Focus hosts Dinner in the Dark at Henry Wong

Ever tried picking up rice or a pork ball with a pair of chopsticks, or chasing a pea around your plate with a fork?  

That is the daunting challenge facing diners at the Henry Wong restaurant in High Street, Harborne, Birmingham, on Wednesday 11 October following an invitation to experience Dinner in the Dark.

The special event, which is in aid of visually impaired charity Focus Birmingham, is designed to illustrate the everyday difficulties facing people with sight loss.

The Chief Executive of Focus Birmingham, Susan Hoath, said: “This is a unique sensory event in Birmingham in terms of a dining experience, so we hope as many people as possible will sign up to have a go at eating a meal while wearing a blindfold.

“It promises to be a really fun event but, of course, it also carries a very serious underlying message of how thousands of people in the Birmingham area cope on a daily basis with visual impairment.”

The owner of Henry Wong, Parm Rai, added: “We’re delighted to be supporting Focus Birmingham by hosting this truly unique event. We are sure that guests will have a fantastic, and interesting, evening while raising much needed funds for this local charity.”

The ticket price of £40 will include a 3 course meal and complimentary drink. Our charity fundraising event will also be hosting an auction, giving you the chance to win some fantastic items, so book your tickets now and get ready for a dinner with a difference!

We hope to raise awareness for those people living with sight loss in Birmingham as well as much needed funds to continue providing our vital services. Click here to book early to avoid disappointment as there are limited places available.  

  • When:                               11th October 
  • Event times:                     6:30pm -10pm
  • Location:                          Henry Wong, Harborne High Street
  • Cost:                                £40 per person

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Focus Christmas Card Competition

Calling all artists, photographers and digital designers! We need your help to design the Focus Birmingham 2017 Christmas Card.

We are looking for an A6 (105 x 148mm) festive card design, this can be a photograph, drawing, painting or digital design, as long as submissions are your own work.

How to Enter:

You can submit your entries via post or email. Please label your design with your name, age, address and contact details in order for us to contact you should you be chosen as the winner.

By Post: Send to Focus Christmas Card Competition, Focus Birmingham, 48-62 Woodville Road, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9AT.

By Email: Electronic entries can be a PDF or JPEG file. Please send these to zoe@focusbirmingham.org.uk and include Christmas Card Competition in the subject line.

Competition Terms and Conditions

1. Entries to this competition must be original work by the person submitting the entry.

2. Entries will be accepted via post or email.

3. Entries will be accepted from children under 18 years of age however written permission from a parent or guardian is required before we will accept the submission.

4. By submitting your entry to us you are agreeing to Focus Birmingham using the picture in our 2017 Christmas card. We will use this to raise funds for Focus Birmingham; the winner will receive no financial gains from the cards.

5. More than one entry per person will be accepted.

6. The winner will be chosen by the Focus Birmingham judging team as the best entry for a Focus Birmingham Christmas card.

7. The winner’s name will be displayed on our website, social media and on the cards when printed.

8. The winner will be contacted by email or post.

9. The competition will run until 5pm on 31st August.

For more information on the Christmas Card competition please email zoe@focusbirmingham.  Best of luck everyone!

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Focus at Sight Village 2017

Focus Birmingham are excited to attend Birmingham Sight Village on 18th and 19th July. Sight Village is a free exhibition run by Queen Alexandra College (QAC), where visitors can find out about the latest technology, products and services available to blind and visually impaired people. Exhibitors from throughout the World take part to showcase what they do and the event welcomes visitors from all over the UK.

We will be at the Focus Birmingham stand to provide more information about our services, and our very own Andrew Miller, Lead Optometrist, will be hosting A Tube With a View, a workshop which will explore the benefits and challenges of using distance low vision aids.

The event takes place at New Bingley Hall, with doors opening at 9.30am. For more information about the event including how to get there, visit the QAC website.

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Focus Birmingham transfers care home

Focus Birmingham has handed one of its residential care homes to an organisation with more than 160 years’ experience of providing care and support services to visually impaired people in the West Midlands.

Beech House in Gravelly Hill North, Erdington, which accommodates six residents with a visual impairment and physical and learning disabilities, is being transferred to New Outlook with effect from June.

New Outlook was created in its present form in 1997 following the separation from Birmingham Royal Institute for the Blind and has established itself as one of the key providers of services for both older and younger adults with sensory loss. They provide a range of services including home care and support, sheltered housing for the older adults, care homes for adults with disabilities, and supported living for people with a variety of disabilities.

