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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, April to June 2020



Mark your calendar now for Glaucoma Awareness Week 29 June – 5 July
The effects on people with sight loss and those who have remained undetected during the pandemic are highlighted
Vision UK becomes Covid-19 Fatality
Nystagmus Network announces Awareness Day in 2020
Blind and partially sighted voters still struggle to cast their vote in secret at elections, says a leading sight loss charity.
Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, to raise awreness of sight loss.
Nystagmus Network CET Webinars announced.
Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland emphasises the Safeguarding of Sight.
Enter the Art for NHS, Contest
VCHP wins GSK Impact Award
RNIB Scotland advises diabetics with routine hospital checks to stay away but be aware
Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland highlights communication problems
Warning from RNIB Scotland on sight
Optical Workers’ Benevolent fund to support technicians
COVID19 Eye Care Guide launched by Eye Health UK.
WCSM closes London base
WCSM announces a new Charity
Read archived Charity News from January to April 2020

Mark your calendar now for Glaucoma Awareness Week 29 June – 5 July

June 2020

For Glaucoma Awareness Week (GAW) 2020, we want more people in the UK than ever before to know just how important it is to look after your eye health and, if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with glaucoma, IGA (becoming Glaucoma UK) is here for you.

We have some exciting news to announce!

During this year’s awareness week, we will be officially launching our new name and new visual identity for the charity. We will also kick off the week by launching our brand-new website, which has been designed to make it easier for you to find information and contains new resources to help you live well with glaucoma.

There are a whole bunch of changes on the horizon, and we hope you are as excited as we are.

You may have noticed that we have delayed this year’s awareness week. We are hoping that by pushing this week back more people will be able to take part and organise awareness raising activities under the latest government advice.

Your safety is our top priority. But if you’re planning an activity that can be done safely following social distancing guidance, then we’d love to hear from you so we can support you.

Whether you’re a supporter hosting a themed online quiz for your family, or a health professional ordering new glaucoma resources for your ophthalmic clinic, your involvement is so important to make our awareness week a success.

This year, we’ve organised a fun activity for everyone to take part in. Check back on our website on 29 June to print a copy of our new logo which can be coloured by lockdown artists of any age and displayed in your window.

For younger supporters (aged 4 – 11), you can send us a photo of your design to enter our competition and have your artwork displayed on our social media. The winner, chosen by our very own graphic designer, will also be featured in our next membership magazine (more details to come).

The effects on people with sight loss and those who have remained undetected during the pandemic are highlighted

June 2020

A Fight for Sight survey of 325 people with sight loss has shown the serious impact lockdown has had on eye health and wellbeing.

Seventy-three per cent said their access to treatment has become worse during the pandemic, with some reporting cancelled surgeries, as well as cancelled injections for age-related macular degeneration.

Of those surveyed, 40 per cent said they were concerned their eyesight would deteriorate as a result. There were also other impacts, including more than half reporting access to food and other products had worsened during the pandemic.

Chief Executive of Fight for Sight Sherine Krause said: “The government must develop a plan that addresses the immediate need of people with eye conditions, so they don’t become blind because of lockdown and social distancing measures.”

Fight for Sight is calling on the government to come up with an urgent plan to make sure that people do not lose their eyesight due to lack of appointments as a result of social distancing measures, and to update its advice to retailers on social distancing measures to ensure the needs of people with poor vision are not excluded or put at risk.

Blind and partially sighted people should also be given priority delivery slots for online shopping if they want it.

The charity is also raising awareness for the need for more investment in eye research, which could transform the lives of over two million people with sight loss through new treatments as well as taking pressure off an already stretched NHS.

The BBC also reported this week that thousands of people were at risk of sight loss due to missed care. This was based on the UK Ophthalmology Alliance and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists calculating that at least 10,000 people have missed out on care essential to maintaining their sight in England, Wales and Scotland. There were particular concerns about delays in care for conditions including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment.

Ophthalmologists looked at the number of procedures for macular degeneration or retinal detachment over a three-month period for eye clinics across the UK.
Specialists from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists found that in some areas, up to 50% of patients were not attending the most urgent appointments - and say overall there has been at least 30% non-attendance for procedures in March and April and 20% in May in England.

Vision UK becomes Covid-19 Fatality

June 2020

Matt Broom Vision UK
Vision UK has been the highly successful umbrella organisation for the Vision Care and Support sector over recent years. If you like, "the glue" between the many support organisations and charities that allowed the voice of the visually impaired to be heard from one source.

Like all umbrella organisations supported by many VI charities it relies on their good finances which due to Covid are themselves in a precarious state.

It is with great sadness PHN has been informed of its impending closure of Vision UK as of the 31/07/2020.

Matt Broom the CEO stated " We have come to the point where we do not have the resources to continue and are closing while we still have the funds in the budget to do so in as elegant a manner as possible. We are extremely grateful for the support of all our members and completely understand that further resources cannot be spared to fund the umbrella organisation, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis."

Let us hope that additional funds along with a reorganisation and reassessment of need will create a "one-voice" new voice for the community.

Nystagmus Network announces Awareness Day in 2020

June 2020

Nystagmus Awareness Day – 20 June 2020

It’s national and international Nystagmus Awareness Day on Saturday 20 June 2020. We may all be staying at home this year, but we can still mark the day and raise awareness to ensure that the 1 in 1,000 adults and children living with nystagmus enjoys a greater understanding of their condition and a better quality of life as a result. Here are just some of the ways people can get involved.

How amazing are you?

In the lead up to the big day, the charity is running its ‘how amazing are you?’ campaign, sharing stories of adults and children who have achieved great things despite living with nystagmus, or maybe even because they do. These stories bring a great deal of hope and comfort to families where there is a new diagnosis of nystagmus. Anyone who has nystagmus can submit their story.

Our wobbly photography competition

We want to raise as much awareness of nystagmus as possible this year and make sure that everyone has a chance to take part, so we’re running our wobbly photography competition: The View From My Window

We know that lots of people who have nystagmus are also keen photographers. Most notably, of course, is internationally acclaimed photographer, David Katz.

David revealed only in recent years, in his film “Through my Lenses” that he has ocular albinism and nystagmus and is actually registered blind. Nevertheless he has enjoyed a stellar career in photography and has created some of the most iconic press images.

When the charity asked him to judge the competition, David said “I would be absolutely delighted and very honoured to judge the Nystagmus Network competition … It has constantly amazed me since making my story public how many of us with VI are into photography.”

Whether you have nystagmus or not, whether you have the latest camera or just a phone, and wherever you are in the world, you can take part.

Nystagmus is …

The charity launches a brand new publication, Nystagmus is …, inspired by 80 year old Roger, on Nystagmus Awareness Day 2020. The booklet is full of contributions from people, like Roger, who live with nystagmus, describing how they feel about it and how it affects their lives. For the first time people can read what it’s really like to have nystagmus by the people who really know.

Nystagmus is … will be available FREE from the charity’s online shop from 20 June 2020.

Why do we need Nystagmus Awareness Day?

The Nystagmus Network raises awareness of the condition every single day of the year, because they believe that the more people who know about it the better. It means that adults and children who have nystagmus will get the help, support and services they need in education, employment, health, mobility and leisure to be able to lead a successful and independent life.

The charity’s Information and Development Manager, Sue Ricketts says: “Holding a national and international Nystagmus Awareness Day serves as a reminder to everyone that the Nystagmus community is here and their voices need to be heard.”

Every time someone takes part in Nystagmus Awareness Day or tells someone what they’re doing and why, that’s one more person who understands what nystagmus is.
Every pound raised or donated helps the Nystagmus Network support research teams across the UK to investigate this hugely complex condition, to find better diagnosis, treatments and continue to work towards prevention and cure.

Blind and partially sighted voters still struggle to cast their vote in secret at elections, says a leading sight loss charity.

June 2020

RNIB Scotland is urging MSPs to back key amendments to the Electoral Reform Bill being debated in the Scottish Parliament today [Wednesday, June 3rd]. It says these would allow people with sight loss to cast their ballot without the assistance of anyone else.

Last year, the High Court of Justice ruled that present provisions for voters with sight loss in the UK were 'a parody of the election process' because they failed to allow them to vote independently and in secret.

RNIB Scotland has worked closely with the Electoral Commission for Scotland and the MSPS Colin Smyth and Jeremy Balfour in putting more accessible voting methods onto the political agenda.

In today's debate, Graeme Dey MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business, will propose moves to pilot electronic voting methods for people with disabilities. He will also call for local authorities to be required to report on how accessible voting procedures were after each election.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth will call on Ministers to explore options for marking ballot papers with indents or other tactile means to help voters with sight loss orientate their ballot paper correctly, and empower local authorities to carry out feasibility studies on this.

At present, only two voting aids are available for people with sight loss - a large-print ballot paper or a tactile voting device, a plastic template that fits over the ballot paper. But this can still mean people need a sighted person to guide them where to put their cross. Eight in ten people across the UK surveyed by RNIB who used a tactile voting device said that they still voted with another person.

RNIB Scotland director James Adams said: "We are calling on all MSPs to back the amendments being tabled by Graeme Dey and Colin Smyth. It's simply not acceptable that people can leave their polling station unsure whether they've correctly voted for the candidate of their choice or feel obliged to ask someone else for help."

Currently, there are around 170,000 people living in Scotland with a significant degree of sight loss, and two million across the UK. While Scotland-only elections are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, powers over UK-wide elections and referendums remain reserved to Westminster.

Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, to raise awreness of sight loss.

May 2020

A 24 year-old woman from Greenock is pushing forward the next steps in a campaign she has started to raise awareness of sight loss.

Claire Forde began to lose her sight six years ago to the condition bilateral optic nerve atrophy. She is now severely partially sighted with only slight peripheral vision.

But a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Claire represents the Haggeye youth forum for blind and partially sighted young people, which is organised by the charity RNIB Scotland. Earlier this month, a motion she put forward in the Parliament passed with 94 per cent support.

Claire's motion states: ‘The Scottish Youth Parliament believes that there should be more public awareness of sight loss and calls for the decision-makers to ensure that all places of work are given mandatory information about sight loss and the issues those affected by it face on a daily basis’.

It is calling for the 166 members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to urge every MSP in Scotland to sign a pledge saying they will help raise awareness.

“I’ve been passionate about raising awareness of issues around visual impairment since the start of my own sight loss journey," says Claire. "I’ve been aware that people’s perception of visual impairment and lack of awareness of how to approach someone with sight loss can have a big impact on your ability to live independently.

"So, I thought, I need to do something about this. I’ve always been vocal about raising awareness of sight loss in general, because if you don’t raise awareness you can’t do anything else - and I want to try to make a difference.”

“Not everyone who is blind or partially sighted struggles, but there are days when I can feel anxious or frustrated because of my sight loss. Even the most independent people on the planet need support at some point and this is the point of my motion.”

However, debating her motion in the Scottish Youth Parliament was more difficult due to the coronavirus restrictions, she explains.

“We were meant to have our 21st sitting of the Scottish Youth Parliament in April, but we obviously had to cancel due to coronavirus. Instead we had the idea of doing it virtually. I recorded a video to introduce the motion and also sent in a written transcript so that all members could access it. I’m delighted that it passed – it was an amazing experience, quite emotional.

"The first action point under the motion is to write to all MSPs about this issue, which I will obviously need some help with, so I’m going to ask other MSYPs to pitch in. On top of that, I want all Haggeye members to input – it was joint work and we should all get a bit of the credit."

Another action point is writing to workplaces across Scotland to ask if they’d like guest talks on visual impairment.

"I’ve always been passionate about sharing my story and I’d like others to do the same," continues Claire, "because the things I struggle with won’t be the same as what someone else with a visual impairment may struggle with. I’d also like MSPs to sign a pledge on the topic. Stuart McMillan MSP is my local MSP and is already very involved in issues relating to visual impairment. I know that the topic is close to his heart and I want to approach him about taking part.”

This was the first time Claire had put a motion to the Scottish Youth Parliament and she was delighted to get such a positive result.

“Rosie Pybus at RNIB Scotland was really instrumental in supporting me with it," she adds. "It was my idea but she helped me a lot with making it happen. The Scottish Youth Parliament has been really amazing, as well – not just for me but for all MSYPs. They’re really understanding and supportive.

"I’ve cared about this issue for a while and the fact that the motion passed was quite overwhelming – I’m still coming to terms with it. I’m absolutely thrilled!”

Around 3,500 children and young people in Scotland currently live with significant sight loss. James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, praised Claire's efforts, especially in highlighting the issue to businesses.

“Claire's resilience and motivation is a great example for any young person," he said. "She has been the driving force in putting forward a motion that will highlight not only the needs of blind and partially sighted people but their abilities as well."

Nystagmus Network CET Webinars announced.

May 2020

The Nystagmus Network is delighted to host a series of webinars all about nystagmus for eyecare professionals. Each Webinar will provide 1 CET point.

Dates ahead,and register here:

A Clinician’s Guide to Nystagmus

Tuesday 26th May – 10:30

Nystagmus affects 0.24% of the population, yet it is a very poorly understood condition. Optometrists will regularly encounter patients with the condition in practice, especially in the low vision setting. Knowing how to modify routines appropriately, as well as how to classify and potentially refer patients for treatment, will help maintain high clinical standards.

