Focus Appeal - text HELPFOCUS to donate!

In these challenging times, Focus Birmingham is appealing to everyone to donate today to help us continue supporting the community of blind, visually impaired, and disabled people of all ages.

Simply text HELPFOCUS to 70085 to donate £5

Texts cost £5 plus one standard rate message.

Alternatively, you can easily donate online by visiting our website donation page and giving whatever you can.

Every donation we receive goes towards helping those who have sight loss or disabilities and every penny makes a difference, thank you.

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Monday 6th April 2020

As the current Coronavirus situation continues and we are mostly in a state of lockdown or isolation, Focus Birmingham have been working hard to adjust to this new order and concentrate on delivering services and support to all of our clients and service users.

Following government guidelines regarding isolating and social distancing, Focus Birmingham ceased all face to face services at the Woodville Road site from 24th March 2020.

This did not mean however that we stopped supporting our clients through this difficult period, indeed we have been busy developing various activities and initiatives that will help those we support cope through these unprecedented times.

We have created a weekly schedule of activities for our service users which you can download here, made available a dedicated 7 day a week helpline and have a counselling service available for any of our clients who are feeling particularly anxious about the current situation or how it is affecting them.

We are conducting a survey this week to understand better any further requirements and ways we can support you so please visit the survey page here to to take part.

Over the next few weeks we will be adding to our range of activities etc. however, if you need any advice or guidance, or would like more information, please call our SupportLine and speak to a member of staff.

Please follow the government’s advice on isolating and keep safe and healthy.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information including the Government definition of ‘most serious health conditions’.

We will endeavour to keep this information up to date and will post regular updates on our Facebook Page – Focus Birmingham.

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A message to the people we support

Monday 23rd March 2020

As the current Coronavirus situation continues and shows no signs of abating, the Focus Birmingham Emergency Management have met and considered the latest information, advice and guidance from the government.

Our position throughout this emergency has been to continue to provide services for as long as is it deemed safe to do so. However, given the deteriorating situation and the latest isolating and social distancing guidelines, Focus Birmingham have regretfully concluded that in the interests of safety for all clients, staff and volunteers, we are left with no other option than to close our face to face services.

Therefore, please note the arrangements for the following services:

  • Sight Loss Support service will cease providing all services at the Woodville Road site with effect from 4:30pm 23rd March 2020 until further notice.
  • Complex Needs Support service will cease providing all services at the Woodville Road site with effect from 4:30pm 24th March 2020 until further notice.
  • Our supported living facility at Millward Place will continue to operate, albeit in ‘lockdown’ mode.
  • All other activity at the Woodville Road site will cease and the facility will close.

This does not mean however that we will not be supporting our clients through this difficult period, just that we will be doing it in a revised capacity that will be different dependent on individual circumstances.

We are actively developing a number of activities and initiatives that should help those we support cope through these unprecedented times. We are actively working on various initiatives including a Focus Caring at Home Pack, a Crisis Helpline, Counselling services and much more.

We will be communicating further in the next few days with more information. However, if you need any advice or guidance, or would like more information, please contact a member of staff.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information including the Government definition of ‘most serious health conditions’.

We will endeavour to keep this information up to date and will post regular updates on our Facebook Page – Focus Birmingham.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19) - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Coronavirus which is affecting countries around the world at the moment, including the UK.

Q: What is Coronavirus?

A: Coronavirus, also known as (Covid-19), is a respiratory infection that can affect your lungs and airways.


Q: What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

A: Covid-19 starts with a fever, followed by tiredness, muscle pain and a dry cough which leads to a shortness in breath.


Q: What do I do if I have flu-like symptoms such as a high fever or a new persistent dry cough?

A: Anyone with a fever or persistent cough should stay at home for seven days if they live alone or 14 days if they live with others and take government advice by visiting nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19


Q: What should I do if I have an underlying illness?

A: If you have a severe illness including anyone:

Aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)

Under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (i.e. anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):

You should self-isolate for 14 days and the NHS will contact you directly with more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe.


Q: I have recently returned from abroad – what should I do?

A: If you don’t have any symptoms you can return to your daily routine but if you are displaying symptoms you should stay indoors follow the Government self-isolation guidance. For more information, visit gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus


Q: How can I help prevent the spread of Covid-19?

A: You can socially distance yourself by:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible.
  • Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.
  • Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, and clubs.
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

Q: How do I protect myself from getting Covid-19

A: Don’t get in close contact with someone who may have symptoms of Covid-19, don’t share cutlery and maintain the NHS guidelines for hygiene, which you can find at nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19


Q: When should I wash my hands?

