As part of the conference, we were delighted to offer the opportunity for delegates to engage with the VI Charity Sector Partnership workstreams.
Delegates were invited to attend one of the seven workstream sessions based on their areas of interest, leadership, experience, or service development. The seven workstream sessions offered are detailed below.
The overall aim of the sessions was to enable sight loss sector colleagues to engage with and contribute to each of the workstreams. Each workstream is at a different stage of development, therefore, the structure of the sessions varied. The outcome from the sessions will shape and influence the development of the workstreams with continued feedback through the Visionary Members Consultative Group and Visionary Members and Partners Consultative Group.
Crisis Response Plan
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted negatively on the lives of people who are blind, partially sighted or at risk of sight loss, particularly in the early days when their needs were not necessarily considered by governments or service providers such as supermarkets. This affected people when accessing transport, basic supplies and health and social care services. In response, sight loss charities were approached by their beneficiaries to provide accessible information and guidance on how the pandemic restrictions applied to them and for advice about specific concerns. Through this experience partners of the VI Partnership have recognised the need for a joined-up plan to ensure we are able to respond quickly in the event of any future crisis.
This session allowed delegates the opportunity to find out more about the Crisis Response Plan. In addition, welcomed suggestions on other potential scenarios and how partners can improve collaborative working when responding.
Mental Health and Well-being
Amanda Hawkins, Chair of the Mental Health Committee was joined by Mhairi Thurston, Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Researcher from Abertay University to introduce an exciting project that the committee are working on to develop training for all frontline staff to enable them to screen for mental health.
As delegates were invited to explore some of the issues found in opening conversations about mental health. Feedback was collected and will be fed into the project and help the team to build the best training: addressing all fear and anxiety about talking about mental health and enable us to build a fit for purpose training program.
Talent Development and Lived Experience Leadership
In this session we explored lived experience leadership and talent development: what it means for us, why it’s needed in the sight loss sector and how organisation can get involved.
We heard from Mark Upton, Chief Executive of Oxfordshire Association for the Blind, and Alison Evans, Executive Director of Blatchington Court Trust, about their experiences and reflections of leading local sight loss organisations as people with lived experience. Cathy Low, Director of Partnerships at TPT, shared the work of the national workstream, and Fiona Sanford, Visionary CEO, discussed her journey in understanding the value of this work as someone without sight loss.
We also allowed time for delegates to get involved in sharing views, experiences, and questions, to help us inform this work going forward and how Visionary can support you.
Establishment of a Sector Wide Insight Base
During this session, the workstream leads shared their vision to create a Sector-wide Insight base collating insights, evidence, and statistics about the lives of blind and partially sighted people.
Delegates were updated on progress so far, and invited to help identify the audiences we should focus on, and what those audiences need from such a Hub to enable them to provide the best possible support for blind and partially sighted people.
Sector Information Sharing Kickstarter
The workshop was a collaborative experience, enabling attendees to analyse the current method of information sharing across the sector, highlight any problems, share ideas and generate solutions to further develop how we share vital information relevant to our mutual customers.
Access to Technology
Technology is increasingly an imperative for people with sight loss, not a nice to have or an optional extra. As part of a strategic partnership across the sight loss sector, sight loss charities have created a joint briefing to illustrate the need to do more.
This presentation of the Joint Sector briefing on Sight Loss and Technology, included the relevant response areas. Followed by discussion relating to the response and how sight loss sector can work together to address challenges outlined by the briefing.
The briefing outlined the role of technology and digital, current levels of take up, and the digital divide faced by blind and partially sighted people. This briefing was produced and published on behalf of the sector working group on technology. It brought together existing evidence on the role and uptake of technology and digital by blind and partially sighted people.
Joint Awareness Raising and Campaigning
The VI charity sector partnership has a workstream on joint awareness raising and campaigning. We hosted a session to talk a little bit about our work, and discuss how we might work more closely with Visionary members to ensure we are having a positive impact for the people we support. We also did some skills-sharing and hosted break-out sessions providing tips on how to write an effective press release and how to devise a local influencing campaign.