Angie Matthews and Barry Hill, from Halifax Society for the Blind visited us at our January 2020 open Meeting and spoke about the society, the work it does and some of the changes it is making to the way it operates.
Below is a video of their engaging presentation, beneath that is an edited transcript of the presentation.
Barry introduced himself as the organisation’s resident speaker. He started by saying the Society is almost 150 years old and began as a male-only organisation to provide employment. He admitted that they have changed since then.
The organisation is now based in Clare Road in Halifax.
Two years ago the organisation got funding to run a consultation to focus on the future to help support more people and make changes to improve the organisation and the support it provided. The outcomes were based on talking to visually impaired people and people who need the services.
They wanted a service to support visually impaired people of all ages – the perception had been that it had been focused on older people. This was to change. There was also the need for more information provision, from experts to promote independence for visyually impaired people, much as Calderdale’s team.
There was also a demand for more social opportunities for visually impaired people.
Communications came under scrutiny too, with the old newsletter being replaced by a quarterly magazine in multiple formats, with much wider content, including upcoming events and new product reviews. There are electronic, paper, braille and “Talking News” formats.
The consultation produced a five year plan. This is the basis of the organisation’s current activities. Funding was received from the Lottery, plus the society dug into its own funds to make the plan happen.
Additional staff were also brought in. An experienced new manager was brought in, a visually impaired person himself. There are also twice as many hours of staff time made available, plus additional volunteers, organised by a new Volunteers Manager.
An expanded home visits service has also been introduced.
On the social front, additional social groups have been formed, including the “Peaky Blinders” young people’s bowling team, who meet every Monday. There’s also a dining out group, called LEO (Local Eating Out), who have visited seven restaurants so far and they meet monthly. A teenagers’ support group aimed at 15-20 year olds, who meet once a week, underlines the commitment to younger people in the five year plan.
Two more new roles are based with the Society:
- Sight Support Advisor – a role that Angie Matthews is sharing with Jane Sellars. Lottery funding has allowed new equipment to be purchased, including some hi-tech items. Angie has had additional training to help with this role. Angie enjoys helping people one-to-one and helping them make informed choices on the support they might need.
2 Activities Co-ordinator – this role looks likely to be filled very shortly with the aim of developing groups and activities. The emphasis being on running groups “for and by” people with visual impairments – i.e. let the end users have a say in what the groups should do.
The Halifax Society for the Blind has very recently moved from 34 to 36 Clare Road, a change of building that has allowed them to provide better facilities and equipment. The building includes a social rom, plus offices and a training room.
The Next 5 Years
They expect to see more activities and groups with more emphasis on independence and promoting independence at home. Additional activities are likely to include sport, holidays, theatre groups etc.
A further move of location to central Halifax is also planned, with somewhere near the bus station being the goal. This will raise the profile of the organisation, plus make it more accessible to people traveling in by bus.
Listen to Visually Impaired People
This was the biggest single lesson to come from the consultation. Visually impaired people and their families, friends and carers all wanted more input and more say in how the organisation is run and what services and social activities are provided. There’s a big commitment within the organisation to make this happen.
The Sight Support Centre is open 5 days per week, 10am till 2.30pm at 36 Clare Road, Halifax HX1 2HX