Hi-VisUK in Cornwall

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Since January this year Hi-VisUk has been in Cornwall working with the local authority on the specialist adult deafblindness aspects of the Care Act. This includes our unique training and qualifications for staff to increase an authority’s capacity to meet their duties regarding deafblind adults. Part of a three-year contract secured by Hi-VisUK, this will see us training hundreds of staff across the county.

This builds on our groundbreaking work in Hartlepool with the local authority and local providers.  It also complements our work ongoing with Bradford council’s sensory support services. Our work with all local authorities across England continues to grow alongside and partly through our partnership with the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) with whom we jointly arrange open-course social-care training on age related deafblindness and the Care Act.

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.

Care Act compliant training: Hi-VisUK & SCIE

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Our aim is to build capacity of others to support older people with acquired dual sensory loss. A key element of this is the provision of our unique accredited training.

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.

Acquired Communication Disorders training demand

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Our OCN Level 2 course in Acquired Communications Disorders continues to show no signs of a decrease in interest. Care providers tell us there is nothing like this training anywhere else and that it is filling a huge gap in their understanding, confidence and skills – especially when combined with our highly practical and concise Hi-VisUK deafblindness training.

Specialist Assessor Training well received

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The partnership between SCIE and SCENE Enterprises CIC continues to thrive. Using our Hi-VisUK OCN Level 3 Specialist Deafblind Assessor course, participants have the option of an open course in London or closed courses exclusively for organisations and delivered on their site.  Workforce leads in the adult care sector from across the country continue to show interest in this unique course. Feedback has been extremely positive and further courses are being promoted via SCIEs website.

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).

Dorothy’s story

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Dorothy works for a local charity providing rehabilitation support, she visits elderly and visually impaired people in their homes to assess their needs.

Dorothy found our deafblind awareness and guiding training: “Amazing! Some of the simulation exercises were challenging but opened my eyes. It was staggering. I already use the training to help me improve my visits.”

“During my visits I am more aware of the signs of potential hearing loss. For example I recently visited a very independent minded, severely visually impaired man. Whereas before the training I would perhaps not have taken his hearing loss into account, as we have been focused on the visual impairment aspect, now I am in a better position to look at both sides. I think my visits following the Silver Dreams, IGH training are better. We are seeing more of our visually impaired clients have a hearing loss and so the learning we have achieved on the deafness side is especially useful and practical.”

“Since the training I have learnt not to make assumptions about how to approach or support a deafblind person. My lipreading skills have improved and I am more aware of how I am communicating.”

Brian’s story

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Brian took early retirement a couple of years ago. Volunteering for Brian provides him with something to do that is stimulating, but above all else, means he can “help others make the most of their lives.” At the local association where he volunteers Brian drives the minibus for the activities group and sits on their funding committee. Brian heard about our training:

“I was interested partly because I was intrigued about the situation facing a deafblind adult. I then did your training in deafblind awareness and guiding which opened my eyes.”

“You seldom come across disability. Like many people I thought being blind meant having no sight at all, being deaf meant you could not hear anything. What grabbed my attention was the wide range of abilities that visually impaired people have despite their condition. What has been so rewarding has been the way people respond to your help. Doing this work makes you realise how many barriers there are for blind, deaf, and perhaps even more for deafblind people.”

“The training has broadened my mind and made me reflect on the things that could cause issues or make communication more difficult. I have learnt not to assume and that every blind, deaf, deafblind person is the same.”