Connect and Collaborate Award 2023


RNIB logo – See differently.

Sponsored by RNIB

The Connect and Collaborate Award, sponsored by RNIB, is an opportunity for Visionary members and partners to showcase how they have transformed or created a service by collaborating with others to connect with blind and partially sighted people or those at risk of sight loss in new and innovative ways.

It’s always a huge privilege to read the award submissions. Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate your own organisations or the work of other organisations.  We received a high number of amazing nominations this year, so competition was strong.  The short-listing panels, comprising of representatives from sponsor organisations, the Visionary team and trustees had an incredibly difficult time selecting the final nominees.

The nominees are:

Below, is a summary from each of the shortlisted nominees of their work and why they would like you to vote for them. We hope you enjoy reading their submissions as much as the panel did.

Focus Birmingham logo.

Focus Birmingham – Winner 2023

Traditionally, Adult Social Care (ASC) and Birmingham City Council were the only organisations who had access to the CVI register. Focus Birmingham and ASC had been in discussions for some time to discuss the need of Focus Birmingham taking the lead on contacting people on the register. The impact of this on people living with sight loss was always at the heart of any discussions, and several areas were prioritised:

  • Services accessed and their impact.
  • Quality of life changes.
  • Any new gaps in awareness.
  • Have they participated in volunteering or employment?
  • Where are they now in terms of mindset, feelings, knowledge?

Many people on the register are newly diagnosed, and some have told us that their initial diagnosis was a terrifying time, leaving them afraid, isolated, and frightened about the future. Gaining access to this register would enable Focus Birmingham to contact people from across the city to offer our services and to support those people who may need it.

In December 2022, Focus Birmingham finally took the lead in contacting people on the CVI register. Since then, there has been an additional 268 people newly registered, and of those, more than half were not known to Focus Birmingham. All were contacted, and more than 1/3 have engaged in services they would otherwise not have known about.

Henshaws logo - Beyond expectations.


Henshaws, alongside Manchester Royal Eye Hospital developed the ‘First Steps Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI)’ project to connect people newly diagnosed with a visual impairment to services that will offer them support and guidance in their next steps.

Feedback has been that people did not know what help and support was on offer until they reached crisis point. This early intervention referral system is automatic and removes the need for people with sight loss to make the ‘first move’ at a time when they are faced with many uncertainties and questions.

“The support from Henshaws has been reassuring and a real comfort. It was like Henshaws swept in and took us under their wing! The day after we came from the hospital, we got a call with help… It is a valuable service. Thank you very much.”

Once people are issued a Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI) regular check in phone calls begin. These are repeated at 3, 6 and 12 months, allowing those newly diagnosed the opportunity to seek additional support at their own pace, ensuring that the help they are offered in the first year evolves with their own needs.

After accessing the First Step CVI service, 94% of patients say they know how to access information and support, compared to 67% before. Also, 78% of patients feel positive about their future living with sight loss after accessing the service, compared to 51% before.

MySight Notts logo - Seeing beyond sight loss.

My Sight Notts

Patient consultations highlighted:

  • Lack of support offered by healthcare professionals (HCPs) following sight-loss diagnoses.
  • Poor referral rates to existing support services.
  • Lack of understanding in engaging and communicating with patients with sight loss.

In response we developed a project in collaboration with the LEHN Chair, Nottingham and Notts Integrated Care Board (ICB) and Visualise Training Consultancy, to develop and deliver HCP training to improve patient experience.

We developed Visualise’s Sight Loss Awareness eLearning package, adapting it to include local referral routes, adding a greater emphasis on assistive technology. We also produced and added two videos, local pathways of support and everyday assistive technology.

We also adapted our face to face Sight Loss Awareness training for HCPs, with greater emphasis on Low Vision support, technology, the need for early intervention and referral routes. We developed an online leaflet for HCPs with topics suggested by trainees, now available on My Sight Notts and Local Optical Committee websites. This is updated as referral routes and providers change and new services develop.

261 HCPs engaged; mostly Optometrists, but also GP practice staff, OTs and a wide range of other HCPs. Feedback on quality of training was excellent. Referrals to My Sight Notts increased, including new referrals from GPs to ECLO.

Promotion and delivery prompted training requests from Stroke and Falls Teams and we secured additional funding from the ICS training budget to extend training to the end of the financial year. The adapted eLearning model was replicated by Sight Loss Shropshire, Shropshire LEHN and Telford and Shrewsbury Hospital Trusts.


Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind

SRSB/RSS identified the need to improve Disability Training for taxi drivers locally in the Sheffield and Rotherham area.

We listen to issues that our clients face on a regular basis, and our clients were facing issues such as Guide Dog users being left at the side of the road, drivers incorrectly claiming they were exempt from carrying dogs and poor levels of customer service in relation to the VI status of clients. We gathered evidence and explored co-working to find an effective route to a comprehensive training package that benefits not only our VI clients but people with other disabilities too.

What worked well during the process was the shared understanding developed between the partner organisations of why this training matters. It reinforced that VI issues do not exist in isolation from other disabilities and shows to taxi drivers that VI clients can have complex needs such as age-related problems, hearing problems and other needs.

By producing the training and being represented within the delivery of training we have established a direct dialogue with taxi drivers both new and old and that is a positive step in tackling this large issue.

SRSB/RSS are now looking forward to delivering the Disability Training in collaboration with other local organisations.

Sight Concern Worcestershire logo.

Sight Concern Worcestershire

“When I left hospital after diagnosis, I was not given all of this information, I felt lost. I am very glad to know what is available now”

Sight Concern Worcestershire (SCW) has worked in collaboration with Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust to create a holistic pathway for low vision assessments.

SCW now hosts and administers all clinics. The main drivers behind this collaboration was to improve access to magnifying equipment and wider support, as well as to avoid the need for vision-impaired people to repeat their story at multiple appointments.

This collaboration is particularly valuable in Worcestershire because there are no ECLOs within the county. It has also reduced significantly the number of did not attends, thus reducing waiting times. In addition to a more person-centred approach to booking appointments and assistance with arranging transport, an immediate introduction to SCW and other support which is available is made.

The SCW team is available to talk to people after appointments to give information and advice about other services and support. We make a follow-up call after two weeks to check that the magnifier is being used and is useful. With agreement, we retain details to provide updates, newsletters and a keeping in touch call a year after the last contact with us. This is to reinforce that we are here to offer support whenever it is needed, at any point in the journey.

Our next steps are to include paediatric clinics and develop a domiciliary service for those who are unable to leave their homes.

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