Latest News

 

News from the Chief Executive

2020 has turned out to be a dreadful year for all of us. The Covid 19 virus has caused heartbreak and mayhem all round.

The Society has lost several members due to the pandemic including Pamela Blanchard, a former Chairman of this charity. Pamela, or Pam, as she liked to be called, served as Chairman for several years and oversaw several major changes in how the Society operated. Although ill health caused her to stand down as Chairman, she maintained an interest in everything that went on. She is dearly missed by us all.

In March, when the whole of the country went into lockdown, the Society had no option but to close our Centre and offices at Pallion. Every member was sent a letter offering anyone who wanted it a regular telephone call from staff and volunteers to contact the Society. Several members took up this offer and this helped to combat the feelings of loneliness and isolation. The offer still stands. If you would welcome a regular phone call, please do telephone the office and leave a message on the answer machine. Please ensure you include your name and telephone number and someone will be in touch.

As I write these notes we are still unsure how long the Centre will remain closed. At least we now know there is a vaccine available which offers hope for the future.

During the summer we were able to bring our Rehabilitation Officers back from being furloughed. There work continues but it is via telephone calls as face to face meetings are as yet not permitted.

As soon as I am able I will write again to let you know when the Centre will reopen. Sadly, I suspect this will not happen until well into next year.

I am sorry to say that on 31st March 2020 I suffered an unexpected stroke which resulted in a spell in hospital. I am very happy to report that I am making a very good recovery. I have been frantically working on funding applications as donations have dried up somewhat. Our Development Officer, Julie Anderson, has been a huge help with the fundraising. In an attempt to save money, the Society took the difficult decision to permanently close our charity shop. Since moving to Pallion the shop was not producing much in the way of income due to a much smaller volume of customers.Our hard working Shop Manager, Sue Lennon, was made redundant much to everyones disappointment. We all wish Sue well for the future and thank her for all of her hard work over several yea

On a more positive note, I am delighted to report that the Society was successful in its bid to win the contract to deliver services to visually impaired people throughout County Durham. The contract runs for 3 years with options to have it extended in the future.As part of the contract, we inherited Fiona Ferguson, Community Sensory Support Officer. Fiona had been employed by RNIB who originally had the contract. I would very much like to welcome Fiona to the team and I hope she enjoys working with the Society.

Please remember that the Society is still here to support you. If you require any help or advice do please leave a message on the answer machine and we will contact you. Telephone 0191 5673939

Richard Wood

 

Oh what a Year!

I am sure we have all uttered these words over the past nine – ten months, and wonder what the coming months will bring for us all. I for one hope it’s a start of good news and a safe return to what we called normal and to the services offered and run from the society base in Pallion.Whilst during the first National lockdown Barbara and I received far less referrals for mobility and our rehabilitation support which was like that experienced by many other local, regional and national organisations. As a consequence we were furloughed from our employment thereby affecting the level of support we were able to give during this time and I am sure many members received telephone calls to advise of the disruption. Covid 19 Pandemic certainly has a lot to answer for, however August came, and Barbara and I attempted a return to work to complete assessments and catch up with the people we had advised of the delay. Barbara and I can tell how pleased people were to receive our contact. This offer to conduct home visits was short lived and despite our provisions of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) we were advised by NHS, scientists, and other statutory agencies that home visits should not be conducted which Barbara and I found most disappointing.

I am totally reminded of the following quote which sums up our new found situation,

“I am only one, but still I am one,

I cannot do everything, but still,

I can do something, I will not refuse

To do something I can do”

(Helen Keller.)

(Source Thoughtful Moments) Coombe Books, 1999.

I would point out that there is no I in We and the reference above represents Barbara and the team.

Barbara and I began the task of conducting telephone assessments something which had been avoided by agencies for many years as ideally meeting people in their homes is more appropriate and a haven where our members have safety and feel more comfortable discussing how their diagnosed visual impairment is impacting on daily living and independence, and where potential solutions can be offered. Many people were delighted to have the contact and the themes which came out of the assessments were very much the same for most of the people contacted. Having been advised by medical practitioners to shield at home, self-isolate from family contacts and avoid all social contacts all firmly at the top of the concerns recalled. Assuring people we are available for contact and support within our ability helped to  ease the situation and this is verified by the number of telephone calls and voice messages left for our attention. These calls all being in addition to the many messages left on the office answer machine.

