.”
Research and Innovation
Blind Veterans UK has always been the forefront of adaptive technologies. From our foundation in 1915, we have endeavoured to invent and adapt anything that would make our beneficiaries’ lives better. We still hold these principles today.
We are currently developing resources to effectively reverse the effects of blindness, focusing on three main areas; Biomedical research, Social and Welfare research and Innovations.
We work with three other sight loss charities (Fight for Sight, Macular Society and Scottish War Blinded) to form Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration. We also support research into Traumatic Brain Injuries, and their effect on sight loss.
Through the use of innovative technology, we can improve the lives of our beneficiaries and inform improvements in the lives of people throughout the sight loss community.
Our focus areas include development of Artificial Intelligence for preventive and predictive medicine; use of driverless cars and integrated voice systems for smart homes and daily living.
Our fundraisers throw themselves into all manner of amazing events to help Blind Veterans UK. One of them is Kevin who has been supporting us for five years in a variety of challenges.
The idea of a man trying to beat a steam train on foot across rugged terrain may seem peculiar, but to fundraiser, Kevin, Race the Train Tywyn is just another challenge to sink his teeth into.
Kevin – and his wife Rachel – has been involved with us since 2013, when he organised a charity football match. That match has become an annual fixture, but former Royal Welsh Fusilier Kev' doesn’t stop there.
He’s been key in organising other events, including a series of five-a-side matches at our annual garden parties when his former comrades taking on a team of our veterans.
Kevin and another ex-fusilier friend, Dewi, has been undertaking Race the Train Tywyn - for which Blind Veterans UK is the named charity – for many years. This gruelling event sees them compete against runners over many kilometres in an attempt to beat a historic Talyllyn Railway locomotive to its destination.
All the profits Kevin makes will help more of the veterans at our Llandudno Centre.
Kevin is a key part of our loyal and valued fundraising family and without his support – and that of thousands like him – we wouldn’t be able to continue the vital work we do.
How much we raised
In 2017/2018 we raised £29.8 million, which is £1.2 million higher than 2016/2017. Of this money raised, £21.5 million was voluntary income - given to us through donations, legacies and grants.
How we spent the money raised
In 2017/2018 we spent £36.1 million. This money was spent on providing welfare services, care centre services, housing and supporting independent living for our veterans.
A changing beneficiary base
By 2020, over 85 per cent of those we support will be over 80, while 40 per cent will be over 90. Many of these members will struggle with mobility, and reaching their local rehabilitation and training centres.
Our campaign to enhance our community-facing work began in 2017 with the launch of 19 new community teams.
Since then, they have provided an exemplary service across to UK but we won’t be resting on our laurels. Every single one of our members needs to receive the same, consistently high level of lifelong support they deserve, regardless of location or circumstances.
To accommodate this, we’ll be looking at expanding our teams over the next five years.
We’ve also worked hard to create an engagement strategy to raise awareness of the work we do. To make this word perfect, we hand-picked a team to lead it, with the vision that they will focus on us being able to increase our presence in local communities. This will enable us to grow our numbers of volunteers, donors and advocates, which will in turn lead to a greater level of fundraising generated income.
We’ve set ourselves the ambitious target of reaching 20,000 blind veterans between now and 2033. By reaching deeper into our communities, and being able to offer a heightened level of support, we believe we can do this. For more information on how we plan to do this, read our 5-Year Strategy.