Blind Veterans UK recognises the extraordinary challenges we are all facing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The UK Government have made changes to the way we are all living and working, to protect us and slow down the spread of the virus. In response to these challenges we have made some changes to the way we deliver our services.
In keeping our staff and volunteers safe, engaged, busy, informed and feeling valued with we have adapted our existing service model to ensure our Members across the UK have the particular support they need at this unusual and very difficult time.
In response to Government guidance we have developed a temporary community service model that will utilise the skills, knowledge and expertise of all our staff and volunteers. We know that over 90% of our Membership are over 70 years of age and therefore considered high risk. Therefore, this model takes a proactive approach to maintaining at least weekly contact with our members by telephone and other IT platforms like skype and facetime. Pro-active contact will enable us to monitor the ongoing needs of our Members whilst providing much needed emotional support, ongoing access to visual impairment training and social opportunities; be that having a friendly chat, taking part in a quiz or having a book or newspaper read.
In addition, for our most vulnerable members, where needed we will provide or arrange practical support, for example shopping visits, dog walking or collecting prescriptions. Our Engagement team are working very closely with our community teams in building a directory and knowledge base of services being provided by statutory services and partner organisations and those local services that have sprung up in the wake of this pandemic. We have also tasked our rehabilitation staff to provide training and guidance to external keyworker staff in how best to support individuals with a visual impairment.
This new service will be delivered by our staff who are now working remotely from home. We began delivery of this new model on 23 March 2020 and our national network of Community Team Leaders are leading the implementation of this model and have a team of permanent community staff to make this service work.
The Government guidelines and drive to generate a NHS volunteer army called ‘NHS Volunteer Responders’ highlight the importance of volunteering and making sure that those most vulnerable are provided with essential support. We are playing our part and our Head of Volunteering is in talks with the Royal Volunteering Service to determine how we can support this endeavour. In the meantime our own small army of volunteers are being used to support the delivery of our new model.
Finally, whilst our centres have closed to our Members we acknowledge that our Brighton Centre is home for our permanent residents that live there. Our team of highly qualified and skilled nurses remain committed as ever in ensuring they stay well and cared for throughout this time.
We will overcome these new challenges to continue our work for Victory over Blindness.