Sight Service Gateshead and South Tyneside is one of our newest members and I was keen to find out more about them and particularly pleased that Sue Taylor, their Chief Executive, was able to talk to me between meetings.
Tell us about the history of Sight Service
“Sight Service is the leading voluntary sector organisation in the north east providing services and support to people with sight loss. It was founded in 1996 following intensive research, led by the local authorities, health and national and local voluntary sector organisations, which identified huge gaps in services for visually impaired people in Tyne and Wear.
With a small grant in 1998, we employed a part time development worker and involved sighted and visually impaired volunteers to start to address the issues. We now employ 24 paid staff and have over 150 volunteers, working out of two Centres (in Gateshead and in South Tyneside) from where we offer advice, information, training and support to people with sight loss from all over Tyne and Wear.”
What is your mission?
“To enable people with sight loss to enjoy the quality of life other people take for granted.”
How are you funded?
“By both Gateshead and South Tyneside Councils to provide assessment, and rehabilitation and mobility training to visually impaired people. We also have a contract with Newcastle/Gateshead CCG to provide an integrated low vision service. These services are supplemented by a welfare rights and advocacy service, professional counselling, emotional support, and peer support, together with a wide range of social, leisure and learning activities. We have three highly trained rehabilitation officers for the blind, four ophthalmologists; our welfare rights officers and advocates; our assessors and our team of support workers.”
What work are you delivering in partnership?
“Together with Age UK Gateshead and Your Voice Counts we are delivering on two local partnership projects – a handyman service and, along with seven other voluntary sector organisations, a social prescribing project. Covering a larger area we lead on ‘Community Empowerment Project – Newcastle/Gateshead/South Tyneside’, a Big Lottery funded partnership project with the Newcastle Society for Blind People. At a national level we are working closely with RNIB/Action for Blind People to link the ten leading service providers of local services for people with sight loss with the national organisation to develop the capacity and reduce the postcode lottery across the region.”
Why did you join the Consortium and what do you hope to get out of collaborating with other Consortium members?
“We wanted more opportunities to work with others to develop more innovative ways in which we can support people, more opportunities to respond to larger tenders, to reach a wider geographical area, gain and give mutual support. To us, it’s obvious; people with visual impairments have all sorts of needs which we can’t meet, but other organisations can and do; so it makes sense that we join up what we are all doing together to benefit those individuals.”
Sue would be delighted to hear from other Consortium members interested in collaborating; you can reach her on email@example.com and you can find out more about the Sight Service by clicking on http://sightservice.my-free.website/
Neil Shashoua, Business Development Manager, Blue Stone Consortium