Residents in Renfrewshire impacted by sight loss can now access information, advice and support through a new telephone service from Scotland’s biggest visual impairment charity.
Public Health Minister Maree Todd has launched the new national Sight Scotland Support Line.
There are an estimated 5,870 people living with sight loss in Renfrewshire. The Sight Scotland Support Line offers someone for people with sight loss and their families to turn to for information and advice.
People impacted by sight loss can call the freephone helpline on 0800 024 8973, Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm.
The new service launches as Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans publish findings from their latest research involving over 200 visually impaired people. Over 55% of participants said they hadn’t had enough information about where they could find support after their diagnosis; while over 80% said it was important to provide more support to family members and carers.
Photo: John Kinnis
Almost 90% said it was important they and their families received support to deal with the emotional impact of sight loss.
The Sight Scotland Support Line is part of Sight Scotland’s newly formed Family Wellbeing Service, as the charity strives to support even more people impacted by sight loss in communities across Scotland. The charity has also produced a new information guide, ‘Support for Sight Loss’, produced with sister charity Sight Scotland Veterans.
Officially launching the Sight Scotland Support Line, Public Health Minister Maree Todd, said: “The pandemic has been especially difficult for those with sight loss, increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness. It has highlighted even more so how vital it is that support is available to everyone effected by sight loss. I am therefore privileged to launch this national support line.
“The emotional impact of losing your sight can be overwhelming and people with sight loss who need support shouldn’t be left to cope with emotional distress on their own. This new service will help to provide that crucial support, as well as valuable information and advice, tailored to the individual, right from the start.
“We continue to work with our third sector partners, including Sight Scotland, to better understand and respond to the challenges faced by those with sensory loss, particularly those that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, by sharing guidance on supporting people with a sensory impairment and by developing guidance for those providing sighted guide support during the pandemic.”
Chief Executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, Mark O’Donnell, said: “We are proud to officially launch the Sight Scotland Support Line nationally.
“This new telephone service is there for anyone impacted by sight loss so that no-one in Scotland has to struggle with sight loss alone. Our friendly, caring community team are here to provide tailored information and advice for blind and partially sighted people, as well as families and carers.
“Our research has shown that this is the kind of information that people want following diagnosis of an eye condition to help them find who can support them to live well with sight loss. We know it has been particularly difficult for people to access support due to the impact of Covid-19, and that it is particularly important to launch this national support line service now.
“We are delighted that the Scottish Government recently launched the Eyes.Scot website as an invaluable source of information and we are seeking to play our role in reaching more people with sight loss through the launch of our new community services.”
John Kinnis, 83, of Paisley is an Army veteran with sight loss who has been supported by Sight Scotland’s sister charity, Sight Scotland Veterans, since 2009. He has welcomed the new support line as an important resource for anyone impacted by sight loss to access information and advice.
John, who was diagnosed with glaucoma in his forties, and whose sight has deteriorated in recent years, said: “Support for sight loss from an early point is definitely very important. I think it’s a very good idea that if someone does discover they have sight loss then they have someone to turn to with services like the new Sight Scotland Support Line, and that anyone who is impacted can get in touch.
“Back when I was diagnosed with glaucoma I had very little help to start with. I can’t really say that any practical or emotional support at that point did happen. When I was diagnosed it was the first I knew of there being glaucoma in my family. It was quite a shock.
“I have a lot of determination and I think that’s pulled me through with it, but without that I think having somebody else there to support me at those earlier stages would have been a big help.
“Having somebody to talk to who understands makes a big difference. It’s somebody who understands your situation and can give you some helpful tips. I would without a doubt encourage anyone who is impacted sight loss to reach out to Sight Scotland through the Support Line.”
Call the Sight Scotland Support Line on 0800 024 8973 or visit SightScotland.org.uk for more information.