Charities to provide extra support for people with sight loss in Aberdeenshire
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New research from charities has revealed an increasing number of people are losing their sight in the north-east.
There are currently more than 8500 people living with sight loss in Aberdeenshire.
Two charities have launched a new name, vision and plans for their ambition to reach out and support significantly more people with sight loss across the region and in Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon officially launched the change of historic charity Royal Blind’s name to Sight Scotland and its sister charity Scottish War Blinded changing to Sight Scotland Veterans.
Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans have published new research which also shows that almost half of people in north-east Scotland would not feel confident about offering support to someone with visual impairment to help them cope with social distancing.
Sight Scotland Veterans’ outreach support already stretches across all local authority areas in Scotland. Two Sight Scotland Veterans outreach workers are based in the north-east, providing practical and emotional support, and social opportunities to veterans with sight loss in Aberdeenshire.
Ingrid Penny is one of the outreach workers in the area and said: “Sight loss affects every individual differently, which makes the tailored support that Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans can provide to people living with visual impairment vital.
“The pandemic has sadly meant we have had to postpone our local lunch clubs and social activities for veterans with sight loss, and this has been tough for many who enjoy the new connections and support these activities provide.
"While working from home, we are still keeping in touch regularly with the veterans we support via telephone and email.
"We're keeping spirits high with an all-important social chat and listening ear, and ensuring they continue to receive our expert advice and any help they might need in order to maintain their independence at home.
"This includes providing specialist equipment and technology to reduce the isolation the pandemic has brought to so many.
"We are still taking referrals and are planning creative ways to engage with Sight Scotland Veterans members through the winter months.
"With the right support, the challenges that sight loss can bring can be overcome."
As restrictions to daily life and services continue due to the coronavirus pandemic, the charities have undertaken the biggest survey of people with visual impairment in Scotland since lockdown, which found that a majority felt that their sight loss had made lockdown a more difficult experience.
Chief executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans Mark O’Donnell said: “Every hour in Scotland someone starts to lose their sight, and today there are almost 15,000 people in the north-east living with visual impairment. This is why we need to provide more support in the future.
"For more than 200 years our charities have worked to support people with visual impairment of every age.
"We are excited to be launching our new charity names and vision so that we can play our part in supporting even more people living with sight loss in Scotland.
“The number of people who are blind or partially sighted in Scotland is set to increase by 30,000 in the next decade, and for a wider range of conditions our research shows every hour at least one person in Scotland starts to lose their sight.
"In NHS Grampian last year alone there were more than 3500 cataract operations, and we need to ensure those people receive support and treatment quickly.
"Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans will work with the Scottish Government and many other partners across Scotland, including in Aberdeenshire, to reach more people living with visual impairment.”
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