Hi-VisUK – Bradford partnership boost

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For several years we have enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council through its Sensory Needs Service. Our collaboration continues to go from strength to strength. It all started with their team manager, Julie Ralph and her colleague Margaret Hird sampling our training which at the time was through our In Good Hands project. Bradford then commissioned us to deliver training to their teams on site including to some of their colleagues from neighbouring local authorities.

Recently two very exciting developments are taking shape. We both agree on the vital importance of local authorities being deafblind aware across a broad range departments and services, not just sensory services. But these are lean times with budget cuts severely limiting the ambitions of nearly every local authority in the land.

So to spread the training throughout Bradford City Council, we trained and mentored some of their sensory team who have now started to deliver our courses on their site. This work is done under a licence with us and all resources remain our copyright. We observe and monitor quality. Secondly we have been supporting them with their own first deafblindness e-learning course to further spread the awareness training across the Council.

Feedback on our training

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Great to see ongoing positive feedback from our training participants. We learn a lot from our courses through our interactions with participants who come from a wide cross-section of the health care and social care fields.

Colleagues from the fields of sensory loss support and acquired communications disorders are always generous in their sharing of experience and expertise whilst on our courses – thanks to all!

Click HERE to watch the latest video feedback, courtesy of our partners at SCIE.

Staying in touch

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Our staff make it a priority to meet as many older people as possible living with dual sensory loss each year where there is no organisation in an area to do this vital work.

Intergenerational awareness

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Hi-VisUK will be taking over much of the pioneering work of In Good Hands, our sister deafblind support project.

Listening to older people

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Hi-VisUK has volunteers trained in interview skills to support our research and evaluation evaluation activities.

Combating isolation

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Hi-VisUK brings older people living with dual sensory loss together throughout the year. They come from all corners and include their carers and communicator guides.

Capacity building

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Hi-VisUK will continue the investment by our sister project, In Good Hands, to build the capacity of Sunderland and North Durham Royal Society for the Blind to become a dual sensory service for their members and local older people in Sunderland and north County Durham.

Their volunteers and staff are being supported with training in deafblind awareness and how to use our identification tool. This will enable them to identify older people with the condition and provide appropriate support.

Older people identified as having a dual sensory loss will be supported by the Society’s volunteers and where appropriate by HiVisUK staff to ensure they get the appropriate response from other local service providers.

This is one of our unique capacity building models that Hi-VisUK will promote across the country.

Raising our profile

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To be successful at Hi-VisUK we will constantly work to raise our profile at a local and regional level (as well as nationally). Opportunity to talk with other local disability organisations, national manufacturers and suppliers of aids and equipment is one part of a complex jigsaw of supporting organisations – who all need to know more about age acquired deafblindness. It is also an opportunity to meet older people with deafblindness who visited such events as photographed above.

Celebrating Older People

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October 1st is Older People’s Day in England. Hi-VisUK will be organising its unique friendly “Talk and TryTM” sessions in care settings. The aim is to support the Full of Life principle by talking with elderly residents who whilst not recognised as deafblind, are found to have problems with both senses. At our sessions they can learn about aids and support that can help them continue with activities and interests.

Typically around 20 elderly residents will enjoy tea and cakes and the chance to talk with Hi-VisUK staff. They will try a range of low cost, easy to see and use equipment that help with daily tasks. For example, equipment to help safely pour a hot drink reducing the risk of scalding; a reading guide to make reading a newspaper, a book or a letter more easy; high colour contrast non-slip mats to aid food preparation in the kitchen, and big print magazines and TV guides.

For residents whose hearing has deteriorated significantly, our staff find a quiet corner during the “talk and try” sessions for one-to-one conversations and to make the most of any residual hearing.

The most vital step

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Hi-VisUK is a highly ambitious charity that, amongst other aims, is working to increase the number of older people with dual sensory loss or deafblindness requesting and receiving a specialist deafblind assessment. This is no easy task and yet it is the most vital step.

Trying to reach older people with age acquired deafblindness is a significant challenge despite the numbers. The vast majority of older people likely to have this devastating condition, those aged 50 years and above, do not see themselves as deafblind. Department of Health (DH) describes this in its Care Act policy guidance (2014) when it acknowledges “many people do not define themselves as either deafblind or having dual sensory loss.”

There are several issues and challenges in recognising deafblindness in older people. For example there are older people receiving social service care who are not identified as deafblind. DH explains: “this could be because an assessment was carried out when only one sense was affected or because both senses have deteriorated since the care package (including residential care) has started.” Other impairments including those that are often associated with ageing “may mask the deafblindness.”

This presents a nationwide picture where age-acquired deafblindness really is a Cinderella condition. This despite it currently affecting an estimated 600,000 older people. Government estimates 40/100,000 people have the condition in this country but this is likely to be closer to 572/100,000 according to one research report (Emerson, E, SENSE 2010). By 2035 the numbers of older people with deafblindness are set to rise by 60% within main population trends as people live longer lives (CeDR 2010, ONS 2012).