Blind and partially sighted members of the charity are launching a Save RNIB Scotland campaign after its UK chief ignores their concerns
Blind and partially sighted members of RNIB Scotland are launching a protest against the “detrimental” and “insensitive” decision to transfer its staff to an English charity.
A Save RNIB Scotland Facebook page has been set up in protest after a letter signed by 17 RNIB Scotland members was ignored by the charity’s London chief executive.
The letter raises concerns members have about the transfer of RNIB Scotland’s 225-strong staff team to English charity Action for Blind People (ABP).
It was sent to RNIB UK chief executive Lesley-Anne Alexander and Action for Blind People chief executive Miriam Martin on 13 July.
We are angry that such a drastic change has been forced upon us, despite the opposition of the Scottish membership and our elected office bearers
A month later, no reply has been received.
Although RNIB has promised that staff will keep existing terms and conditions after the 1 September transfer, there is concern the change will undermine the work the charity does.
The letter’s signatories include former RNIB Scotland vice-chair Jimmy O’Rourke and Mhairi Thurston, chair of the Visual Impairment Network for Children and Young People.
It states: “We joined RNIB Scotland because it was an organisation of blind and partially sighted people, not for them. We have supported it, collected for it and campaigned for it because of just that.”
It goes on to raise concerns about the appropriateness of ABP taking over Scottish services, “despite it having no presence, understanding or experience of working in Scotland or knowledge of Scottish matters.
“We are angry that such a drastic change has been forced upon us, despite the opposition of the Scottish membership and our elected office bearers. It is scarcely possible to image a worse time in Scotland to do this, or a signal that could be more detrimental and insensitive.”
Signatories question the reasons RNIB has given for the shift, claiming they have been provided with no evidence it will improve services.
The campaign to Save RNIB Scotland is likely to find support from within the organisation as well as Scottish politicians, who will raise the issue in the Scottish and Westminster parliaments.
Stuart MacMillan MSP, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross party group on sight loss, told TFN: “RNIB Scotland has built up a good reputation advocating for blind and partially sighted people in Scotland and helps influence key policymakers on a wide range of issues. This influence will be under threat with the proposed transfer.
“There is a further concern that blind and partially sighted members of RNIB Scotland were not asked their opinion on this transfer, yet they are the people who will be affected most by any change.”
RNIB UK would not tell TFN why its chief executive had failed to respond to the letter and instead highlighted a consultation it held earlier in the summer. During this consultation, Scottish staff and board members are known to have objected to the move.
A spokesman said: “The number of people affected by sight loss in the UK is predicted to double to four million by 2050. As a charity with finite resources, RNIB has a responsibility to share expertise and resources for the benefit of people with sight loss throughout the UK and these changes will allow us to do that.”