Visionary briefing 22 July 2020

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Your Briefing – 22 July 2020

This week
Visionary latest – How Visionary can support you
Covid-19: A sector-wide approach – How the sector is working together
It’s all about the money – Funding news, opportunities and updates
Member Spotlight – News and successes from our members
HR and HS Matters – HR advice and sources of information

Sharing the love – Great ideas, successes and stuff that works
In the know – Latest COVID-19 Updates, news and resources

Visionary Latest

Welcome to your fortnightly briefing. In both Scotland and England, we’re now into the Summer holidays and hope you are all getting a chance to take a much deserved break. It will however be far from a normal Summer with you all continuing to be busy working to restart many services and take stock of the support you have been providing throughout the pandemic. As always, below we are excited to share the news that matters to you and another full programme of online sessions! And importantly…

We’re moving to Zoom!!!
For all our online sessions, when you click to join a session you will be taken to Zoom to register. This will only take 1 minute and you can even do it right before the session! You just need to follow the links by each event as normal! We are making this move due to feedback from you on accessibility and usability of Zoom over GoTo Meeting so hope you will enjoy the Zoom experience. If you have any concerns or problems with joining any of our events, please do just get in touch by email or call 0208 090 9264.

How we are supporting you

Visionary Helpdesk
We can provide immediate advice and support via our Telephone Helpdesk on 020 8090 9264 or email

Visionary online
Connecting and developing you and your organisations through our programme of regular one-hour support sessions.

Thursday 23 July, 11am  12pm
Small Organisation Forum
Register and join here.
Join other leaders of small organisations at this informal session. It’s a space for small organisations to meet and share their challenges, frustrations, ideas, opportunities and successes. Led by CEO of Wakefield District Sight Aid, Hayley Grocock.

Tuesday 28 July, 10am – 11am (and every Tuesday at 10am)
CEO weekly support session
To register and join, click here.
Please note – you will only have to register once for this session and after this, will be able to join using the same joining info every week! Our regular session for CEOs – no agenda, just an opportunity to share experiences, talk about what is working and find some peer support with what isn’t working so well. 

Tuesday 28 July, 1pm – 2pm
AbilityNet’s Tech Q&A
Register and join here.
This session will be hosted by AbilityNet who will share their top tips on how you can adapt tech to make it easier for people to use, share information on the latest Apps that you may find useful, and answer your burning tech questions. They will also tell you how their 300+ team of tech volunteers could support your organisation and the people you serve.

AbilityNet are a national charity that focuses on making digital technology available to all. They support disabled and older people through online resources, impartial advice and support via the free phone line, and a nationwide network of 300 tech volunteers to help people at home get the most from their tablets, smartphones, computers, laptops and smart-tech devices. 

Thursday 30 July, 10am – 11am
Running a remote tech support service
Register and join here.
Hosted by Kirklees Visual Impairment Network who have been delivering remote tech support since week 1 of lockdown – giving lessons on all things tech from how to use mobile phones to get connected to how to use zoom. Join them for this practical session to hear about their services and for a Q&A; offering you the chance to ask questions about how they do it and the main difficulties they support people with. This session is aimed at smaller organisations wanting to establish a tech service, perhaps for the first time.

If you missed any of our previous sessions

Opening services and the workplace as restrictions ease, 9 July
This interactive forum continues our popular series with Carl Harrison, Galloways Trustee and Health and Safety expert. It focussed on overcoming the barriers to opening services and the workplace as COVID-19 restrictions ease. Topics covered sighted guiding, provision of toilet facilities for service users, deep cleans, first aid and additional equipment for the first aid box, employees who are shielding, test and trace as well as risk assessments.

Health and Safety inspections was also discussed. The most common finding in inspections currently is that there are no/poor arrangements of monitoring, supervising and maintenance of social distancing. The Q and A session was very useful in not only addressing individual queries but in providing guidance for everyone as most organisations are in similar situations.

CEO weekly support session, 14 July
Philippa Simkiss hosted our first themed CEO session around change and looking at how local organisations can adapt for future success. Philippa previously worked for the RNIB and now works as a consultant. She has recently undertaken some work with Phil Arkell from Warwickshire Vision Support and together they described the benefits of undertaking a strategic view of all aspects of the organisation and ‘joining up the dots’.

