Telephone befriending service is a godsend

To suddenly lose your sight is so very frightening and isolating as experienced by one of the service users supported by Focus Birmingham’s befriending and welfare service. Marie is a lovely 56 year old lady who describes the service as ‘a godsend’

Marie was a very outgoing woman and used to work in a number of customer facing roles in Iceland, Morrison’s and as a hotel receptionist.

For Marie, talking to others wasn’t just part of her role, but her everyday life, and she enjoyed it to the fullest. However, since the day she lost her sight ‘It’s been extremely different’ she remarks. Marie was working on the tills one day when she suffered an aneurysm which resulted in her losing sight in her left eye.

Marie went on, ‘When I knew what had happened I didn’t feel like myself, it was a scary experience and I felt so lonely. I had to re-adjust to life again and learn how to navigate the outdoors without falling, tripping or bumping into people.’

‘I was referred to the Focus Birmingham telephone befriending service by another sight loss charity, Birmingham Vision. It has been a godsend. I was paired up with volunteer befriender, Andrew. I look forward to Tuesday mornings because I know Andrew will be calling me and we will have our weekly catch-up. It has had such a positive impact on me, I have something to look forward to, my anxiety levels have gone down, and I don’t feel so lonely anymore’.

The Focus Birmingham befriending and welfare service is a lifeline for many, just talking and listening can help reduce anxiety and boost self-esteem. The service helps to limit isolation and increase a sense of belonging.

As Marie says, ‘A weekly phone call can make all the difference. Give it a go there are people out there who care and Focus has made such a difference in my life’.

If you would like to know more about our befriending and welfare service, call us on 0121 478 5200 or email

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Wednesday 20th May 2020

As the Coronavirus emergency persists, Focus Birmingham continues to work hard to ensure our clients and service users are supported in any way possible, and we hope they are keeping healthy, safe and well.

From the very beginning of this emergency, the decisions we have taken have always been in the interest of the people we support, and our staff and volunteers, supported by advice and evidence from the Government, Public Health England and other specialist agencies.

The recent announcements by the Government and the setting out of a three-step plan has enabled Focus Birmingham to develop a roadmap that is intended to give clients, their families and carers an idea of how we hope to move forward, including an indication of prospective timescales.

The roadmap indicates a phased timing of when we hope to re-open services however this is entirely conditional and dependent on a number of factors including;

  • Central and Local Government direction regarding operating, social distancing and any other measures that we are obliged to observe
  • Specific advice from Government, Public Health England and other specialist agencies
  • Availability of staff, volunteers, etc.
  • Availability of service support contractors

Click here to download a copy of the roadmap in PDF format

Whilst we are many weeks away from opening our services we are nonetheless planning for this eventuality, and we will provide further details as we are able, however, we do know that there will be some significant changes to the way in which we deliver our services and, as we progress, there will be a need to transition to this new way of working.

Further details regarding the services that will operate, and when they may restart, will be published over the coming weeks, along with details of the new operating procedures and protocols.

We look forward welcoming our valued clients back again as soon as is possible and urge everybody to continue to follow government advice regarding shielding, isolating and social distancing.

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Covid-19 support available in Birmingham

National support


Register with the Government to get coronavirus support as a clinically extremely vulnerable person.

Birmingham wide support

Birmingham City Council - Emergency Community Response hub

The council have launched an emergency community response hub to provide support to our most vulnerable citizens.

The service will prioritise those in critical need who have received a letter from NHS England stating they are in a priority group or those that are self-isolating for shorter periods but are unable to rely on family or friends for adequate practical support.

This may be in relation to emergency food supplies and social contact. Follow this link to complete online request form or call 0121 303 1116 (Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm).

Accessible guidance

To communities to understand the guidance and protect themselves, families and communities, we have produced guidance in various formats.


Local contact hubs

Contact points across the city where you can talk to someone about what is on offer. The contact points are based around the constituency you are in (which area your MP represents). If you are unsure which one you are in you can use this tool to work it out from your postcode.

For a list of all ten hubs follow this link.

Wellbeing support route2wellbeing

A guide to local voluntary and community health and care services in Birmingham. Route2wellbeing makes it easy to find local services and activities that promote good health and wellbeing.

You will find financial advice, physical activities, support for carers and much more. Using route2wellbeing could not be easier, simply set your location and click on a category on the R2W website.

Mutual Aid

Mutual Aid is a list of local support groups that have been established during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Whether you're self isolating and are in need of help, or you have time available and want to help others you can use this website to find a group local to you. There are currently 2044 groups listed. Visit the Mutual Aid website here.

Emergency food support

Commercial food deliveries

Third sector sustainable food support

Emotional support

Financial and housing support

  • Nishkam centre 0121 515 0003
  • Birmingham settlement 0121 250 076
  • Northfield Neighbourhood Network
  • Young person’s homeless project 0121 362 3650
  • Age concern Birmingham Handy man 0121 3650
  • Solihull youth support 0330 332 7928

Medication support

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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

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

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

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 -

Facebook -

Twitter -

YouTube -

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

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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 and for more information on the Choice prepaid funeral plan visit the Choice website  

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

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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: