Mark O’Donnell explains why Royal Blind and Scottish War Blinded changed their named – and why the third sector is #NeverMoreNeeded
A great strength of third sector organisations is our ability to innovate and evolve.
Covid-19 has thrown us into a crucible of change, with enormous stresses placed on charities and unprecedented demands to deliver services in new ways.
We are responding to the challenges placed on us by the pandemic, moving activities online and reaching out to people through delivering support and advice remotely.
This is service reform borne of necessity, but while we look forward to bringing people together physically once more, and guard against a digital by default approach which can increase exclusion, I believe we will have learnt much which will help us embrace the call to build back better.
It was clear to us at Royal Blind and Scottish War Blinded even before the pandemic that we needed to embark on a journey of change.
Our charities have a proud history of supporting people visual impairment. Royal Blind was founded in 1793 and is one of the oldest sight loss charities in the world. Our challenge for the future is to ensure more people with sight loss can access our services and support.
We are delighted that on World Sight Loss Day, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was able to officially launch our new names, Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, as we set out our plans to support more people living with sight loss across the country.
At the same time we published research which makes clear why we need to do this. Every hour someone in Scotland loses their sight, but a survey by YouGov has found that only half of Scots say they would know where to go for help if they lost their sight. We have also undertaken the biggest survey of people with visual impairment in lockdown, which found that more than two thirds felt it had been a worse experience for them because of their sight loss.
This is why are taking forward plans to provide more services in the community, including supporting more pupils with visual impairment in mainstream schools as well as our specialist school, the Royal Blind School. We are working to increase the availability of accessible documents and to support more older people with sight loss through rehabilitation and peer support activities. We are working and campaigning to ensure more people with visual impairment have fairer chances in education and employment.
The pandemic has shown that our society needs the third sector, and it is clear more needs to be done to support charities facing huge losses in income so that they can continue to play their vital role.
We believe the third sector contribution will be vital to ensure an increasing number of people can live well with sight loss. At Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans we look forward to building on the foundations of a proud history by playing our role in achieving a fairer future for people with sight loss.
Mark O’Donnell is chief executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans.