Scotland’s largest sight loss organisation has today (January 11) launched a telephone helpline providing support to people with sight loss and their families in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Individuals affected by sight loss, as well as carers, friends and families who have a loved one affected by sight loss, can call 0800 024 8973 to access Sight Scotland’s expert advice, information and practical and emotional support. The freephone Sight Scotland Family Support Line is open for calls from Monday to Friday, 10am – 12pm and 1pm – 3pm.
Following the helpline’s initial launch in Edinburgh and the Lothians, the charity plans to launch this service nationally in the coming months.
Research by Sight Scotland showed that visually impaired people and their families had experienced a lack of support in the early stages of a sight loss diagnosis and in helping family members cope with the impact of their loved one’s sight loss on their lives.
In August last year, Sight Scotland and its sister charity Sight Scotland Veterans undertook the biggest survey of people with visual impairment in Scotland since lockdown, which found that the majority thought there is not enough support for people with sight loss and their families and carers.1
The Sight Scotland Family Support Line is part of Sight Scotland’s new Family Wellbeing Service, which aims to tackle to this identified gap in support as the charity reaches out to even more people affected by sight loss in Scotland.
Other branches of Sight Scotland’s Family Wellbeing Service will include a befriending service, home visits (when Scottish Government restrictions allow) and online information and advice through Sight Scotland’s website, sightscotland.org.uk
The charity has extensive expertise in supporting people with sight loss of all ages, and at all stages of sight loss, with established services including the Royal Blind School and Scottish Braille Press in Edinburgh, education outreach support, and specialist care and residential services for young people and adults with visual impairment.
Mark O’Donnell, Chief Executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, said:“Sight loss has a huge impact on life, not only for the person with visual impairment themselves, but also for their loved ones. Our research revealed a need for more advice and emotional support for the whole family to help them cope with the impact of their loved one’s sight loss.
“We are proud to launch the Sight Scotland Family Support Line to address this need for support. Edinburgh and the Lothians is the first area to benefit from this service, and our ambition is to reach out to even more people affected by sight loss across Scotland in the coming years. We hope people with sight loss and their families will reach out to us through our helpline for our expert advice and support.
“Every hour at least one person in Scotland starts to lose their sight, and with the number of people in Scotland with a visual impairment set to increase by 30,000 in the next decade to over 200,000, many more people and their families are set to be impacted by a sight loss diagnosis. We must be here to support them in any way they require.”
Yvonne Mills, 76, is wife and full-time carer to her husband, Gordon, 98. The couple, from Edinburgh, have welcomed the launch of Sight Scotland’s helpline. Gordon has macular degeneration and is supported by Sight Scotland’s sister charity, Sight Scotland Veterans. Yvonne agrees there is a need for support for family members as well when a loved one has sight loss.
Yvonne said: “I’m sure many people can and will benefit from the new Sight Scotland Family Support Line. I think it will definitely be a huge help to those who are affected by sight loss. For me, at the early stages of Gordon’s sight loss, I worried about him going out alone as he was prone to have accidents, as he’d walk into things that he just didn’t see due to his macular degeneration. I was still working at the time and I was quite frightened for him because of the suddenness of his sight loss. It was really quite frightening.
“When Gordon was first registered as blind in 2001, we had very little idea where to get any help at all. It was really quite difficult, and I found it hard to locate the things that would help him. I think it’s really helpful to have that outreach support available that can let people know what’s available for somebody who has sight loss and help them, and the family as a whole, to adapt.”
Notes to Editors:
1. Sight Scotland commissioned research and also carried out its own survey of over 400 people with visual impairment in August and September 2020.
Do you think there is enough support for people with sight loss (other than from Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans)?
Yes: 60 (15%)
No: 215 (53%)
Not sure: 124 (31%)
No answer: 5 (1%)
Do you think there is enough support for family and carers of people with sight loss (other than from Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans)?
Yes: 30 (7.5%)
No: 199 (49%)
Not sure: 169 (42%)
No answer: 6 (1.5%)