How we are helping blind veterans during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Last updated: 9 April 2021
Blind Veterans UK are ensuring that the most vulnerable veterans we support are receiving everything they need right now. More than 90% of the blind veterans we serve are over 70 and so most at risk from the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As a result, our priorities have changed.
How our service changed
In March last year we introduced our National Support Service in response to the COVID-19 Crisis. The National Support Service is currently providing the following services:
- Telephone support to blind veterans, including remote social groups and remote rehabilitation.
- Operate recycling and equipment services at a reduced function to blind veterans most in need.
- Meet blind veterans face to face when they are in urgent need and cannot be supported through our remote services, observing social distancing guidance.
- Linking blind veterans up with volunteer befrienders to reduce social isolation.
- Working with other sight loss and veteran’s charities, local communities and Local Authorities to join up this support.
We are continually gathering feedback from blind veterans about our services and the support they need so we can develop the National Support Service and navigate out of the pandemic.
What we are doing now
Our National Support Service is now keeping our veterans connected with each other and provide additional support to those who need it.
We are using remote means to help us comply with social distancing guidance. This may be through bringing veterans together in small telephone or online groups for chats, entertainment or to pursue hobbies; or by providing training and equipment so that they can get on with the things they want to do, such as developing IT skills, keeping fit or taking up a new interest.
Working with relevant Public Health Authorities and following the reduction in UK Covid-19 Alert Levels, our two training and rehabilitation centres in Brighton and Llandudno will be opening their doors from May 2021 at a reduced capacity and begin supporting blind veterans most affected by the pandemic. Our care staff also continue to provide outstanding levels of care and support to our permanent residents at the Brighton Centre.
The majority of frontline staff and all of our veterans at the Brighton centre have now had both doses of their Covid-19 vaccine. It has had an official independent “Covid Audit” against industry-accepted best practices. Benchmarks were achieved against planning, reporting, implementation and compliance.
Our National Support Service Helpline number 01273 391 447 is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm.
Remote Rehabilitation Service
- In addition, we have provided many blind veterans with the opportunity to receive rehabilitation support remotely as part of our National Remote Rehab Service. This includes a range of services to help with independence and safety at home; for example, assistance with technology, low vision assessments and support with health and wellbeing.
- Since August, we have received 1737 referrals for remote rehabilitation, with 55% per cent of blind veterans reporting an improvement in their ability and an additional 45% of blind veterans stating they have been able to maintain their ability to manage the difficulty or problem following this support.
Remote social groups
- We are running a growing number of telephone and online social and ‘special interest’ groups so that blind veterans can meet each other regularly, catch up and share experiences.
- We now have over 180 virtual groups spread around the UK that cover everything from sport, crafts, nature, crosswords, singing, history, the military, music and many, many more hobbies and interests that could appeal to our blind veterans.
- The number of blind veterans taking part in these groups go up each day and we now have over 1000 blind veterans participating in these weekly and monthly get-togethers.
National Creative Project
- Now more than ever, it is so important that we keep our veterans connected with each other and the world around them. Launched in September 2020, the National Creative Project is a new initiative designed to prevent our veterans from feeling socially isolated.
- It consists of three integral parts: Creative Activities, Creative Book and Creative Hobby Circles.
- National Creative Project - Blind Veterans UK
Virtual Introductory Weeks
- Before the COVID-19 pandemic, all veterans who had recently joined the charity would attend one of our training and rehabilitation centres in Brighton or Llandudno for a weeklong introduction. During their stay, they would learn about how the charity could support them and meet other blind veterans.
- Year on year, feedback from those who have undertaken introductory weeks shows consistent popularity and often significantly life-enhancing results. Introductory weeks are a pivotal part of our offer and it was highly important that we found a method to continue these.
- Due to the closure of both the centres to visitors and as part of our new remote rehabilitation service, we have designed an introductory course that can be delivered remotely.
- Each session during the remote introduction week, focused on a different topic such as “health and wellbeing” and “support networks”. These addressed the issues the veterans faced and helped provide support and advice from both the staff and the other veterans.
- East Sussex blind veteran attends introduction week virtually during lockdown (blindveterans.org.uk)