Beech House, which is owned by BRIB, will continue to be run as before the transfer, with existing staff transferred to New Outlook on the same conditions.

New Outlook Housing Association already operates a sheltered housing scheme alongside Beech House. The Albert Weedall Centre comprises 25 one bedroom apartments which have been specifically adapted for older people with sight loss.

New Outlook, Head of Operations, Dalvinder Atwal, said: “We have one of our sheltered housing schemes on the same site as Beech House so were clearly aware of the service.

“We have worked in partnership with Focus Birmingham for quite some time and some of our service users access services at Focus. Conversations have been taking place about Beech House for about nine months involving Focus and BRIB who own the property.”

She added: “Beech House is absolutely going to be a very valuable service for New Outlook. It is a natural fit for us and certainly adds to our residential portfolio which currently includes four care homes and two sheltered housing schemes.

“We have a history of delivering good quality care and support services to those with complex care and support needs in the West Midlands and plan to apply that same service at Beech House. We will continue to operate it as it is at the moment.”

Andy Dennehy, Director of Operations at Focus, said residents at Beech House all receive one to one care from staff, who operate a 24 hour service at the care home.

He added: “Beech House and the Albert Weedall Centre are physically attached so it made a lot of sense to combine them in this way, with New Outlook having total responsibility for both premises.

“The residents, who have a combination of visual impairment, physical disability and learning disability, have all been consulted on the transfer and we have also had their families in on more than one occasion. They all agree with the decision to transfer the running of Beech House to New Outlook.

“At the same time the staff will be transferred to New Outlook on exactly the same terms as before. Everything will carry on as before.”

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Volunteer still going strong at Focus

Low Vision volunteer still going strong after 15 years with Focus

Fiona Lewis readily admits to being the “sort of person who likes to get their teeth into something”.  So when she heard about the possibility of becoming a volunteer at Focus Birmingham she grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

And 15 years later she is still contributing to the day to day work of the charity on a voluntary basis at its centre in Harborne.

Fiona, 55, who donates two mornings a week to the Low Vision Centre, and also helps out at the Macular Degeneration Group once a month, had previously worked in a council legal department in Cardiff and as a magistrate court clerk in Solihull before learning of Focus.

She says: “My husband John used to play chess with Peter Price, who was a volunteer at the Low Vision Centre. Peter, who was born completely blind, played using a braille chess set in the same club as John and they became friends.

“My mother had recently died and my children were getting older, so when they suggested that I could try volunteering at Focus I decided to give it a go.”

Fiona, who has two children in their 20s, still works occasionally in the family wholesale business which restricts the amount of time she can devote to Focus.

She started out in the recording studio, working with colleague John Todd to record various documents as well as Birmingham City Council’s Forward newspaper onto cassette for the benefit of visually impaired service users.

But after a few years she made the decision to move to Low Vision.

“I felt I had done a reasonable time in the recording studio so I thought ‘what else can I do, what skills can I bring to Focus’? I had always worked in offices helping the public so I thought I could offer those skills best in the Low Vision Centre.

“It’s a little like a combination of working in a shop and using office skills, so one minute you might be serving someone with a piece of equipment in the shop or you could be taking an inquiry on the phone and inputting it into the computer. It’s quite a hive of activity and you never know from one session to another as to what you might be doing, such is the variety of the work. I mainly deal with referrals and no-one is ignored.”

Fiona, who says she mainly deals with referrals, later expanded her volunteer role by working with the Macular Degeneration Group at their monthly meetings, from helping with refreshments to assisting the speaker to set up. “A lot of it is just meeting people and having a conversation with the service users who have macular degeneration.”

She adds: “We see hundreds of people so you develop a rapport with a lot of them. I enjoy meeting them again and seeing them on their journey. I find that extremely rewarding. You learn an awful lot about things and also develop skills.

“I have never been made to feel there was a difference between the volunteers and the paid staff who welcomed me very warmly when I arrived and showed me the ropes. And they have extended me the opportunity to go on training courses, such as one on computer learning which has enhanced my role with Low Vision.”

If you would like to find out more about being a volunteer at Focus Birmingham, please contact the volunteer programme, by email: volcoord@focusbirmingham.org.uk or by phone: 07827 943097 (all volunteer queries will be answered from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday).

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Bank Staff Take Up Gardening In Aid Of Focus

Staff from a leading bank took on a Groundforce-style challenge to help transform the gardens at Focus Birmingham.

