Volunteer support meeting

Every year we hold a support meeting for all our volunteers to thank them for all their kind contributions to the Readers Service. This year Debbie Malone from SARC joined us to inform everyone about the work of the Sensory Service team. This was followed by coffee and cake and a chance for everyone to catch up with each other.

My first support meeting – Marilyn Barby

marilynPaula Suchy, Chairperson and Karen Preece, Co-ordinator, welcomed more than 45 volunteers and service users to the meeting.

Reminders were given about forthcoming events.

The annual quiz will be held on Saturday 20th June at the Peartree Centre, Age UK. Paula and Stefan are preparing the questions. During the interval there will be an auction of promises and light refreshments will be available. Anyone wishing to imbibe of alcoholic drinks is invited to bring their own. Paula is looking for volunteers on the evening to assist with checking answers and counting scores plus general help where required. She is also looking for promise commitments, either offering a service or making something. There will also be a raffle so donations would be welcome. Please let Paula know if you can assist in any way. As well as being a very enjoyable evening it is a great fundraising opportunity for the Reader Service: over £900 was raised last year.

The AGM will be held on Saturday 27th June from 10.00am to 12.00pm at the Peartree Centre, Age UK. Local Councillors and Council Officers have been invited so they can understand how the Reader Service supports local VI and disabled people in the community. Following the AGM coffee or tea and yummy cakes will be served.

Paula and Karen advised that they are meeting Council Officers to discuss future funding arrangements. This follows on from concerns earlier in the year that the Service might lose its Council funding. As you may know funding for 2015/2016 was confirmed but there is no guarantee for future years.

The issue of volunteer ID Cards has been delayed whilst the Reader Service becomes a CIO, Charitable Incorporated Service. Once the registration process is complete ID Cards will be issued later in the year.

Several new volunteers were welcomed to the meeting including Jash, Linda and Karen. They will start their training later this month.

As a result of an increase in volume Liz Row, the very first Reader Service Co-ordinator, has been enlisted to do follow up calls with volunteers and service users to check that they are happy with the way things are going. Any issues raised will be passed to Karen for a more detailed discussion. Karen is of course happy to hear from anyone directly.

Paula then introduced Debbie Malone from SARC (Sensory Services covering Vi and HI) who explained the work of that service and how referrals are made to the Reader Service. Referrals to SARC for the visually impaired are made by self-referral or the ophthalmologist at the Eye Hospital. Caroline Pearson, Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, carries out an assessment exploring how they manage at home and how SARC might assist. Then Debbie or Caroline arrange a home visit. The VI Assessment covers activities of daily living: cooking, cleaning, personal care and communication. They also consider mobility outside the home and may then follow up with mobility training and orientation to promote independence. Support is tailored to the individual.

Referrals are made to the Reader Service for those requiring support with communication ie reading letters, filling in forms etc.

Debbie then explained how they advise on equipment or tools which generally make life easier for those with a VI. She confirmed that some items were provided free of charge at the initial visit whilst others need to be purchased by the client. Debbie provides details of organisations that can help for example RNIB and COBALT who offer a range of products and services. Sometimes people request information about products or services which might not be known to SARC so Debbie will search for relevant information.

SARC provides a similar service for those with a HI. In fact SARC is part of BID, Birmingham Institute for the Deaf. MK Council provides finding to BID who then pay Debbie and her colleagues. Pauline Jarvis is the SARC HI specialist.

Debbie then took questions. She was asked about support for those with dual sensory loss and confirmed there is a legal requirement under the Care Act to carry out a deaf/blind assessment.

Debbie confirmed that training was tailored to individual needs.

There was concern about public awareness of people with VI and the need to improve the situation. Debbie confirmed that SARC does go into schools on request but there is no standardised programme for such training.

It was noted that the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer is only available for 2 or 3 days a week; therefore not all of the people attending the Eye Hospital were given the same amount of information and were not given the opportunity for a referral to the Reader Service. It was agreed that pressure needs to be put on the Eye Hospital to ensure that all patients are given the same level of information.

Paula thanked Debbie for her very useful input. Debbie was happy to speak with anyone with further queries


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