Philippa described organisations operating within the sight loss sector as an ecosystem where everyone has a role to play but it can easily become unbalanced. We talked about the important role within communities that local sight loss organisations held and how quick they were to respond to the pandemic crisis.

We talked about the themes which have emerged over recent weeks – working from home, redesign of services, staff morale, front line working, fundraising, events of all shapes and sizes, buildings, governance – you name it, we talked about it! We talked about strategy and a few CEO’s including Phil Arkell and Phil Longworth shared their experiences of driving forward strategic change and using COVID-19 as an opportunity. Phil talked about ‘stupid ideas that worked really well’. We have featured this great idea from Bradbury Fields in our ‘Member Spotlight’ section below.

We talked about collaborations – good and bad and discussed the advantages of developing partnerships outside of the sight loss sector. We talked about demographics, geography and of course statistics (and questioned their value and accuracy). Philippa offered to share how the commonly used sector figures were devised – so watch this space! Mike Jenkins from CamSight shared that they are building a framework for the formation of Cambridgeshire Sensory Partnership as a hub organisation for Cam Sight, Hunts Blind, PAB, Cambridge Deaf Association and Cambridge hearing help. You can read more about this piece of work that Mike has kindly shared with us here.

Some members, including Susan Hoath, Philippa Crowther, Ruth Lambert, and Julie Williams shared their powerful stories of front line working in care homes and their frustrations around how care workers and the care sector are being treated by government. This led to concerns being raised around cost driving down quality of contracted services. We discussed compassionate leadership, staff performance, staff morale and the multi-faceted issues being faced by staff – some who are working flat out, people who are furloughed, staff who are home schooling and staff who are lonely.

Diversity was touched on and we agreed that as a sector, we are not diverse and recognised that we need to do something around that. Susan shared some information about community connectors and the positive experience she had with that model of linking into communities. And lots more ….

Finally, we came up with some suggestions for future sessions which included drawing on peer to peer leadership and learning on the following topics:

  • Repeat of a similar session for small organisations.
  • Session specifically for residential services and care homes (held on 16 July).
  • Statistics and demographics – making them work for you in practice.
  • Partnerships – new models including outside the sight loss sector.
  • New financial models and fundraising in the new landscape
  • Return to work guidance and ‘unlock’ plans.
  • Staff wellbeing

Fundraising forum, 15 July
Sue Piper, Head of Fundraising at Kent Association for the Blind facilitated our first ever Fundraisers Forum. Fundraisers from 18 organisations shared both their strengths and support needs. Key themes were identified with members keen for themed sessions to be developed. Members connected with each other and now have an informal peer support network to bounce ideas off. We are looking forward to developing initial sessions around legacy fundraising and digital fundraising with a view to supporting members to share their ideas and expertise across a number of areas in the future. All fundraisers welcome to join this group.

Children and young people services, 15 July
The session was very much an opportunity for members to connect, share and develop their experiences of Children, young people and families services. Thank you to Claire Sweeny of Visibility for leading this session.

Members shared their experiences of the impact of COVID-19, with many sharing concerns that service users skills and confidence are decreasing as a result of not being able to get out and about – meaning skills will have to be re-learnt as activities restart. The use of social media, especially separate WhatsApp groups for parents and young people were proving very useful. There was discussion around the lack of opportunities for social interaction. Education also was a significant discussion topic with concerns and lack of information around provision from September.

It was also encouraging to hear people share of their commitment to developing new CYPF provision. Everyone benefited from hearing others share their knowledge and experiences. The CYPF forum are planning to meet again in mid-August. All with an interest in CYPF are welcome to attend.

Care home forum, 16 July
Operating care homes and supported living facilities continues to present significant challenges for members – with this forum providing a safe space for people to simply meet and share. Key areas of discussion were many and varied to cover testing for both staff and residents (access to kits, logistics of testing and timely return of results). Managing discharges from hospitals and GP’s refusing to come out and see residents leading to the involvement of the CGC.

The disparity between UK nations approaches was quite striking in some areas of regulation, but one impact all shared which was hard was social contact/visits between residents and their families. The emotional impact upon residents not being able to hug or touch their visitors and the 2 metre social distancing rule meaning people often couldn’t even see their loved ones. The distress this caused also has a significant impact upon staff.