Working alongside our colleagues in the Local Authority ensured those people who needed a higher level of support were assessed and formal care services provided, this being a relief for many family members who, like their loved ones, were under the same government restrictions and feeling helpless at not being able to provide the required support to the tasks and issues of concern. In general, Barbara and I were able to forward small items of equipment by post using the Articles for Blind facility and other larger items were delivered (as a last resort) adhering to the social distancing and non-contact guidelines recommended by government advisors.

Whilst our present service delivery is not ideal Barbara and I have addressed the referrals received from Eye Clinic Liaison Officers at Sunderland Eye Infirmary (Andrea and Jackie and David based at the Eye Department of Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle) and colleagues at Adult Social Care of the council. Many of the people we have supported have expressed their appreciation and have since become members of the society and when we are back to holding meetings and courses at the Pallion Office Barbara and  I are optimistic of welcoming many new members and feel very sure a warm welcome will also be extended by those members who have attended for many years.

So, what will the year 2021 bring? Like yourselves we do not know. However, 2020 was always associated to good vision and we would hear people say, “oh me I’ve 20-20 vision”. Historically we believed 21 was the year we came of age so hoping 2021 is the year the society comes of age and together we face the coming months with optimism and see the services at the Society resumed and further developed in considered partnership with all our members and with those people who for what ever reason do not become members but support us.

In closing your Rehabilitation Team wish you a safe and healthy Christmas with good cheer for the coming year when we all meet and retell our stories of this memorable year 2020.

Ken Slowther

 

Cecil Court

Vacancies are available for a 2 bed and 1 bed apartment in the Cecil Court Housing Complex in the Langley Moor area of County Durham.  The apartments are specifically built for people with a sensory impairment.  The complex is close to shops, amenities and main public transport routes.  This was anewly opened complex in 2016 between Durham County Council and Reside Housing, who are the landlords and provide weekly housing support.  It consists of large independent apartments within a complex, allowing total independence and some support if required.  There is a communal hallway, with lounge/kitchen for socialising if so desired and extensive garden area. If you are interested and would like further details and possible viewing please contact Cara Turnbull on 03000 265740

DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL – SENSORY SUPPORT TEAM

Vacancies are available for a 2 bed and 1 bed apartment in the Cecil Court Housing Complex in the Langley Moor area of County Durham.  The apartments are specifically built for people with a sensory impairment.  The complex is close to shops, amenities and main public transport routes.  This was a newly opened complex in 2016 between Durham County Council and Reside Housing, who are the landlords and provide weekly housing support.  It consists of large independent apartments within a complex, allowing total independence and some support if required.  There is a communal hallway, with lounge/kitchen for socialising if so desired and extensive garden area. 

If you are interested and would like further details and possible viewing please contact Daniella McCluskey, Sensory Support Team on 03000 263941.   

 

Keeping older people active at home 

Gateshead Older People’s Assembly are working with a local TV station to produce and broadcast public health messages aimed at supporting older people to improve their health and wellbeing at home.  All the filming for the first four weeks is done and we now have a start date (Monday 29th June), a trailer, a broadcast schedule. The programme will be broadcast across all 12 local authority areas in our region via Tyne and Wear Local TV and Teesside Local TV on Freeview channel 7, 6 times a day. All of the information is on this page on their website http://www.gatesheadopa.org.uk/keeping-well-at-home-tv/

 

Helping Sunderland’s foodbanks  

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, food banks across Sunderland have provided an essential service to those most in need of support in the community. They are currently in very high demand with a reduction in supplies and are working tirelessly to help support our vulnerable residents not only in this crisis, but also in the longer term. We recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to help provide financial support through match funding. To find out more and pledge your support visit https://www.spacehive.com/sunderland-communities-appeal

Sunderland Psychological Wellbeing Service

we can provide free NHS psychological support to people who are feeling worried, anxious or low. Due to the current circumstances we are offering all assessments and therapy sessions over the telephone or online to ensure that everyone still has access to support. Please feel free to forward this email to anyone in your organisation who might find this useful. We have lots of information on our website – www.sunderlandiapt.co.ukPeople can self-refer to the service by completing our online referral form - http://sunderlandiapt.co.uk/self-referral/ or by calling the service on 0191 566 5454.If you would like any further information on how we can help to support your employees then please do not hesitate to get in touch with Lisa Atkinson by email; lisa.atkinson2@cntw.nhs.uk.