This lecture will provide an optometrist’s up-to-date guide to nystagmus, covering diagnosis, classification, and how to modify a standard routine. Currently available treatments will be discussed.

Delivered by Dr Matt J Dunn who is a lecturer and optometrist at Cardiff University. His research focuses on clinical disorders of visual perception and oculomotor control. At the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, he teaches clinical orthoptics. Matt is the author of the mobile ophthalmology reference text Dunn Vision Reference.

Register Now:

Diagnosing Nystagmus – how, why and when?

Wednesday 27th May

Jay will be talking about how Optometrists might approach patients with nystagmus and tips and tricks about what to look for, deciding how urgently to refer and what happens once they reach a specialist centre. No prior knowledge is expected!!

Delivered by Jay E Self BM FRCOphth PhD who is a Consultant Paediatric Eye Surgeon and Associate Professor at the university of Southampton. He runs a research group with an interest in nystagmus, albinism and childhood visual disorders and works closely with Helena Lee who is also a Consultant and Associate Professor in Southampton. Jay is a medical advisor to 4 support charities, a board member of 2 charities and ambassador for one. He has worked both as a researcher and clinician in the field of nystagmus for 15 years. He is a founder member of the Nystagmus UK Eye research group (NUKE).

Register Now:

Testing, Dispensing and Supporting Patients with Nystagmus

Thursday 28th May – 10:30

The holistic view of supporting a patient with nystagmus. A practical approach on how to test, dispense and support a patient with Nystagmus.

Delivered by Bhavin Shah, Behavioural Optometrist and Jayshree Vasani, Dispensing Optician. Bhavin is passionate about lifelong learning and technology to enable patients to optimise their vision. Jayshree is passionate about supporting patients with visual impairments and empowering the profession with her knowledge.

Register Now:

Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland emphasises the Safeguarding of Sight.

May 2020

From parents who've had their eyes poked by over-excited little ones, to DIY enthusiasts who’ve injured their eyes doing projects around the home, Scotland's opticians are dealing with a rise in lockdown incidents by phone and video, while providing emergency and essential eyecare.

David Quigley, chair of Optometry Scotland
Safeguarding your sight is just as important whether you are house-bound or not, emphasises David Quigley, chair of Optometry Scotland, (left), the body which represents the entire optical sector across the country.

"When lockdown began, people might have assumed that opticians would close their doors," he said. "But we are a vital health service and our patients rely on us for essential care. More than that, optometrists want to be available for their patients – we want to care for our customers, particularly at this worrying time."

Speaking on Connect Radio, the Glasgow-based station run by sight loss charity RNIB, Mr Quigley said optometrists are now dealing with routine cases over the phone, referring on those who need emergency and essential eyecare to newly formed Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres.

He continued: "This arrangement has not only helped to give peace of mind to thousands of patients. It's also gone a long way towards easing pressure on GPs, pharmacies and hospitals, by urging anyone with eye problems to contact their optometrist as the first port of call for any eye-health worries.

"Often, we're able to help patients over the phone or via video call, avoiding them having to leave home. Where this isn’t feasible, we're able to ensure they are assessed and treated in as safe an environment as possible. This goes a long way towards curbing the spread of the virus while ensuring people still get the care they need.

"We’ve heard of optometrists really going the extra mile for their patients, from those who have personally delivered prescriptions to elderly patients’ doorsteps, to a colleague who paid out of their own pocket for a taxi to take a vulnerable patient to hospital."

The recently formed Emergency Eyecare Treatment Centres are based in local optical practices or eye health departments and can treat a patient with a sight-threatening condition directly or by conferring with an ophthalmologist (a specialist eye doctor) who will decide if hospital treatment is needed. Face-to-face contact will be minimised at all stages and patients will answer a Covid-19 questionnaire over the phone beforehand. In hospitals, patients and ophthalmologists may speak over the phone in separate rooms, and there will be wide spacing in waiting rooms.

RNIB is stressing the importance of maintaining good eye-health during the current lockdown situation, with five tips to protect your sight:

1. Get your eyes tested regularly when lockdown ends (eye tests are free in Scotland).
2. Stop smoking.
3. Eat healthily and watch your weight.
4. Keep your eyes covered in the sun - UVA and UVB rays in sunlight can harm your eyes.
5. Always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris and fine particles when doing DIY.

* The RNIB Helpline is available to help blind and partially sighted people and their families and carers on 0303 123 9999.

Enter the Art for NHS, Contest

May 2020

Captain Tom
Darren Baker – portrait artist of the Queen and Prince Charles, who recently donated this birthday portrait to Colonel Tom Moore, has launched an art competition for the children of key workers – with some superb prizes ---see attached link…there must be some in optics?

"Would love you to get behind this contest I am doing to support nhs and mental health charities" says Darren

"On behalf of The PFA Charity, I am honoured to be heading this national art competition in support of NHS workers.

We are calling for paintings and drawings on the theme of the NHS and Community Spirit, that will be judged by myself, plus eminent artists Ian Berry and Lauren Baker.
The PFA Charity has allocated £25,000 in prize money, which will include cheques for NHS Charities Together and The Prince’s Trust – as well individual prizes for entrants including matchday tickets for next season and shirts.

" We all love the NHS and now more than ever we owe everything to the wonderful staff, putting themselves on the frontline to help save lives and protect us all.
So, get those pencils, brushes, paper, and canvas ready, we are looking forward to seeing your artwork in support of the NHS workers!"

Age groups:
5 – 8 Years

9 – 12 Years

13 – 17 Years

18+ Years

The prizes for each category are:

Winner: A £3,000 donation to NHS Charities Together made by the PFA Charity. A football shirt and x2 Matchday tickets.
Runner up: A £1,500 donation to NHS Charities Together made by the PFA Charity. A football shirt and x2 Matchday tickets.
Third place: A £1,250 donation to the Prince’s Trust made by the PFA Charity. A football shirt and x2 Matchday tickets.
Closing date – 31st May 2020.


VCHP wins GSK Impact Award

April 2020

GSK Award to Leeds VCHP
Vision Care for Homeless People has been chosen from more than 400 UK charities as one of ten winners of a 2020 GSK IMPACT Award. Designed to recognise outstanding work of small and medium sized charities working to improve health and wellbeing in communities across the UK, the award is for £30,000.

“This really highlights the brilliant work of all our dedicated volunteers who faithfully run the clinics and helps call attention to the need for eye care services that reach out to homeless and vulnerable people. As well as the very valuable funding, the charity will receive expert support and leadership development provided by The King’s Fund,” said David Brown VCHP General Manager.

Lisa Weaks, Assistant Director at The King’s Fund, said: “Vision Care’s work is a testament to the power of volunteering to change people’s lives for the better. For a charity with no full-time staff, we were impressed by the significant impact it has on communities across the country. In the last year alone, it has provided free eye care to over 1,800 homeless people by mobilising volunteer opticians across six cities.”