The 12-strong team from Lloyds Bank changed out of their business clothes into gardening gear before equipping themselves with spades, forks, hoses and paint brushes.

The major transformation of Focus Birmingham’s two gardens at Harborne took place on April 7 as part of the bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility – Make a Difference Day.

The welcome commitment consisted of the green-fingered staff from Lloyds Bank visiting Focus to carry out work on the gardens throughout the day.

Their combined challenge included a general tidy up, removing any rubbish or unwanted items, jet washing tiles, varnishing and painting garden furniture, removing some fencing, and planting a number of shrubs and other plants.

As well as the labour, Lloyds also bought around £250 worth of plants to help transform the Focus gardens.

Giles Wheeler, Relationship Manager SME Banking at Lloyds Bank, said: “It was fantastic weather and we had an excellent day. I believe that Focus were absolutely delighted with what we did.

“We tidied up the courtyard area, varnished and prepared all outdoor garden furniture for the year ahead, and put in around £250 worth of plants which we provided so service users have a nice, pleasant garden to enjoy, including a sensory garden area with aromatic plants.

We were looking for a deserving cause to send in a groundforce-type squad and Focus fitted the bill.”

Susan Hoath, CEO of Focus Birmingham, said, “We were utterly delighted to be selected by the wonderful team at Lloyds Banking Group to come and transform our outdoor space. Their enthusiastic hard work made a huge difference; clearing away the rubbish and the weeds, pruning back the overgrowth, planting the tubs and re-varnishing all the furniture.

Their efforts have transformed a tired and overgrown corner into a lovely sensory garden space, ready to be used as we head for warmer days – both for our service users in the day centre and to host community events.”

Focus provided a couple of skips for the rubbish and unwanted items to be collected in, and also served up refreshments on the day including lunch, tea and coffee.

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Birmingham Directorate Budget Consultation

Birmingham City Council approved its budget on 28 February 2017. Included in the budget was the requirement to achieve budget savings across identified areas.

Two of the identified budget areas were the Supporting People Programme and the Grants Programme to some third sector organisations. The required savings across both programmes combined is £3.2 million in 2017/18 increasing to £5.0million in 2018/19.

The Council are consulting on their proposals to achieve the £3.2m reduction for 2017/18 and a further £1.8m reduction for 2018/19.

How they will consult people?

1. We will be asking for views on our proposals from people who use services, carers, city council staff, health partners, organisations that provide adult social care services in the private or voluntary sectors and the general public;

2. You can tell us your views by completing a questionnaire, taking part in consultation meetings, by emailing or telephoning us. We will listen to, and take note of all your comments;

3. We will publish and make widely available what you tell us and what we plan to do next. We will show where we have changed any of the proposals as a result of listening to people’s views. Where we have not made changes to our proposals we will explain why this was the case;

4. We will write a report to our Cabinet including what we have found out through this consultation. The Cabinet is the governing body of the City Council, made up of elected councillors; it is responsible for decisions on all Council services.

How long will this consultation run for?

This Directorate Budget Consultation begins on 21st March 2017 and finishes on 10th May 2017.

How will this affect Focus Birmingham?

Our Community Services Team currently receives funding from Birmingham City Council to provide valuable support to people living with sight loss to enable them to live independently. The proposed cuts may have an impact on the future of Community Services in terms of how we currently support our visually impaired citizens. We provide a holistic support service which includes:

  • Benefits Advice
  • Apply for Grants
  • Independent Living Advice
  • Social Activities
  • Referrals to Statutory Services
  • Information on local services
  • Holidays
  • Information courses

We want to continue to provide this invaluable service and would ask people to get involved with the consultations and complete the online survey expressing your views and let your voice be heard. Please click here to get onto the site.

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A Duo of Dancing Grannies at Specsavers

A DUO of Dancing Grannies helped celebrate the official opening of a new Longbridge opticians on Wednesday (8 March).

Staff at Specsavers, 11 High Street Longbridge, were joined by the Black Country’s dancing duo, alongside Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers, and Jasmin Rana from Focus Birmingham to celebrate the store’s official opening. The day also kick started the store’s fundraising for Focus Birmingham, their nominated local charity for 2017.

‘We are extremely grateful to Dame Mary and Jasmin for joining us for what was a fantastic day - the team, customers and visitors to the shopping centre all joined in with the fun and people seemed to love the Dancing Grannies,’ says store director Irfan Aziz.

