I have recently visited the base of our local society for people who are blind or have impaired vision as they have recently relocated. I saw that they have a range of items of equipment that are available to help people live as independently as possible despite their sight problems and that also they still produce a talking newspaper and their own newsletter.
One of the issues raised with me whilst I was there was the possible lack of awareness of the existence of the society amongst professionals who diagnose sight problems which is evidenced by the fact that few people find out about the society by this route. One of the expectations we have is that as the resources available to the NHS and local authorities are struggling to keep up with demand we will get better at helping people help themselves and at providing information about the support services that are available in local communities. The information I gathered during my visit indicates that we still have a long way to go.
I also wonder how aware we are of the simple adjustments we can make which will make life easier for people who have difficulty seeing or hearing and those who have limited mobility. It is often thoughtlessness by people in the NHS and other organisations that cause others to experience difficulty when accessing services.
This brings me on to the plethora of special weeks – for example Carers week , Men’s Health Week, Learning Disability Week , Diabetes Week. I wonder how effective these are in raising the profile of the needs of particular groups of people in the population or are there so many of them that they lose their impact?
I know that Carers Week in June resulted in considerable coverage of carers’ issues in the local media and our local carers’ support service also ran special events during the week. However some of the other weeks pass by with relatively little attention given by the media. But perhaps they do provide a focus for fund raising, recruitment of volunteers and publicity for local organisations, thereby helping to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by some people who have an illness or disability or are disadvantaged for some other reason.
I went to an event in Darwen recently at which people from a range of backgrounds came together at lunch time to share food prepared in many different ways as the cooks were from a range of countries and some of them were asylum seekers and refugees. Talking to people there strengthened my view that we too often take for granted that people will know what services are available and how that can request help. I need to continue to encourage all in our CCG to honour our commitment to equality and diversity and make it easier for all the people in Blackburn with Darwen to live longer and live better.