Picture shows left to right the Leeds VCHP clinic celebrating the GSK award, where GSK chose to film -

Olwyn Nelson, Leeds Clinic Manager, David Brown General Manager of VCHP, Benji Chandra - Optom Volunteer, and Steve Clark a volunteer optometrist (and NHS optical adviser) who was instrumental in setting up the Leeds clinic

RNIB Scotland advises diabetics with routine hospital checks to stay away but be aware

April 2020

People with diabetes are being advised that their normal routine eye-screening check-ups have been postponed due to the current coronavirus situation.

While such check-ups are important in detecting the early signs of diabetic retinopathy, a complication of the disease that can impair vision, it is felt patients run the more serious risk of being infected by the virus if hospital eye clinics remained open as normal.

Healthcare professionals stress it is very unlikely that anyone would develop diabetic retinopathy during this delay in screening that could not be later treated.

In the meantime, people with diabetes are urged to look after their general health as best they can, continue to control blood sugar levels, and contact their GP if they feel their diabetic control is not as good as it should be.

However, should you notice any sudden change in your vision - including double vision, blurring, floating bits or flashes in your vision - call your local optician for advice in the first instance. If needed, they can refer you on to emergency eye care services locally.

Dr Tasmin Sommerfield, Consultant in Public Health Medicine for Screening from NHS National Services Scotland, said: “Following a risk assessment of the coronavirus situation, and in order to protect vulnerable groups, a recommendation to pause the Diabetic Screening Programme was agreed with the Scottish Government. The Programme will be re-commenced when it’s safe to do so.

“People with diabetes, who have concerns about changes in their sight during the pause in the Programme, should contact their General Practice, their diabetes specialist or their optician to discuss their concerns.”

More information can be found on the NHS Inform website, in the Coronavirus section where there is guidance on Immunisation and Screening.

The RNIB Helpline is also available on 0303 123 999 from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays.

Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland highlights communication problems

April 2020

In the current Coronavirus situation getting regular, updated healthcare information is vital. Not only from the Government, but from local authorities, healthcare providers and businesses, as well.

Khmer sight Foundation
But what about people who are blind or partially sighted - just how accessible is this information to them?

Sight loss charity RNIB is urging everyone communicating to the public to ensure print and electronic communications are clearly readable, or that alternative versions - such as audio, braille and large-print - are available as well.

James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, said: "Right now, clear communication is essential. Even people who don't consider themselves sight-impaired can sometimes struggle with very small print, or with text that doesn't have a sharp enough contrast with the background colour.

"That's why it's absolutely vital that we give full consideration to how accessible our communications are. We've produced guides for the Scottish and UK Governments to help them make sure everything they put out is accessible."

For blind and partially sighted people who use screen-reading software, which reads out text from websites or email attachments, this might not seem a problem. But some graphics can still confuse screen-readers, such as text superimposed on images, photos that don't have alt-tags, text that is justified on both sides, or even just sentences that don't end with a full-stop.

Mr Adams said: "It is vitally important everyone knows how to keep themselves and the community safe, and that blind and partially sighted people know about any extra services that may be available to them.

"We’ll carry on supporting the NHS, Government, and businesses to make sure the information they share about public health advice is accessible throughout this difficult time."

* The RNIB Helpline is available on 0303 123 9999.

Here are full contact details for getting help from the RNIB

Blind and partially sighted, the majority of whom are older and may have other health conditions, will still have access to services from RNIB Scotland.

Director James Adams said: "In this current period of uncertainty and confusion it's more important than ever that the most vulnerable in our society still have confidence that help and support is there when they need it. So RNIB Scotland ( has worked hard to ensure that blind and partially sighted people still have access to our services.

"Like other charities, in just a few weeks we have had to comprehensively reorganise the panoply of things we provide. This is not only to address the lockdown but the often serious implications this has for blind and partially sighted people in terms of social isolation and need.

"Most vital of all is the necessity for clear information. We have campaigned as a matter of urgency to ensure that all communications are accessible for blind and partially sighted people and have produced guides on this. Another key area of concern, especially for those living alone, is access to food and medication. We have urged the Scottish Government to include people with sight loss on the list of vulnerable groups eligible for priority online shopping.
Across the UK, RNIB has joined with other sight loss charities to submit a joint petition with over 20,000 signatures to press government and supermarkets to resolve this as soon as possible. "

Meanwhile, RNIB has extended the hours that our telephone helpline (0303 123 9999) is open for, from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays. This can give advice and information and refer people on to other services.

Paulina KuchorewInformation, as well as entertainment, continues to be available from our RNIB Connect Radio station, available on Freeview 730 or online ( Station presenters are all working from home too, sometimes even broadcasting inside cupboards or under duvets to maintain good sound quality!

RNIB's Eye Clinic Liaison Officer service (, which offers practical advice and reassurance to people coming to terms with sight loss, remains in place, although this, too, is being done by phone and email. ECLOs now also provide a Stay InTouch Service, making weekly appointment-based calls to check in with those who are particularly vulnerable. RNIB's Need to Talk ( telephone support is also available for people in areas of western Scotland.

Technology now plays a more vital role than ever, for information, keeping in touch with friends and family, and leisure. The Technology for Life support service can be accessed via the RNIB Helpline, although our volunteers can't carry out home visits. Eligible people with sight loss who need equipment to help them through this time can apply for funding through RNIB's Technology Grants Programme ( Meanwhile, our resource centre (, selling a wide range of aids and equipment, remains open for orders online.

Social isolation increases demand for activities and pursuits to occupy lockdown time. RNIB's Talking Book library ( can still post or download the thousands of titles we have available in audio.

Social and leisure interest groups in Scotland are also still happening by phone. "We are holding morning conference calls seven days a week with our members for a general chat and raising of sprits, as well as evening calls three times a week," said Mr Adams. "On Mondays we hold a 'Sharing personal stories' call; on Wednesdays we swap recipes and ideas for meals; Fridays we have a virtual quiz; Saturdays it's football focus; and on Sunday morning we have a time to reflect on the previous week and look forward.

"We know this is an especially trying time for everyone. RNIB Scotland will be here for blind and partially sighted people and their families and carers. We want people with sight loss to know they are not alone and that help is available."

Warning from RNIB Scotland on sight

April 2020

People in Scotland with sight-threatening eye conditions will be referred to newly created Emergency Eye-Care Treatment Centres under new measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Consultant ophthalmologist Dr John Olson, who has led on the development of NHS Scotland's new 'Covid-19 National Eye Health Framework: Saving Sight, Saving Lives', said the aim was "to preserve sight where we can, but not at the cost of life itself".

