Celebrating OPTiC’s Stakeholders Day event

Last month,  OPTiC beneficiairies, project staff, volunteers and our local partner organisations were invited to an event at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre. Designed to share the exciting journey and impact of the project from the viewpoints of everyone involved, Amy Woodward (Action) and Jayne Palmer (Age UK Stafford and District) who organised the event were particularly keen for those of older people who had benefitted from the project to take centre stage.

For the second time during this project, The Worshipful the Mayor of Stafford Borough Councillor, Angela M Loughran accepted our invitation to attend and officially open our event. The Mayor also delivered a keynote speech on the importance of eye health awareness, local partnership working and provision of support for older people with sight loss.

Top  left: Rebecca Sheehy (RNIB) presenting a bouquet to  The Worshipful the Mayor of Stafford Borough.  Councillor Angela M Loughran ;  Clockwise -staff and guests enjoying the event; Centre: Members of the OPTiC Silver Dream Team
Top left: Rebecca Sheehy (RNIB) presenting a bouquet to The Worshipful the Mayor of Stafford Borough.
Councillor Angela M Loughran ; Clockwise -staff and guests enjoying the event; Centre: Members of the OPTiC Silver Dream Team

 

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OPTiC Project presented as an exemplar of partnership working

Partner update:  Jayne Palmer – Age UK Stafford and District

OPTiC: synergy in motion

OPTiC: synergy in motion

In partnership with the British Red Cross, we are one of several organisations contributing to Stafford Borough Council’s Stafford and Surrounds Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

We have been asked to produce an Action Plan to show how social isolation can be reduced in older people living in the local area, and part of this plan will be to improve partnership working with both statutory and third sector organisations, leading to the public having an increased awareness of the range of services available to them throughout Staffordshire county.

At a recent Health and Wellbeing Committee meeting to scrutinise our Action Plan, I presented an overview of OPTiC to evidence how the successful collaboration of the OPTiC partnership had resulted in a highly effective delivery of services which reached thousands of people. Members of the Committee were very impressed by the scope and reach of the project.

 

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Journeys End?

 Balloons

Not for the OPTiC project but before we talk about the next stage, we are delighted to share the following project outcomes:

What OPTiC has achieved

  • Over 34,400 older people have been offered health advice and screening.
  • Over 3,100 older people with sight loss have engaged with support.
  • Over 1,020 older people with sight loss have a better understanding of their eye condition and eye health.
  • Over 700 older people with sight loss have been supported by peers in groups or by buddies.
  • Over 600 older people with sight loss have stated that they feel more able to cope with the challenges of sight loss.
  • Over 1,110 older people have stated they are more aware of the range of support available.
  • 60 older people have been engaged as buddies, volunteers and group leaders.
  • 76 older people with sight loss have been involved in self-advocacy groups.
  • Over 250 older people have stated they have improved levels of confidence and self-esteem and are less socially isolated.

Based on feedback from our Beneficiary Action Group (BAG), we also:

  • Installed a teleconferencing facility at the offices of Action for Blind People office in Stafford which will enable blind and partially sighted people to support each other via the phone and in particular those unable to leave their home.
  • Funded the purchase of technological devices for hands on ‘taster’ training sessions – three of which have been held to date.
  • Delivered a 2 day training course for 8 older people with sight loss to develop skills to support the facilitation of future empowerment programmes and peer support activities.

Let’s Talk Sustainability

The strong working partnership of Action for Blind People, Age UK Stafford and District, Staffordshire and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services and York Blind and Partially Sighted Society will continue to identify, refer and support blind and partially sighted people in Staffordshire and York. Going forward:

  • Networks set up by beneficiaries to provide peer support and share knowledge will continue to be supported by volunteers.
  • OPTiC beneficiaries will continue to be supported through local services provided by Action for Blind People and Age UK Stafford and District.
  • Partnership working and the two-way referral system will continue with the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) at York Hospital.
  • Local people with sight loss will be provided with IT ‘taster’ training sessions established at Action for Blind People in Stafford.
  • Local people with sight loss will be able to run activities such as book clubs or audio virtual tours using the OPTiC teleconferencing system purchased solely for this purpose.
  • Empowerment programmes and peer groups will continue in both Stafford and York with input from beneficiaries who have been trained through OPTiC.
  • Volunteers and buddies will continue to offer their time.  
OPTiC in bloom

OPTiC in bloom

Reaching our target audience

OPTiC has been highly effective in reaching our target audience as clearly demonstrated in our outcomes. Our partnership with the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and their Home Fire Risk Checks enabled us to reach the very people we would otherwise not have had access to.

As previously reported in this blog, engaging with local older people from BME, faith and LGBT communities has proved problematic throughout the project. A major learning curve is that partnership working with community elders and local faith organisations is pivotal to successfully engaging people with sight loss from said communities. Promoting support services through dedicated media channels (i.e. local radio, dedicated publications) is also a key factor.
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Sharing our achievements in Staffordshire and York

OPTIC DVD cover

See and listen to some of the amazing people who have been involved in OPTiC, and also read about the major impact OPTiC has had on the lives of older people living with sight loss, in our Celebrating achievements in Staffordshire and York brochure.

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Making every moment count: an overview of our lead-up to Project End

Here in York, we’re busy right to the very end!

 March 20th

We had an “iTaster Session” to provide support to 18 older people to look at several mobile devices with built in assistive technology namely an iPad Air, iPhone 5, Windows Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Smart phone and a Kindle Paperwhite. This session is one of the support services we offer through OPTiC and all of the devices (bar the Kindle) have been funded through the project to enable local people with sight loss to engage and keep up to date with technology.  

Getting to grips with technology. The iTaster session in action

Getting to grips with technology. The iTaster session in action

How the iTaster session worked

4 Peer Supporters explained to the participants how different types of assistive technology enabled them to be independent, from using a Georgie Phone (a British Wireless for the Blind Sonata Digital radio) to not being able to live without an iPhone! 4 newly appointed Technology Support buddies also demonstrated how to use the devices and it’s great to know that this service will continue post project thus ensuring sustainability of OPTiC‘s valuable work.  

Sharing tips

Sharing tips

and knowledge...

and knowledge…

 What else is going on?

 27th March

  • We are holding a celebratory ‘Thank You’ event for everyone in York who has been involved in OPTiC.

 28th March

  • We have organised a “Blindfold” walk with local councillors and a local businessman to highlight the problems that street clutter, such as A Boards, cause to visually impaired people.

 31st March

  • Yes – it may be the last day but we are holding eye health and cookery taster sessions! The latter session will be supported by an author of a cookery book and she will be demonstrating how to make her healthy smoothies. We will also bake buns for afternoon tea – healthy buns of course!
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The Homeward Straight

Hands

Support, evaluation, legacy – these are the key areas the Silver Dream Team is focussing on during February. We are also planning a Stakeholders event next month to mark the official closure of the project and to communicate project impact, learning and next steps.   

A snapshot of OPTIC’s progress against outcome levels

To the end of December 2013, we are delighted to report that over:

  •  30,000 older people have been offered health advice and screening.
  • 2,300 older people with sight loss have engaged with support.
  • 1,200 older people have stated they are more aware of the range of support available.
  • 500 older people with sight loss have been supported by peers in groups or by buddies.
  • 60 older people with sight loss have been involved in self-advocacy groups.

As identified by our Beneficiary Action Group (BAG) and a number of other beneficiaries, we have utilised a fund to support additional project work prioritised by them and in doing so have: 

  • Purchased a teleconferencing facility to link blind and partially sighted people across Staffordshire.
  • Purchased an iPad and Kindle specifically for hands on ‘how to use’ training sessions for people with sight loss.
  • Organised a 2 day training course to develop skills supporting the facilitation of future empowerment programmes and peer support activities.

Sustainability

The OPTiC programme is now sustainable. This has been achieved primarily through:

  • Partners pledging to continue working together to identify and support older people living with unsupported sight loss.
  • Established networks set up by beneficiaries to provide peer support and share knowledge.
  • OPTiC beneficiaries will continue to be supported through local services provided by Action for Blind People and Age UK Stafford and District.
  • Ongoing partnership working with Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) at York Hospital.

 Extending OPTiC’s Reach  

OPTiC will continue to be promoted through an upcoming Stakeholder event and related publicity and media opportunities will continue to be pursued.

Reaching our target audience

Reaching older people with unsupported sight loss are our target audience and in that we have been successful. However, throughout the project is it has proven phenomenally difficult to reach local older people from BME, faith and LGBT communities, possibly due, in part, to the ratio of people from said demographics living in the Staffordshire and York.

Overcoming key challenges

The project has presented a number of challenges over the last 17 months, in particular engaging beneficiaries to participate in Staying Active clubs, held at Action for Blind People.. We are currently working on providing this service at sheltered housing schemes and retirement homes, in Staffordshire.

Additional funding and OPTiC branding

With the project coming to a close and our legacy firmly imbedded in the local community, no additional funding will be pursued.

The OPTiC brand is consistently used for all communication processes and will continue to be used beyond the lifecycle of the project, as appropriate.

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Coffee & Information: Peer Support events

(Photo by David Baird - www.david-baird.co.uk)

During November 2013 to January 2014, York Blind & Partially Sighted Society (YBPSS) held 5 coffee & information mornings to offer peer support and information to people who were newly registered as blind or partially sighted. The events were “Informal, Informative and Inspiring”.

The handouts provided offered information about resources and equipment but, more importantly, we had the experience of blind and partially sighted volunteers who came to share lots of tips and advice, and chat about how they manage. The informal setting worked well and the room buzzed with conversation.

Impact

A total of 51 people attended these events and the positive feedback we received confirmed that everyone was pleased they had come along and that they had learned a lot and felt much more positive. People also had an enjoyable chat over coffee and cake – always a pleasurable way to spend a couple of hours!

Where the need for equipment was identified, people were able to use the services of the Equipment & Information Centre and leave with assistive gadgets – as well as an overview of equipment and services, ideas for the future and a good knowledge of how York Blind & Partially Sighted Society can support them.

The volunteers also reported how brilliant it had been to be able to support their peers.

Two people who attended the coffee and information mornings have now joined the Games morning at YBPSS, one has joined the Book Group and two people had a buddying session to share knowledge about iphones.

Next steps

We are hoping to continue running regular coffee and information mornings after the end of the OPTiC Project, as their value is evident by the very positive feedback from everyone involved.

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