October 03, 2005.
Politics.co.uk (United Kingdom).
An 80-year old visually impaired man from Derby, deprived of rehabilitation support to assist with independent living, is backing Guide Dogs' appeal (launched, Monday, 03 October), encouraging the government to Rethink Rehab for blind and partially sighted people.
Andrew Patrick Rollinson, from the Alvaston area of Derby, explains the difficulties he has encountered accessing services and support to help cope with sight loss:
"I despair at the lack of rehabilitation support I have received. I've been completely blind for 15-years, never taught how to use a long cane. Following a heart attack in 2002, I was advised that my house was too big. The local authority relocated me to a first floor flat but still no rehabilitation support was provided. It's a disgrace - I'm an 80-year old, left on my own with no support to help cope with my blindness; it's like been trapped in a box for the rest of my life."
Despite the extra money spent on health and social care in recent years, many blind and partially-sighted people still face social exclusion due to under-investment in rehabilitation services, according to Guide Dogs.
Many are forced to stay in their homes, unable to go anywhere without a guide, leading to exclusion from work, social and civic life.
Claire Houlihan from Southend is another person with sight loss, who is being neglected by the rehabilitation service:
"When registered blind three years ago, the social workers at the hospital posted me a white cane - of the wrong type - but provided no personal support. Local social services even told me they didn't know of anybody who was employed to help blind and partially sighted people! It's a disgrace."
Southend West MP, David Amess, is so alarmed by Claire's experience that he is presenting a Parliamentary Motion in the House of Commons, backing The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association's Rethink Rehab campaign. A similar motion is being sponsored by Kate MacLean MSP in the Scottish Parliament.
The charity's Rethink Rehab campaign aims to raise awareness of this injustice and encourage the government to provide increased investment in rehabilitation services. The campaign is supported by other national visual impairment charities, including the Royal National Institute of the Blind.
As part of the campaign, politicians throughout the UK are being sent a jigsaw puzzle postcard. The jigsaw will have a piece missing, symbolising the current lack of rehabilitation care provision for those with sight loss. Guide Dogs wants politicians to rethink their commitment to rehabilitation services for blind and partially-sighted people.
Local guide dog owners, and voluntary groups representing blind and partially sighted people, are reinforcing these important messages by posting the missing piece of the jigsaw to their MP, MSP or Assembly Member (Wales).
As Tom Pey, Guide Dogs' Director of Policy & Development explains:
"Across the UK, many people with sight loss are unable to do everyday things, such as cooking for their family, going to the shops, or to work - all because they haven't been given appropriate training. We need the help of guide dog owners and other blind and partially-sighted people to make ministers sit up and take notice of our plight.
"The picture is completed when the politician receives both parts of the puzzle - from both Guide Dogs and guide dog owners - representing a professional, adequately-funded service, achievable if the government commits the necessary resources."
The scale of the problem differs from region to region, but these facts are true nationwide:
* There is a serious crisis in the provision of rehabilitation services for blind and partially sighted people across the UK. This means that thousands of people with sight loss are unable to lead full and independent lives as they haven't been given the right skills to cope with visual impairment.
* Many authorities do not have properly qualified staff to carry out rehabilitation training - akin to someone without a driving licence teaching a sighted person how to drive.
* Guide Dogs is committed to the biggest review of the rehabilitation needs of blind and partially sighted people for 25 years and its aims are supported by organisations across the visual impairment and social care sectors.
Source URL: http://www.politics.co.uk/press-releases/guide-dogs-blind-association-visually-impaired-people-despair-at-lack-rehabilitation-$15056785.htm
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