The aim of this initiative is to find out what people in your communities, networks and service users are concerned about, how their situation could be improved and what, if anything, they hope will change after Covid-19. The primary purpose of the coalition is to gather and amplify people's voices as we move through the COVID-19 crisis. The first action that the coalition has taken is to create an online survey here - https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LTBF7SJ. The survey is short, and it would be fantastic if you were able to complete this, share with colleagues and then share with your wider networks and communities

 

LET’S TALK SUNDERLAND …….

Sunderland Council would like to hear the views of residents, as it finalises the Neighbourhood Delivery Plans for the next three to five years. Sunderland launched its Let's Talk Sunderland resident engagement campaign in 2019, and engaged with residents of all ages across all neighbourhoods in the city, to obtain their views on what they liked about their neighbourhood, what they would change/improve and how they would like to be involved in the future. The response was outstanding and the feedback was used to develop the Neighbourhood Investment Plans which were approved by the council's Cabinet in March 2020.  The Neighbourhood Investment Plans can be found https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/article/17255/Neighbourhood-Investment-Plans on the Sunderland Council website

As we commenced a new year, 2020, no-one could have anticipated the impact the Coronavirus (Covid-19) would have across the world. The Covid-19 pandemic was like no other ever experienced in our lifetime, however the British people came together as they always do during a crisis. On Monday 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister declared to the nation that we must work together, stay at home to stay safe and protect the NHS. From Tuesday 24 March onwards, our communities and neighbourhoods prepared themselves like never before, looking out for each other and working together to support our most vulnerable.

As Sunderland now prepares for life after the coronavirus, the council is keen to speak again with residents, particularly those who have been most vulnerable during the pandemic, to understand their needs and to ensure the emerging delivery plans meet those needs at a neighbourhood level, to re-build Sunderland's resilient communities for the future.

The council will be telephoning hundreds of residents over the next couple of weeks to obtain their views, however we would love to hear your views directly, please complete the online form, using the link below:

Let us know your views about life after the coronavirus

 

Sunderland Wellbeing Network update.

Due to the ‘lockdown’ the Carers Centre building is closed to carers however the staff team have been working from home to continue providing information, advice, guidance and support to carers and their families.

We developed an extremely vulnerable carer data base and tese identified carers have been receiving regular contact from the team in addition to the usual support to carers who access our services.

Our main incoming telephone number was diverted to a team member to ensure that we could still provide our Carer Contact Function of information, advice and guidance whilst also receiving and processing new referrals(ensuring that the most appropriate team member supported the carers and their family). In addition dedicated team members were answering all web contacts, online referrals, facebook contacts from carers, young carers and professionals.

Our Website has a Covid 19 information area which gives carers and anyone else accessing the site as much information, advice and guidance around Covid 19 and caring as possible.

Young Carers

This is an extremely difficult time for young carers as they are unable to access normal periods of respite from their caring role such as attending school or college, seeing friends and peers or undertaking activities outside of the home. The 0-25 team have been keeping in touch with young carers via text, telephone and video calls.  They have been providing practical advice and emotional support.  Young carers have also received activity packs to help keep them engaged during this period at home.

Adult Carers

The team are providing our regular support service to carers without face to face contact.

Unfortunately, the group programme has been cancelled but carers can keep in touch with each other through the Carers Centre Whatsapp group.  There are about 80 members currently and the group has proved helpful and supportive to carers during this challenging time.

 

 

Carer Centre Volunteers have also had to step back during the social distancing period, however we are keeping in touch and looking forward to delivering support again to groups and activities. 

 

Volunteer Newsletter.  This special edition of the Volunteer Newsletter is linked to the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and has been produced using volunteers own descriptions of how they are managing through the ‘lockdown’.  It is a good read and can be found on the Carers Centre Website or by following the link below.

https://www.sunderlandcarers.co.uk/volunteer-news/

 

 

Recent Update

Following government guidelines a full risk assessment of the building and operations has been completed by the Senior Management Team. It was identified that an essential area of our work was being put under pressure within our Contact Function. The increased pressure was due to the volume, complexity and length of calls from carers who were severely impacted by their caring role under the Covid 19 circumstances.

As a result, following government guidelines, we now have a very small ‘team bubble’ who are working from office base to carry out the Carer Contact Team function. All telephone calls to our main number will be answered by the team and they will provide the much-needed information, advice, guidance and support to carers.  

The rest of the Carers Centre team are working from home providing support to carers either by telephone, email, text, web or digital platforms.

However the building remains closed to the public.

 

Pallion Action Group (PAG)

Volunteers available Mon – Fri 10am – 2pm

Can help with collecting prescriptions, shopping, benefit/welfare advice

Please contact, Karen Wood on either 07534 983971 or 0191 5142011

 

Synapptic Update

Synapptic have recently released their latest Coronavirus update on how to get the most from Synapptic devices, during the pandemic. The update can be viewed on their website, by following this link:

synapptic.com/news

 

 

 BT Skills for Tomorrow Support for Society

BT Skills for Tomorrow aims to give people the skills they need to flourish in the digital world. Due to the spread of the coronavirus, having these skills is more important than ever.

Large numbers of people are self-isolating or are confined to their homes. It is vital that people with low or no digital skills can keep in touch with family and friends and access health services. The spread of the coronavirus presents significant challenges to small businesses. Families with children at home from school need to get the best out of technology to help their children to learn and play. And many people need support as they work from home for the first time.
Working in partnership with leading digital skills organisations, BT Skills for Tomorrow has free resources and information to help people with each of these challenges: www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow

This briefing outlines the support available during the spread of the coronavirus. We want as many people as possible to have access to this help for themselves and to be able to support others during this challenging time.

Help for older and vulnerable people and those with lower digital skills.

Working with the Good Things Foundation, we’re supporting older and vulnerable people and those with low or no digital skills to stay in contact with family and friends, to keep up to date, and to be healthy during the spread of the coronavirus.

Key information includes:

 How to access GP services online – providing key information on how to find and register with your local GP surgery, apply for repeat prescriptions and look up health records online.
 How to use the NHS website – outlining how to make the most of the NHS website to find advice and local health services like GPs and hospitals online.
 Using public services online – how to understand what public services are available online, how use the GOV.UK government website and find local council services.
This information can be found at: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/daily-life/accessing-public-service...
 Video calling – learn how to use video calling to connect with family and friends https://www.learnmyway.com/courses/video-calling
 Online and mobile banking – providing tips on how to do internet banking using either a computer, tablet or mobile phone, and how to keep track of your money https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/daily- life/managing-your-money.html
 Online shopping – helping on how to shop online, compare prices, use secure payment methods and understand your rights when buying online. https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/daily-life/mastering-the-basics/mak... the-most-of-the-internet.html
 Socialising online – learn how to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to connect with family and friends and to share things online https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/daily-life/mastering-the-basics/dis... social-media.html
 Watching and listening online – support to watch TV and listen to radio online, and to use services to listen to music: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/daily-life/mastering-the-basics/dig...
           For more information on BT Skills for Tomorrow, go to bt.com/skillsfortomorrow

Supporting small businesses

At a time when many small businesses may struggle to survive, we’re working with Google Digital Garage, Small Business Britain, and LinkedIn Learning to provide guides for people to do business online and to build their digital skills.

Key information includes:

 Make sure customers find you online – setting out how search engines and online advertising can help small businesses to connect with more customers.
 Connect with customers over mobile – providing information on how to grow an online presence and start reaching new customers on their mobiles.
 Promote a business with content – supporting small businesses on how to get noticed and to connect with more customers through social media, video, and content marketing.
 Promote a business with online advertising – outlining the online tools small businesses can use to promote their business online, create a marketing strategy, and attract the right customers.
This support can be found at: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/business/promoting-your-business.html
We’re also offering support to small businesses via webinars, covering topics such as Online Presence, Digital Marketing, Data Analytics, Social Media and Collaboration Tools. The full list of live webinars can be found at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/bt-skills-for-tomorrow-26823592931
 

Helping families to get the most from technology
With many families self-isolating or with children at home from school, parents are looking for ways to help children continue learning from home. In partnership with Internet Matters, we are also providing support to help kids to balance the opportunities that tech brings, along with challenges as they spend more time online at home.
Key information includes:
 BT Learning at Home resources - we have engaging activities for children aged 4-11 year old to keep developing their computing and digital skills at home: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/parents/learning-at- home.html
 Supporting your children - information and activities to help parents keep their kids safe online and to feel better equipped for conversations about the online world: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/parents.html
 

Supporting people working from home

Many people will find themselves working from home for the first time and will need support in remaining productive outside of their usual workplace. Working with LinkedIn Learning and Google Digital Garage, we have guides to help people to build their digital skills and work online effectively wherever they are.
Key information includes:
 How to increase productivity at work – providing tips on how to be better at time management, and how prioritisation can help people work more efficiently.
 Business communication - advice on writing for business and how to make communications concise, easy to read and engaging.
This help can be found at: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow/work-life.html
       

 For more information on BT Skills for Tomorrow, go to bt.com/skillsfortomorrow