A: After visiting a public space, including public transportation, markets, places of worship and after touching surfaces in and outside of your home.


Q: How long should I wash my hands for?

A: You should wash your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap. Or use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food.


Q: What should I do if I am reducing my social contacts but need assistance with food and medicines?

A: You should ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home.


Q: What should I do if I have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

A: You should be able to access medical assistance remotely, however, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or clinician.


Q: How can I look after my mental health regarding the Covid-19 situation?

A: At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. There are simple things you can do that may help, such as:

  • look for ideas of exercises you can do at home on the NHS website
  • spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies, listening to the radio or watching TV programmes
  • keep your windows open to let in fresh air, get some natural sunlight if you can, or get outside into the garden.

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Focus launch Talking Telephone Friends

Focus Birmingham has launched a dedicated new volunteer-led Talking Telephone Friends Service as part of our Visual Impairment Support team.

All of our Talking Telephone Friends volunteers have a visual impairment themselves and are able to provide real empathy and understanding with people losing their sight. Whilst they are not counsellors or support workers, they have all received detailed training and can provide really valuable support through conversation and a listening ear.

The Telephone Befriender Volunteer will make a call on a pre-arranged day and time each week (Monday – Friday 9:00 – 4:30) lasting around 20 minutes and there are no costs involved. You can talk about anything you want, from local news to hobbies and interests, and they can access information from the wider support team to answer specific questions.

If you live in Birmingham and would like to register your interest in receiving a call (or to refer someone else to our service) please call 0121 478 5221 to speak with someone or leave a message with your name and number saying you are interested in the Talking Telephone Friends Service. Someone will call you back to register you with the service and try to arrange a volunteer to support you but note that you may have to be placed on a waiting list while this support is being arranged. Please note that although Focus Birmingham aims to provide support to everyone affected by sight loss, this telephone-based service may not be suitable for people who have additional needs such as hearing impairment or memory loss.

The Talking Telephone Friends service has made a real difference to so many of our service users and here are a few comments we have received;

Nora: “the volunteer is chatty and puts me at ease, I really value the service”

Ray: “I found the volunteer and I have similar interests and the conversation really flows well”

Audrey: “very happy with the service and I like having someone to talk to”

From the Talking Telephone Friends volunteers who take the calls as part of the service the feedback has been just as gratifying:

Chris: “talking to different people from a variety of backgrounds is interesting and stimulating. I enjoy listening to people’s stories and experiences.”

If you know of anyone who would benefit from this vital service and would like to refer or signpost them, please get in touch with us.

This service has been made possible by a grant from Postcode Community Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.  

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Focus Birmingham needs your help.

Please spread the word and share our project with LoveBrum to win much needed funding. The project information has now gone live and you can click on the following links to access it.

Focus Birmingham's Profile -https://lovebrum.org.uk/cause/focus-birmingham/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/lovebrum/videos/1131671847001495/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/LoveBrumUK/status/1046674495124197377

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWWlD-rW7Tc

The members of the public in Birmingham will be choosing their three favourite community projects until 26th October and with your help we want everyone to select Focus Birmingham when the voting opens.

It is very easy to vote and remember voting starts at 9am on Monday 22nd October. If successful we will use the LoveBrum funding for our story telling session ‘Book Worms’ which already receives a great response from our service users but we want to expand the sensory book library, providing different experiences and stories for our service users.

Focus Birmingham’s service users with more profound disabilities or sight loss can benefit greatly from multisensory books, as they develop a response to stimulation, improve participation in group activities and further develop an interest in people, events and objects.  

Save the date of Monday 22nd October and don't forget to please share with family and friends!!! For more information you can contact jasmin@focusbirmingham.org.uk.

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Cheque presentation at Focus Birmingham

Focus Birmingham were delighted to receive a cheque for £1,600 from William H Painter Funeral Directors in Yardley. This year Focus Birmingham was chosen as the recipient for all funds raised through the sale of Choice funeral plans. As well as offering the consumer a discount, a £50 donation was made by Choice to Focus for each plan taken out. In total, 140,000 households in the Birmingham area received a leaflet.

Jasmin Rana, Marketing & Fundraising Manager for Focus Birmingham said, “This was a great opportunity for Focus Birmingham to raise the profile of the work we do locally in Birmingham for people living with sight loss and disability. We are extremely grateful to have received this donation from William H Painter and want to thank Choice for their contribution.”

