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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Colin, one of our deaf-blind friends lives about half a mile from his local town centre. There are roadworks throughout the town causing congestion and a large build up of traffic at most times of the day. Colin has just started using his white long cane and has made this journey lots of times before. He described a recent experience.
“I was working in to town as usual and went to cross the road via my usual crossing. I pressed the button and waited… nothing happened. Pressed it again, same result. I did not know at the time but the crossing system had been switched off as it interfered with the roadworks traffic controls and a black bag had been placed over the lights. After waiting for some time, I tried to cross the road by waving my cane in front of me but was unable to do so due to heavy traffic and motorists failing to let me cross.”
“Fortunately a good Samaritan came to my aid. A woman, I never found out who she was, standing on the opposite side of the road saw my dilemna. She marched out in to middle of the road, held out her arms and stopped the traffic.”
This highlights just one of the problems that our friends encounter on a day to day basis and highlights the need for greater awareness all round. It also underlines the need for more trained deafblind aware volunteers to support people like our friend Colin.