Also for some safeguarding was a growing area of concern, especially with regards to financial abuse via cards/money given to sighted helpers (often family members) for shopping. The forum continues to be a useful opportunity for members to connect, share and develop and we will continue to support this session.

How to run a volunteer-led tech support service, 17 July
Thanks to Lucy Martin, CEO at Southend InSight and her ‘Tech Team’ volunteers who shared some useful tips running a volunteer-led tech support service. You can read their Top Tips here. The session was attended by 40 people who found the Q and A session very helpful.

CEO support session, 21 July
This was the second of our themed CEO sessions with Gary Hyams from Support 4 Sight leading an interesting and informative discussion on the benefits of collaborating with neighbouring local organisations. Gary was joined by Lucy Martin from Southend InSight and Jonathan Dixon from Essex Sight. BASIS is the fourth member of Essex Vision which was formed in order to develop a collective and joined up voice in the area.

Working together the four organisations have retained their own identity but share information and services. They are all pulling in the same direction and present a unified front when speaking with statutory colleagues. They cross refer between organisations and where one provides a service that the others don’t – they refer to each other. For example, Gary was successful in his application to the lottery for an employment project which is available across Essex as none of the other organisations provide a similar service.

This was a really interesting and informative session – definitely lots of learning and knowledge for other Visionary members. So much so, we have asked Essex Vision to talk with us at our virtual annual conference in November, so if you didn’t have the opportunity to join us today – please come along on 19 and 20 November 2020.

Next week we will be old school informal cup of something and a chat – we can reflect on the two themed sessions and look at what we might do going forward. One idea is ‘week about’ – themed session one week, informal catch up the next. Come and along and discuss! And we are now on Zoom!

Visionary’s COVID-19 Action Plan – where we are now!
Like all of you, here at Visionary, back in March, we looked at how we were going to work during the pandemic. We published our COVID-19 Action Plan which resulted in all face to face Visionary work ceasing and all staff working from home. Given the changes in COVID-19 restrictions and increased activity across Visionary members we are now updating you as we have reviewed our action plan. For now, however we are staying as we are! All face to face Visionary work and meetings will be held remotely and the team continue to work from home. If you are interested, our full COVID-19 Action Plan can be read here. We have also changed our working practices and internal communications and developed a COVID-19 stress risk assessment, all to help ensure we continue to support each other in the most effective way – it can be found here – please feel free to use/copy it!

Back in March, our move to online sessions and remote telephone-based support was quick – and although it did take hard work form the team and adaptions from you all, we did it!  Feedback from members has been overwhelmingly positive about the change in our focus and we hear that you all continue to value our online sessions. From all of the Visionary team,  thank you so much for your support and enthusiastic approach to embracing our changed way of doing things. We regularly review the effectiveness and impact of our work, so please always know that your views and opinions matter to us. We do want to make things better and easier for you, and we depend on you to tell us how to do that.

We are however missing each other and all of you lovely people so much.  I know that we will all also miss being together at our conference this year but I really hope that you will come along to our virtual annual conference on 19 and 20 November 2020.

If and when our situation changes, we will of course let you know. In the meantime, thank you for being so supportive of Visionary!

COVID-19: A sector-wide approach

Sight Loss: what we needed to know booklet updated and shorter version available to order
RNIB have worked with Visionary, Vision UK, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), Blind Veterans UK, Guide Dogs, and The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on the update of the ‘Sight Loss: what we needed to know’ booklet which is shorter than the original version. The booklet is mentioned on the England CVI form and should be given to people when they are certified as sight impaired / severely sight impaired. There is a tick box on the CVI form as a reminder. To order your copy or to find out more click here.

RNIB, British Blind Sport, Metro Blind Sport and Visionary issue guidance for leisure operators to support the return of blind and partially sighted people
In preparation for the reopening of leisure and sport facilities, RNIB, British Blind Sport (BBS), Metro Blind Sport and Visionary have been working together to provide practical guidance to support the return of blind and partially sighted people to physical activity.

Research conducted by RNIB has found that two thirds (66%) of blind and partially sighted people feel less independent now compared to before lockdown, demonstrating that social distancing measures, as brought in to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, are incredibly difficult for many people living with sight loss. In addition, inaccessible signage and fear about how the public will react to them if they are unable to follow the guidelines is causing increased stress and worry.

In response to these anxieties, RNIB, BBS, Metro and Visionary have created practical guidance which will help leisure operators and sport providers prepare for welcoming people back to physical activity, with the least amount of stress and difficulty. The guidance provides simple considerations that will make the return more straightforward and encourages the wider public to be mindful that sight loss may not always be obvious. The guidance demonstrates how to communicate clearly any changes to the facilities, particularly floor indicators or arrows, protective screens and temporary barriers. Click here to find out more and get the guidance.

Guide Dogs petition to support children with a vision impairment at school
Guide Dogs are calling on the government and schools to work together to make sure children with sight loss get the support they need to help them enter the classroom with confidence to produce guidance and ensure a specialist in sight loss is available in schools. Please give your support the children by signing the petition.

Blind and partially sighted people in Scotland will now be offered priority access to online delivery slots from Iceland stores
Following further campaigning by RNIB Scotland, people in Scotland in need of support accessing shopping will be given an individualised code that will let them book available delivery slots before other shoppers. The move is intended to help those people with sight loss facing persistent difficulties accessing food, who have no available support from others, and live in a postcode area serviced by an Iceland store.

Anyone with sight loss struggling to access food can call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 and will be directed to the most suitable option in their local area. For further information, please contact Ian Brown at RNIB Scotland

Eye health and appointments during COVID-19
Despite the changes brought on by COVID-19, it is still essential to look after your eye health. Click here to watch a short film by RNIB’s Eye Clinic Liaison Officers sharing their tips for eye clinic appointments.

It’s all about the money

National Lottery Community Fund announces £45m coronavirus partnerships
The National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) has opened a £45m programme to fund charities and social enterprises working with people “disproportionately impacted” by the coronavirus. The money will be distributed through five partnerships, which includes £5m for migrant and refugee charities made available by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, and another £5m for homelessness charities via Homeless Link. A further £5m will be distributed to charities giving welfare advice, while nearly £20m will go to social enterprises. It seems to have taken a long time for these funds, announced by the government back in April, to be released. Read more here.

Nationwide Building Society Community Grants programme
This year, Nationwide Building Society is giving charities £4 million in Community Grants to help people find a home, prevent them from losing their home or help them to thrive at home. To find out if your charity is eligible for a grant and to apply for up to £50,000, click here. Grants will be awarded in Winter 2020. Applications close on the 31st July.

Chancellor announces new support package
Although not specifically an announcement for charities, the Chancellors announcement last week may impact positively on some charities. Key measures announced included:

  • A £1,000 bonus to employers who have brought furloughed staff back to work.
  • VAT reduced to 5% on food, accommodation and attractions.
  • A range of packages to get young people back into work.

More interestingly for the wider sector may be the (surprisingly brief) mention of a £32bn increase in the funding going to Local Authorities. Find out more here.

Member Spotlight

Bradbury Fields – ‘Brad Packers’
Earlier this year, Liverpool-based Visionary member Bradbury Fields wanted to encourage a health and well-being activity that could benefit their services users and supporters that would also work as an online fundraiser. They worked with an app designer who found a way of putting their mascot “Brad” the pink elephant into virtual locations around the world. People can sign up fundraise for Bradbury Fields by committing to getting walking! The number of steps that recorded by people enable Brad to get from A to B across the world. New York being the most recent location for Brad. They have a league table that records who has done the most steps – everyone loves a bit of healthy competition! People can raise funds through sponsoring the activity on Just Giving. One anonymous donor gave £1,000 and so far, their fundraisers have logged over seven million steps – that’s over three thousand miles!
Click here to find out more and check how far Brad has travelled now!

HR and Health and Safety Matters

HR Matters

Before a global pandemic came along, we were already in a world of constant change experiencing pressures to perform and conflicting demands, therefore stress will be experienced by all of us at some point. We are all well here at Visionary, however we work at ensuring that we take care of ourselves and each other and in doing so we have developed several new policies which we would really encourage all members to review and consider adapting for their workplace:

  • Stress at work policy – It is good practice for workplaces to have such a policy. If you haven’t one in place, then download ours here.
  • COVID-19 stress risk assessment – Unsurprisingly we’ve identified the impact of COVID-19 as a situation requiring a specific stress risk assessment. Read about our approach and support actions here.
  • Managing mental ill health – Whilst one of the negative consequences of stress can be a deterioration in mental health many other factors, both inside and outside of the workplace, can have an impact. Just as we should pay attention to physical health we should do the same for mental health. Read our approach here.

Volunteering – it’s changing
Members are beginning to report a change in volunteering practices. Many roles ceased due to COVID-19 restrictions, new volunteering roles needing different skills have emerged, many volunteers are in vulnerable groups and self-isolated and are concerned about returning to their previous roles. What are your experiences? Email us as we would like to develop support in this area.

NHS volunteer programme reaches half million milestone
Volunteers have completed half a million tasks to help the NHS and their patients, according to the Royal Voluntary Service, which helped develop the scheme. Read more at Civil Society.

Health and Safety Matters

Free Health and Safety support for Visionary members
We have secured the services of H and S specialists Ambeck Associates in particular Carl Harrison, to provide Visionary members with H and S support and a document/procedure review service. We know that these are key support areas especially as COVID-19 restrictions ease and members are keen to re-start activities. The service will also monitor any regulatory changes and Carl will continue to support the regular H and S online sessions. Please note that this service has a specific COVID-19 focus and where the advisor feels that you may need more general H and S advice/support then they will discuss that directly with you. All matters discussed via this advice service remain confidential between the enquirer and H and S advisor. Visionary will only monitor the use of the service in respect of number and subject areas of enquiries to ensure fair use and to develop further areas of support. To access the support contact Ambeck Associates directly 01257 230584 / 07983 720208 or email.

Face coverings: when to wear one and how to make your own
This information relates to the use of face coverings in public spaces where social distancing is not always possible. Details on the government website.

COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home
This is the government guidance on cleaning offices and service delivery venues. In particular it addresses two key areas:

  1. General principles of cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Principles of cleaning after an individual with symptoms of, or confirmed COVID-19, the case has left the setting or area

Sharing the love

Making the case that ECLOs are an essential service
Some of you have reported to us that your ECLOs are not being allowed back into the hospitals as restrictions start to lift. We have spoken to RNIB to ask if they can support. RNIB have shared a range of information with us below to support the case for ECLOs as an essential service and on how they are sustaining an ECLO service remotely as even if ECLOs can’t return physically, there is lots they can do remotely. 

  • Use of the electronic version of the CVI form remotely: Where ECLOs have been furloughed there may well be a backlog processing CVIs -so could this be something you can start doing again remotely? Read RNIB’s electronic CVI guidance for ECLOs here.
  • Could your ECLOs offer pro-active reassurance for patients with appointments? Working with their department teams, RNIB ECLOs have contacted patients prior to their critical care appointment to reassure them about the clinical arrangements and the importance of attending as usual. They have also been following up those who do not attend to offer the same reassurance and advice. This may be attractive to trusts as they seek to reduce their backlog as much as possible.
  • This page has specific COVID-19 updates on cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and delayed appointments.

Children Young People and Family (CYPF) services
4 Sight Vision Support (Sussex) are just establishing a new CYPF service. They will be offering advice, guidance, tech support, equipment, Low Vision Assessments and signposting. And are also hoping to start some groups and are busy collating feedback from members on what they would like to do. Tara Beesley is leading on this work and would love to connect and have others share their experiences with her as they develop their CYPF services. Email Tara.

Friday 24 July
Accessible Tech at work webinar
Find out more and book a place here.
This week, the TPT Tech Team are back for another invaluable webinar! In this latest event the team will be focusing on accessible technology at work; giving the lowdown on how blind and partially sighted people can harness tech to work productively anywhere. Plus, there will be the opportunity for people to put their questions to the team in a live Q&A!

Glaucoma UK Digital Support Groups
Glaucoma UK have announced that they will be running a series of digital support groups over the summer on a range of topics. Find out more and how to join here.

In the know

People don’t want everything to return to how it was before
People do not want to return to life as it was before lockdown and would like to be more involved in their community in the future, the Young Foundation has said. Read more at Civil Society.

Charity governance was not ‘fit for purpose’ during COVID-19

Cliff Mills, a consultant at Anthony Collins Solicitors, argues that not only did large charities’ governance fail to equip them for the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, but that it was in need of reform even before then. See more at Civil Society.

Coronavirus support for organisations

The government have recently updated their list of a range of public bodies, organisations and charities have produced additional resources that may be useful to you. View it on the government website


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