Jasmin Rana, marketing and fundraising manager at Focus Birmingham, adds: ‘As a local charity supporting people with sight loss and disability, we are delighted that Specsavers in Longbridge have selected us as their chosen charity for this year. We want to thank the staff of Specsavers for taking part and raising much needed funds for us.’

The new store boasts three test rooms over one floor, including a soundproof room for hearing appointments. It also has a dedicated contact lens area and a high-tech digital retinal camera that helps with the early detection of conditions like glaucoma, by taking a picture of the back of the eye. Digital retinal photography is offered at no extra cost as part of the standard eye examination service.

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Specsavers supports Focus Birmingham

Specsavers staff at the new Longbridge branch will be raising their glasses as they celebrate their official opening next Wednesday (8 March).

Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers, and Jasmin Rana from Focus Birmingham will join the team at the new Specsavers store at 11 High Street, Longbridge on Wednesday to cut the ribbon marking the store’s official opening. The day will also kick off the store’s fundraising for Focus Birmingham, with specs MOTs (cleaning and adjustments) on offer in return for donations.

Alongside Dame Mary and Jasmin, the store will also be playing host to The Dancing Grannies for the day, who’ll be on hand to keep visitors entertained as they boogie away.

‘We’re delighted and honoured that Dame Mary and Jasmin are joining us to help celebrate this milestone new store opening,’ says store director Irfan Aziz. ‘It promises to be a great occasion for everyone involved and we’d encourage people to pop down and join in the fun while raising funds for a local cause that we feel particularly passionate about.’

Jasmin Rana, marketing and fundraising manager at Focus Birmingham, adds: ‘As a local charity supporting people with sight loss and disability, we are delighted that Specsavers in Longbridge have selected us as their chosen charity for 2017. We want to thank the staff of Specsavers for taking part and raising much needed funds for us.’

The new store boasts three test rooms over one floor, including a soundproof room for hearing appointments. It also has a dedicated contact lens area and a high-tech digital retinal camera that helps with the early detection of conditions like glaucoma, by taking a picture of the back of the eye. Digital retinal photography is offered at no extra cost as part of the standard eye examination service.

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New Chief Executive To Take Focus Forward

Susan Hoath, who is taking over the reins at Focus Birmingham, said: “I want to see Focus grow into what I think it can be.

I think it has a really strong offer to make to local service users because of its knowledge and understanding of disabilities. Focus understands these people better than anyone else and knows what works.”

Susan, who joins Focus Birmingham from Sight Concern Bedfordshire, added: “The people at Focus are so passionate and really care about what they do. So I am really looking forward to being a member of the Focus team and to first learning about and then shouting about the amazing work that it does and could do more of in the future.

“The time is coming for organisations like Focus – embedded in and led by their communities, and offering a genuine ‘value for money’ model of care and support by delivering personalised services and enabling people to take more control of their lives. I want to be part of that.”

Susan, who succeeds Tom Harrison as Chief Executive, has spent more than 15 years in the NHS commissioning primary care and community services, including creating opportunities for the voluntary sector.

However, her first job after graduating from Nottingham University was as an environmental officer with British Gas, before the role disappeared following privatisation.

“I was left without a job but I managed to convince the health service that I could talk to communities about what their GP services should do. So I went from job to job, from County Durham to the South of England, commissioning GP and community services.

“At the end of the last century I moved to Bedfordshire to join what later became the local Primary Care Trust, integrating health and social care to better align to local and national strategy and to develop their offer to local funders in the NHS and local government.

“But I wanted to make a difference with real people, that is working with voluntary organisations and commissioners, which you don’t do when you are just doing policy work.

“I had been working on and off with Sight Concern in Bedfordshire for a number of years – buying services from them from time to time - as they were in my local area. So when an opportunity came up to go there for a couple of months I took it.”

The temporary role as Deputy Chief Executive involved helping to restructure Sight Concern’s contracts with local organisations. But, as Susan added: “The longer I stayed the more it became obvious that I enjoyed working there, so what began as a couple of months ended up as three years.”

In fact, it was only the job of Chief Executive at Focus Birmingham that persuaded Susan to seek pastures new. 

“I believe I have had a far greater impact on the improvement of services for vulnerable people through working in a local charity than I ever could in strategic organisations, and this belief keeps me in the voluntary sector and led to my application to join Focus Birmingham.”

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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: