Wakefield District Sight Aid (WDSA) was formed in 1869. We are proud to have been serving local people in our community for 150 years. We are here to support anyone living with low vision, their families, carers and sight care professionals across the Wakefield District. We are the only charity providing on the ground support to visually impaired people in Wakefield. WDSA CARES stands for Confidence, Ability, Resilience, and Emotional Support, and we are seeking funding to build our capacity and resource so we can pilot a new service to help visually impaired people deal with their situation and face the future with optimism and confidence.
Wakefield's population is around 333,000 and it is the 65th most deprived district in England (out of 326 districts). The team consists of four part-time members of staff (less than 2 full-time equivalent staff) and a dedicated team of around 20 volunteers. We consistently support around 1,000 people living with sight loss per year through a variety of practical and community outreach services. In research conducted by nfp Synergy, the leading market research consultancy, sensory impairment has come out as the least favourite type of charity for the public to support since July 2015. Just 4% of the public quoted sensory impairment charities as one of their favourite causes. This makes it really hard for us to raise funds, especially when there is so much competition for people's hard-earned donations locally.
What are we here for?
Our vision is a world where people living with sight loss have access to the same opportunities and quality of life as fully sighted people, so that they can live full and happy lives, and live well for longer. Being diagnosed with sight loss, or experiencing deterioration of an existing condition, can be a devastating experience, and we are here to provide the best possible holistic support to help people get through the anxious and difficult times.
Mental health, social isolation and visual impairment
It is easy for people living with a visual impairment to become isolated, as they may have to give up driving or lose confidence in getting out and about unaccompanied. Poor mental health is common in people with low vision, particularly if they have to give up work, or they begin to find other activities that they've previously enjoyed as a sighted person difficult, such as reading, watching television or crafts.
A UK poll commissioned by eye research charity Fight for Sight has found that 4 in 10 people either has or knows someone with significant sight loss, and a third (33%) of people with sight loss have experienced mental health issues (source: https://www.visionuk.org.uk/fight-for-sight-world-sight-day-poll-highlights-a-third-of-people-living-with-sight-loss-experience-mental-health-issues/ ). This is compared to a quarter (25%) of the general population.
The online poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of Fight for Sight, also shows that 84% of respondents fear losing their sight more than any other sense, with 40% saying that not being fully independent would worry them the most about this. According to Fight for Sight, there are currently 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK, and by 2050 this is set to double to 4 million. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of irreversible sight loss, affecting approximately 728,000 people in the UK. This is likely to increase by nearly 30% in the next ten years, meaning over 930,000 more people face the prospect of retiring with sight loss in 2030. Local sight loss charities like ours are vital in providing grassroots support to this ever-increasing challenge.
Many people find it hard to come to terms with difficulties such as not being able to identify family members' faces, and go through a grieving process as they try to accept what is happening. Older people people living with low vision may have other health conditions or mobility issues that leave them at risk of becoming further isolated. It can be a very scary time.
Emotional support pilot
To help us tackle some of these issues, we run a comprehensive community outreach programme to help us tackle social isolation. This includes regular social events, trips out, and a volunteer-led befriending service.
Alongside this, we would love to be able to provide specialist emotional support for people living with sight loss, from someone who understands the challenges faced by people with low vision. There is a huge demand for emotional support and it would be wonderful to be able to offer this as a specialist service in-house. Our longer-term vision is for our Sight Loss Advisor to undergo the specialist training required to enable her to be a fully qualified counsellor.
We appreciate that this will take time, so we are also seeking funding to enable us to employ a counsellor on a sessional basis to help fill the current capacity gap. This will involve a period of training if the person is not familiar with working with visually impaired people. We are looking for £3,000 to pay a sessional worker on the basis of two days per month for a 6 month pilot.
A big thank you
It would be hugely impactful for us to be able to pilot this new service, offering the opportunity to build confidence and resilience, and having specialist emotional support available to help people through the difficult times. When we meet someone for the first time, often they will tell us that they can no longer see the point in life, that they can't go on, or that they don't think life will ever get any better. We know how transformative it can be when we are able to work with someone to improve their confidence and independence, support them through the emotionally turbulent times, and give them the tools they need to live fuller, happier lives. At the moment we can do this on a tiny scale, but to increase our capacity and skills to be able to do this bigger and better, to help people face the future with confidence, optimism and hope would really help us change lives.
Sadly, we are not in a financial position to be able to offer rewards to our funders (our income last year was just £47,000) but we do invite everyone who supports our work to come and see what their kindness has made possible. Whether that's enjoying a cuppa with some of our members at one of our coffee mornings, coming along on a trip as a sighted helper, or sitting in on one of our courses once they are up and running, we welcome the opportunity to show those who are generous enough to support us the impact of how we have used their money.
We really appreciate the opportunity to be considered for this funding, thank you.