Speaking on Connect Radio, the Glasgow-based station operated by sight loss charity RNIB, Dr Olson said local high street opticians can now only be contacted by phone during normal working hours.

They can refer more serious cases on to the new Centres being set up in each health board area. Opticians there can, if necessary, contact an ophthalmologist (a specialist eye doctor) who will decide if a patient needs to go to hospital for intervention. "At all stages, face-to-face contact will be minimised," stressed Dr Olson.

"Emergency Eye-Care Treatment Centres have personal protection equipment and the environment is extremely safe. Before any patient can access this environment, they will have to answer a Covid-19 questionnaire over the phone. Your medical history will also be taken over the phone.

"Before you can enter a Centre, you will wait outside. Only when you are told by phone that the building is clean and safe will you be allowed access. Inside, very careful measures will be in place to maintain social distance."

In hospitals, patients and ophthalmologists may speak over the phone in separate rooms, and there will be wide spacing in waiting rooms. "It's about maintaining social distance wherever possible, "emphasised Dr Olson.

With the shift in hospital resources to tackle coronavirus, people with some eye conditions may worry diagnosis and treatment could be delayed. Some conditions such as cataracts will not result in permanent sight loss if surgery is postponed.

However, treatment for age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of sight loss in Britain, involves a course of injections to arrest damage. Likewise, people with diabetes normally attend regular screenings to detect retinopathy, a potentially damaging complication of the disease.

Dr Olson said: "People with sight conditions such as wet age-related macular degeneration or diabetes should still attend appointments for treatment or screening where invited."

James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, said: "Maintaining good eye-health remains very important during the current situation and we welcome assurance that treatment will continue.

The RNIB Helpline can be contacted on 0303 123 9999 by anyone who needs advice or support during this difficult time."

* High street opticians can be contacted by phone during normal working hours (9am to 5.30pm). Outside these hours, people should phone NHS 111.

Optical Workers’ Benevolent fund to support technicians

April 2020

Lab technicians working in manufacturing optics may be eligible for a grant from The Optical Workers’ Benevolent Fund during these difficult times.

The charity was set up by UK companies some years ago with great support from the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians, and its show, Optrafair.

Chairman of the OWBF, Janice English, said, “Now is the time to support those who are facing very difficult times. It is wonderful that we have such a charity dedicated to helping those who need a helping hand. UK optics is, to many of us, like a large, extended family, and we want to reach out to those who may be very worried, and struggling to cope financially. In the past we have supported lab technicians with a broad variety of financial worries. Please note this charity is not for professional optical employees, but for those working in labs.”

To make an application please contact Marianne MacRitchie :

COVID19 Eye Care Guide launched by Eye Health UK.

April 2020

The charity Eye Health UK has published an essential guide to caring for your eyes during the coronavirus pandemic on its website

The guide provides the public with advice about how, and when, to access primary eye care services during the pandemic as well as tips on keeping your eyes and vision healthy during lockdown.

A host of issues are covered inside the handy guide including: what to do if your contact lens prescription expires; the provision of post-operative care and protecting your eyes from DIY disasters.

The charity’s chairman, David Cartwright comments: “It’s vital that the public are clear about how to look after their eye health during these extraordinary times and know how the optical sector are here to help as they provide vital telemedical care and support the NHS frontline effort.”

The charity is also promoting important public health messages and advice on social media channels using the hashtag #COVID19EyeCare throughout the pandemic.

WCSM closes London base

March 2020

All Charity, Company and Society events are cancelled at least until the end of June.

This includes the Court Luncheon planned for Thursday 4th June 2020. The Livery Dinner is still scheduled for Monday 13 July 2020, pending any further public health advice.

The office staff are working from home so please use email if you can: or If you do call the office number, please leave your name, number and a short message and we will return your call as soon as we can.

WCSM announces a new Charity

March 2020

The Spectacle Makers’ Charity (registered in England and Wales, no 1186122), A New Charity for 2020


A commitment to help others is a fundamental part of Livery Company life. Charitable giving has been at the heart of The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers since our incorporation in 1629, in line with the Company’s fundamental objective to support the prevention and treatment of vision impairment. Our charitable giving is now worth c£75,000 each year, in the form of grants to organisations and students starting their careers in optics.

In the last few years, we have operated through two charities, The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers Charity (registered number 1072172) and The WCSM Education Trust (registered number 1135045). The Company believes that the time has come to consolidate our charitable activity into a single entity. With the support of The Court and the trustees of the existing two charities, we have now established a new Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), called The Spectacle Makers’ Charity (registered number 1186122).

The trustees of the existing charities have agreed to transfer all their funds to the new CIO over the next few months and we are now seeking members to act as trustees of the new organisation.

The objects of the new CIO bring together the work of the existing charities, namely:

1. Supporting people with vision impairment and/or sight loss; and,
2. The advancement of study, knowledge and education in the field of optics for the public benefit, including the promotion of research in the field of optics and the publication of the useful results.

A general power to support other charitable purposes as agreed by the trustees is built into the constitution. This will enable the CIO to continue to support charitable causes connected with the Lord Mayor and Livery Companies working together, such as the Magical Taxi Tour to Disneyland Paris for terminally ill children and The Lord Mayors’ Appeal.

We hope the new CIO will really make a difference to lives and we know that many people will be keen to get involved. There will be more information later in the year on how everyone can help.

For now, the focus is on getting the new Charity firmly established in line with its constitution and Charity Commission guidance. That means we are looking for up to 8 trustees who have specific experience in the following areas:

1. Charity fundraising and governance
2. Public relations, communication, branding and social media
3. Education of eyecare professionals, to include ophthalmologists, optometrists, dispensing opticians, optical technicians, clinical assistants and orthoptists
4. Sight loss, living with vision impairment and vision rehabilitation
5. Ophthalmic, optometric and Vision Science research
6. Finance and investment management (ideally a chartered accountant).

Applications are being invited from Liverymen & Freemen of the Company, including existing trustees.

If you are interested in becoming a trustee and have skills and experience in at least one of the above categories, please send a brief summary of your qualifications and relevant experience to Helen Perkins, the Clerk by email to Do not send CVs by post. Expressions of interest must be received by 5.30pm on Friday 3 April 2020.

New trustees will be expected to serve initially for up to 3 years. Some flexibility will be needed so that dates of retirement can be staggered. We will want to make sure that the Trustee Board always has the key skills and experience it needs.

Trusteeship carries legal responsibilities so new trustees will need to be ready to sign Charity Commission forms and disclose any relevant or potential conflicts of interest.

The expected time commitment is 7-10 days per year. The trustees meet in February, May, September and November, ahead of quarterly Court meetings. Meetings last no more than 2 hours, with an hour or two’s individual preparation in advance. Meetings can take place at the Company’s offices in London or by video/telephone conference – distance should not be a factor.

Between meetings, there will be regular email and telephone contact between trustees and with the Clerk, who provides administrative support and acts as Secretary to the trustees. Grant applications are received and processed electronically so trustees must be able to receive information and contribute to discussions by email.

Expenses are not paid for attendance at meetings. Expenses will be reimbursed if trustees are asked to represent the Charity at an event or visit which is outside London and more than 25 miles away from their home. Trustees will be expected to support events that showcase the work of the Charity as they arise, at their own cost.

All expressions of interest will go forward to the four founding trustees for consideration, followed, if appropriate, by a more detailed conversation for short-listed candidates. The Clerk will also be happy to provide any further information you may need about the work of the new Charity and to answer any questions about the legal responsibilities and role of a trustee.

This is a very exciting time for the new Spectacle Makers’ Charity and we look forward to hearing from you.

The Khmer Sight Foundation has been named as Optrafair 20/20’s Official Charity Partner

February 2020

This exciting news is confirmation of how seriously the FMO is treating this year’s conference and exhibition in this Vision Year of 20/20.

Khmer sight Foundation

The Khmer Sight Foundation (KSF) is working to tackle the issue of blindness in Cambodia by performing sight-saving operations for those who cannot afford them, as well as investing in the country’s own ophthalmologists through teaching and training. Khmer Sight Foundation also supports volunteer surgeons who provide free eye surgeries for the poorest communities in remote parts of Cambodia.

Did you know there are no optometrists and only 35 ophthalmologists serving a population of 16 million in Cambodia?

After the blight of the Khmer Rouge, a communist movement resulting in the massacre of a quarter of Cambodia’s population, there has been a significant loss of key healthcare and eyecare knowledge. This, in combination with the extreme poverty prevalent in Cambodia and the shortage of health manpower, infrastructure and facilities, has led to a widespread eyecare problem.

Out of the country’s 16 million people, it is estimated that 200,000 men, women and children are completely blind. The leading cause of blindness in the country is cataracts, which are both preventable and reversible with an effective, cost-effective and life-changing operation. A simple procedure that takes just 20 minutes and costs $40 can give a Cambodian sight and change a family’s life.

Khmer sight Foundation

However, most sufferers are unable to work and support themselves or their families. They are extremely poor with little or no access to healthcare services, including this simple but effective operation.

Khmer Sight Foundation are working to not only provide these life-changing procedures, but also to support the training and education of the local population. Despite the challenges of staffing and operating locations, they are continuing to grow. In 2018 alone, KSF operated on 2,170 patients.

KSF also aims to develop sustainable eye care in the future. The Cambodian government has recently increased the number of training programs for ophthalmology specialisation in Cambodia.

KSF & Optrafair

Optrafair 20/20 is committed to improving the vision of the public by providing key knowledge and equipment to eye care providers. However, not everyone worldwide has access to this, which is why we're working with Khmer Sight Foundation.

How can you help?


Donate money or equipment to help improve KSF's medical facilities and provide scholarships for local Cambodian graduates who wish to learn more about eye care. You can find their donation page here.


Assist directly with KSF's mission. Whether you are a medical specialist, intern, student or administrator - KSF could use your help. Find out more at

You can find Khmer Sight Foundation on Stand G100 at Optrafair 20/20 to find out more about the charity and how you can get involved.

Cardiff OpSoc plan Malawi Trip fundraiser

February 2020

Cardiff OpSoc
How the Malawi project has been planned:

The 12 students (and 3 supervisors) are aiming to see 3000-3500 patients over the 3 weeks of the trip. They will be handing out glasses as well as making referrals for cataract surgery.

They hope to be assisting in cataract surgery, enabling them to be able to see the whole episode experienced by a given patient from start to finsish.

They plan to provide a teaching exeprience for medical students about the eye and common ocular conditions at the regional university

Cardiff OpSoc
The population of Malawi is approx. 18 million, with approx. 50 optometrists in the country, meaning the number of eye care specialists in the country will increase by almost a third whilst they're there

Their total fundraising target is £9000 required to maximise the impact they will make which works out at a cost of £750pp.

To assist Cardiff OpSoc in their exciting project Louis Stone donated 150 spectacle clips which can have a myriad of uses from lab coats, as hair clips, tie clips and many more

to assist the Cardiff University OpSoc's Malawi trip, helping the fund raising for a very worthwhile project.

Each clip were priced at £3 each and the vibrant collection of different coloured clips sold like hot cakes!

“Wondermoms” contact PHN with key messages: for those with and caring for, those with Vision Loss

February 2020

Opchat News expansion into the wider vision sector over recent years, partly achieved no doubt in our editor’s close connection with the Royal Society of Medicine and Vision UK, the Umbrella Organisation for Vision Charities, has shown a growing interest from complimentary vision outreach and charity groups.

This week Jackie Nunes from supplied us with some additional links for support to vision loss communities to add to our clinical briefing page.

PHN, the publisher of both Opchat News and Mylocaloptician welcome this broader information resource and recommend to other charities that they ensure they are recognised in our charity listing which is free to this sector.

The links cover the following topics:

Sleep Tips for People Who are Visually Impaired

Resources for Adults New to Vision Loss

Blindness and the Law

Financial Assistance for the Visually Impaired

and can be found here

Cardiff pop-up clinic sees 23 homeless patients, many for the first time!

February 2020

Some 23 homeless people in South Wales felt cared for last week when they had their eyes examined.

VCHP needs help in Wales

The pop-up clinic at a homeless centre in Cardiff resulted in 22 pairs of specs being dispensed, which the clinic will be supplying thanks to the support of Louis Stone frames and Lenstec, which provided the lenses.

Vikki Baker, an optometrist from Newport, decided to set the clinic up following the appeal by Vision Care for Homeless People asking practitioners to reach out in their local communities.

" Having studied in Cardiff, Vikki knows the area’s needs, and was aided by five volunteer colleagues. “We saw one patient with diplopia who was treating the problem with one of his lenses taped up, another with recurrent iritis, some significant myopia and several who needed reading specs. It was a very worthwhile clinic. Our receptionist at RW Cole Opticians in Newport sorted out the paperwork and with her help the clinic ran very smoothly – it was a true team effort,” she said.

Vikki is interested to see what the local optometric community can achieve, “There is a need for clinics in the area and my interest was sparked when I read about the Christmas Spectacle appeal by VCHP. I didn’t manage to fit it in at Christmas but the information pack was amazing – so comprehensive.

" It answered all my questions and gave me the confidence to give it a go: running the clinic was a lot easier than I thought. The Huggard Centre in Cardiff was the ideal location, especially as it is close to the station and they had plenty of space for us.”