To find out more about William H Painter Funeral Directors and their work in the community visit www.williamhpainter.co.uk and for more information on the Choice prepaid funeral plan visit the Choice website www.choiceplan.co.uk.  

If you would like to get involved in raising money for Focus Birmingham please contact fundraising@focusbirmingham.org.uk or call Jasmin on 0121 478 5239.

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Focus is currently recruiting for a new Chair

At Focus Birmingham we believe everyone deserves the chance to live a safe, happy and productive life. We find innovative ways to challenge anything or anyone who threatens that.

We are now actively recruiting for a Chair to come and join us.

The role of the Chair is to provide strong leadership and direction to the Board of Trustees to enable the Board to fulfil their responsibilities for the overall governance and strategic direction of the organisation. The Chair will ensure that the organisation complies with its governing document, charity law, company law and any other relevant legislation or statutory regulations. To work in partnership with the Chief Executive to achieve the aims of the organisation; and to optimise the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the staff.

If you would like more information about the role and what it will entail please click here.

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Thank you

Focus Birmingham believes in its values, especially those of respect and inclusiveness and we openly invite feedback from people who use our services. We want to thank everyone who has sent us positive messages and we really appreciate your continued support. We will always take concerns seriously and will take action where needed. If you have any concerns and would like to talk to us about them please email susan@focusbirmingham.org.uk. 

We really appreciate your support.

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Zen Metro's first Dinner in the Dark

More than 40 people donned blindfolds at a top Birmingham city centre restaurant to experience something of what it is like to live with sight loss.

Focus Birmingham, which looks after the needs of people with visual impairment and other disabilities, organised a Dinner in the Dark event at the Zen Metro Thai Restaurant & Bar in Cornwall Street.

As well as the fun challenge of trying to eat a three-course meal while completely blindfolded, the event also carried the serious message of raising awareness of the charity and the thousands of local people who cope with a visual impairment every day.

Guests at the Dinner in the Dark event had to be escorted to their tables by sighted guides, with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front. They were requested to keep their blindfolds on throughout the time they were eating but could remove them in between courses during which time they were encouraged to talk about their experiences.

Susan Hoath, Focus Chief Executive, said of the event: "It has been fantastic. We have had a really enjoyable evening with a lot of laughter and fun, and also gently raised awareness of living with sight loss.

"I loved the experience. It was a magical mystery as you didn’t know what you were going to be getting. It went really well and we are so grateful to Zen Metro for their support. We also wanted to thank their staff who joined in so enthusiastically."

The event, which cost £30 for the three course meal and complimentary drink, began with an introduction by Susan Hoath, who spoke of the “passion and commitment” of working for an organisation like Focus. That was followed by a short talk from visually impaired Focus volunteer Dean Mills, who is a student at Birmingham City University. He said it can be devastating to lose one’s sight, but that you can be “empowered” to achieve things with the help of Focus.

Once seated, the blindfolded diners were served prawn crackers and assorted dips before the more difficult task of negotiating a selection of starters including spring rolls, spicy wok chicken, and smoked duck. Guests were then served a choice of four main courses, including Thai green curry, with rice, before a dessert to finish of crème brulee with vanilla biscotti.

The Director of Zen Metro, Jaimon George, said: “I am really happy with the turnout. When Focus approached me to do this I knew the hardship of people with sight loss because a friend of mine gradually lost his sight over a number of years. So we were delighted to support Focus and we will be doing it again.”

Throughout the experience, diners were asked to raise their hands if they needed escorting to the toilet, or if they became uncomfortable wearing a blindfold, which no-one appeared to.

After the event, one of the diners, Harvey Chahal, aged 44, who was present with his wife Ravinder and daughter Simran, said: “I respect people with sight loss so much more after that experience.” Simran, 20, added: “It makes you realise how much you value your eyesight.”

The meal was followed by the drawing of a raffle with the prizes including a meal for 2 at Zen Metro, Everyman Cinema Mailbox Birmingham, 2 tickets to West Midlands Safari Park and much more.

Want to get involved in the next one or just want general information about Focus Birmingham upcoming events please visit our Events page or call Jasmin on 0121 478 5239 for more information. 

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News Archive

Catch up with the latest news from Focus Birmingham or browse the archive of news below.

Upcoming fundraising events

Would you like to join us and help with future fundraising efforts? Read about some of our forthcoming events: