Blind World Magazine

United Kingdom.
BLIND picking up the bill after County Council pulls the plug on their Talking Book service.

November 12, 2005.
This is Dorset (UK).

BLIND people are picking up the bill for what they claim is a lifeline after Dorset County Council pulled the plug on their Talking Books service.

Registered blind people in Dorset now have to find 70 a year for the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) service or give it up after receiving letters from the council telling them that it will no longer fund their membership.

Portland pensioner John Bryon, 78, said the council had picked on the most vulnerable members of society in their bid to cut costs.

"I can find 70 to pay for it but many people won't be able to," he said.

"This came completely out of the blue.

"Nobody told me they were going to do this."

Mr Bryon, who lives at Mallams, said he listens to Talking Books almost daily and sees the service as a lifeline since becoming unable to read.

Dorchester resident Richard Jeneway, who has been registered blind for six years, described the savings to the council as minimal.

"I can carry on with it if I pay for it but there are lots of people across the county who cannot afford it," he said.

"Some blind people will lose their Talking Book service and have nothing to occupy their time.

"It is taking away a lifeline for many blind people."

The letter from Steve Pitt, director of social care and health at the council, stated that the decision to withdraw funding had not been taken lightly.

It was `largely based on financial constraint as well as the availability of improved facilities for the visually- impaired within our own library service', he explained.

But Mr Bryon said that Talking Books were better for most people as they arrived by post and offered a wide choice of unabridged books.

"We get a machine supplied to play them on - the library doesn't do that," he said.

"It isn't the same."

Liz Callister, chief executive of the charity Dorset Blind Association, said she hoped discussions could have been held with the council and the RNIB to avoid the situation.

"It would have been nice if we'd been involved at an earlier stage," she said. "It could have been managed differently."

She said 420 people throughout Dorset would be affected by the cut.

A council spokesman said subscribers to the scheme would be notified as their quarterly subscription came up for renewal.

"We provided funding for that membership of the RNIB service and that will now stop," he said.

The Talking Books service celebrated its 70th anniversary this month.

Annette Brooke, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons to congratulate the RNIB on its service and to commend the expansion and range of the service.

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