Anyone interested in setting up a regular clinic in South Wales should contact:

Crisis volunteers see more than 300 patients

February 2020

VCHP Appeal
High levels of eye pathology were found amongst the 302 patients seen at the London Crisis at Christmas clinics in December. A total of 32 patients were referred to be seen by a dedicated Crisis ophthalmologist who was on hand each day and equipped with the latest Topcon technology.

Following his consultation several people were referred for further treatment including one patient with Retinitis Pigmentosa.

“The Crisis team are working hard to support this chap and to get him off the streets,” said David Brown, VCHP General Manager.

Volunteers came from all over the UK to run the clinics and found it to be a rewarding experience with 232 pairs of specs ordered and 102 pairs of ready readers dispensed.

Hospital optometrist, Nalayini Thangarajah, from Exeter, was delighted to be part of the team, “It was lovely to work with such great people while volunteering as part of the Crisis eyecare service. There were so many happy faces from both guests and volunteers.”

The Crisis clinics marked the end of a busy year for Vision Care for Homeless People with more than 300 clinics held during the previous 12 months and some 2,450 hours of optical volunteering.

To find out more about volunteering at regional clinics throughout the year visit here

Daniel Williams joins the Nystagmus Network

February 2020

Nystagmus Network The Nystagmus Network has appointed Daniel Williams, sight loss campaigner and founder of Visualise Training and Consultancy, to its committee of Trustees.

Chair of the charity’s trustees, Tim Cuddeford said: “We are delighted to welcome Daniel to the committee as he brings a comprehensive overview of the sight loss and optical sectors and first-hand knowledge of the challenges living with a visual impairment can bring. As a well-connected young entrepreneur with a strong social media presence, he will also help us to raise the profile of the Nystagmus Network and the support services we offer.”

Daniel said: “I feel honoured to be part of a small charity that has the potential to support so many people with nystagmus. My younger brother was diagnosed with the condition at the age of one and, as an advocate for the sight loss sector, this appointment will help towards my aim of making the world more inclusive for people with visual impairments through increased opportunities and personal development.”

Plans are well underway for NHS testing and specs for Special Schools in 2020

January 2020

Gella Lerner helped by SeeAbility
As a result of SeeAbility’s campaigning, NHS England are planning for a new national programme of sight tests and glasses dispensing in England’s special schools from 2020.

SeeAbility’s model of sight testing is less stressful for children with learning disabilities and autism, as it reduces the time they miss from school and incorporates glasses dispensing as well as repairs.

We’re hoping all eye care professionals will embrace the new programme, which is highly recommended by eye care professional bodies.

SeeAbility’s Eye Care and Vision team, including clinicians and people with lived experience of learning disability, autism and sight loss, are able to provide a range of bespoke training and consultancy services for eye care professionals, including:

• CET accredited Training for community and hospital-based eye care practitioners (2 CET sessions are being delivered at 100% Optical)
• Keynote speakers, workshops and exhibition stands for eye care events
• Advising on the current accessibility of local eye care services for people with learning disabilities
• Providing solutions to increase accessibility of eye care services
• A range of free downloadable resources to support your patients with learning disabilities
• An optical database so people with learning disabilities know about the support your optical practice offers

Are you ready to join the growing community of eye care professionals who are changing the lives of children with learning disabilities?

A Change in Sight looks back at the last six years of SeeAbility’s work in special schools.

The project is the biggest global study actively reporting on the eye care needs of children with learning disabilities and its major findings - based on delivering over 3500 sight tests, and supporting nearly 1500 children - reveal that up to half of children in special schools have a problem with their vision.

The report can be downloaded here
SeeAbility are Official charity partner of 100% Optical 2020 this weekend

Stepper steps up for VCHP 2020 clinic

January 2020

STEPPER Eyewear is marking its 50th anniversary in 2020 with a generous donation to Vision Care for Homeless People.

Stepper assists VCHP
Founded in 1970, STEPPER is to underwrite the costs of running the charity’s Manchester clinic, in a city with one of the highest homelessness problems in the UK.

Peter Reeve, Managing Director of the Kent-based company explained, “We have been aware of the charity for many years and last year at the ABDO student games we sponsored the sack race which was a lot of fun. It set us thinking about what else we could do. We receive a lot of requests for various sponsorships but we have decided to put our charitable giving in one direction, where it can make a real difference for the year ahead.”

Elaine Styles, Chair of Vision Care for Homeless People praised the support saying, “This donation of over £7,000 will make a tangible difference for many people in the north-west. Manchester, a city of 600,000 people, has a street sleeper problem which is second only to London.

Our Monday clinic at the Cornerstone Day centre attracts patients from a very broad radius and word has got around that we are in the city, and provide a great service. Our qualified volunteer network, not just in Manchester, but at all of our clinics is the backbone of our service. We are hugely grateful to those who are able to give up a few hours each month to help in their local area – our work can be truly transforming for some vulnerable lives. Being able to see well can be the much needed first step to removing the barriers and helping to re-build lives.”

Image above, left to right: Martin Allen, Peter Reeve, Saskia and Hans Stepper of STEPPER Eyewear

The WCSM Education Trust grant

January 2020

The 2019/20 Travel Award Scheme for ophthalmologists in training is now open for applications.

It offers awards of up to £1,000 each to help with the costs of presenting research findings at national and international conferences and extending the Trust's reach to ophthalmology.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Wednesday 19 February 2020. Payments will be made in late April/May 2020.

Fight for Sight convenes leading ophthalmologists for urgent action on the '1 to 20' funding gap

January 2020

Fight for Sight has convened the UK’s leading ophthalmologists and researchers to draw attention to the ‘1 to 20' funding gap in eye research.

Twelve leaders in the field have signed up to a public letter which is published in today’s Guardian (January 7), calling on the new government to develop a national plan on sight loss.

Currently, only one percent of national research funding is invested in eye research, even though twenty percent of people in the UK will experience serious sight loss or blindness in their lifetime[1].

The prevalence of sight loss is also on the rise – the number of people in Europe with the leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration, is projected to hit 10 million by 2050.[2]

Fight for Sight and other leading experts believe that in 2020 this is shameful, particularly as gene therapies and stem cell treatments are already restoring sight for patients with some eye conditions at clinical trial.

The call comes after the WHO World Vision Report in October 2019 found that more than one billion people worldwide are living with sight loss, which is contributed to by a lack of investment in eye care and research. Moreover, in September 2019 the UN General Assembly political declaration on Universal Health Coverage identified eye health as an area that should be addressed if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Fight for Sight will be conducting a major research study in 2020 which will show the economic and personal impact of sight loss. Blindness can have a huge impact on people’s mental health and ability to work, increasing costs on health systems and infrastructure. Hundreds of people with sight loss will be interviewed for the study and the research will include economic analysis, statistics and a literature review to understand the health economics of serious sight loss and blindness.

The findings, which are due in July 2020, will be used to lobby decision-makers and funding bodies for a national plan on sight loss that will ensure eye research gets the funding it badly needs. Fight for Sight is encouraging everyone who believes action should be taken to prevent more people losing their sight to join them and add their voice to the campaign.

Head of Research at Fight for Sight, Dr Rubina Ahmed said: “It’s shameful that in 2020 so little national research funding goes to eye research, especially when science offers so many possibilities to transform lives and there are breakthroughs happening every day. We’ve seen the first gene therapies for eye diseases become available on the NHS and stem cell treatments are already restoring sight for patients at clinical trial. However, the amount of funding currently is not fit for the scale of the challenge, with hundreds of eye diseases and millions of people affected globally. Science and technology have the answers, the only barrier is the funding to make it happen. We're encouraging everyone to join us and make 2020 the year urgent action is finally taken on sight loss.”

Chris Hammond is the Chair of Ophthalmology at King’s College London, St Thomas’ Hospital, London and Chair of the Grant Application Panel at Fight for Sight.

He said: “We know that serious sight loss doesn’t discriminate - it can affect anyone at any time and it is on the increase. We are so close to outcomes that were not possible a decade ago, yet so much more needs to be done to develop new universal treatments.”

There are currently over two million people in the UK living with sight loss. This number is projected to increase to 2.7 million by 2030 and to double by 2050.

The letter was signed by twelve leading ophthalmologists and researchers from across the UK who are also core members of the Fight for Sight Grant Assessment Panel.

Read the letter

See Story on Opchat's General News Page

Specs of Kensington minds the gap!

January 2020

Daska and Elaine An independent practice in one of the UK’s most affluent areas is set to make a tangible difference to homeless people’s lives with the sponsorship of a community eye care clinic.

Specs of Kensington is to sponsor the Shepherd’s Bush Vision Care for Homeless People clinic for 2020, helping to ensure a better view of the world for hundreds of people. Daska Barnett, owner of

Specs of Kensington, was inspired to donate more than £7,000 to the charity which one of her optometrists, Elaine Styles, co-founded and continues to lead.

“I have enormous respect for what Elaine does. We have worked together in the practice for 26 years and for some time together at Moorfields. As a practice we all felt it was good to consolidate our charitable giving into one cause that will make a real difference and to support Elaine’s unswerving commitment to homeless people. We have sold VCHP greetings cards and sponsored many of

Elaine’s gruelling cycling challenges. Her colleagues looked on proudly when she carried the Olympic torch in 2012 in recognition of her charitable work. The Shepherd’s Bush VCHP clinic is just 1.5 miles from our practice but is a world apart.

“Our practice patients have so many choices through their relative wealth but Elaine’s work with homeless people finds her looking after clients who present with very different and difficult challenges.

She switches so easily from dealing with some of the most privileged in society to the most vulnerable and often unsupported. We are so proud that Elaine is part of our team,” added Daska.

*Added to the latest donation, Specs of Kensington patients and the practice team have donated some £20,000 to the charity in funds and optical equipment since 2012.

Pictures show:

Daska outside Specs of Kensington with Elaine as she sets off on a cycling challenge

Elaine on the Olympic torch bus in 2012 with Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders on headline page

Blindness still provides a shocking barrier to educational success

January 2020

Blind and partially sighted school children are gaining fewer qualifications than their classmates, prompting calls from a sight loss charity for action to close a ‘shocking and unnecessary gap in attainment’.

In a submission made on Thursday, December 19th to a Scottish Government review of additional support for learning, RNIB Scotland says: “Blind and partially sighted pupils require additional support over the course of their education in order to access the curriculum and achieve the same level as their sighted peers.”

Most of Scotland’s estimated 4,570 pupils with significant sight loss are now educated in mainstream schools. But while only two per cent of pupils with no additional support needs failed to achieve at least one National 4 qualification, the figure was 20 per cent for those with sight loss.

Likewise, while 92 per cent of pupils with no additional needs achieved at least one National 5, only 64 per cent of those with sight loss did. And while 71 per cent with no additional needs achieved at least one Higher, only 40 per cent of those with sight loss did.

But RNIB Scotland insists: “With the right support visual impairment does not have to have an impact on the potential of a pupil to achieve. There is no reason why this attainment gap could not be significantly narrowed if the correct provision is in place.”

However, the charity points to a 2016 survey that found of the 94 teachers in Scottish schools with - or training to obtain – an additional qualification in teaching children with a visual impairment, their median age was 50, meaning many could soon be retiring.

Alarmingly, there is little incentive to encourage more teachers to take the additional qualification needed. Funding, lack of time, and distance from training provision can discourage more teachers from choosing to adopt this specialist role. To compound the problem, there is no extra financial incentive either.

In its submission, RNIB Scotland says: “The Scottish Government should anticipate this potential shortfall and incentivise teachers to obtain the qualification. Incentives could include financial support and time out of class in order to study for the qualification.”

It also urges that more training is given to teachers and classroom assistants generally on how to support pupils with sight loss.

The charity has welcomed a recent £15m funding boost for additional support for learning but remains concerned that local government cuts could still put budgets at risk. “We urge the Scottish Government to produce an additional support for learning attainment gap strategy to close this unnecessary and shocking gap between pupils with a visual impairment and their sighted peers,” it says.

Vision UK is "Making 2020 the ‘Year of Vision’"

January 2020

Vision UK has rightly dubbed 2020 the ‘Year of Vision’. It is urging us all to adopt this powerful descriptor to the anniversary of the WHO VISION 2020 Global Initiative to eliminate the main causes of all preventable and treatable blindness as a public health issue by 2020.

Vision UK has identified five objectives for members and associates to sign up to:

1. Together we will raise awareness of the need for medical research to encourage investment in eye health

2. Together we will promote better eye health to prevent sight loss

3. Together we will advocate for improved eye care and the best possible support for children and adults living with vision impairment

4. Together we will celebrate those having a positive impact on people’s vision and daily lives 5. Together we will work towards equality for people who are blind or partially sighted.

FODO fully supports these objectives and will also be making the case in 2020 that improving eye health and addressing refractive error remain a critical part of our national priorities when tackling the burden of disease associated eye problems.

The Year of Vision theme has also been picked up as a rallying theme by the European Coalition for Vision (pan-European not just EU), which is chaired by FODO Director David Hewlett.

These themes will also be to the forefront of thinking at this year's Optrafair 20/20 with live streaming of eye surgery and key speakers addressing the key problems in Vision Loss seen in the UK.

See the program as it expands ready for a memorable Optrafair in the year of 2020 here.

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