Happy New Year from Focus Birmingham

Seasons Greetings to you all from everyone at Focus Birmingham. We will be closed from Friday 22nd December at 3pm and will re-open 9:00am on Tuesday January 2nd 2018. We wish you all a Happy New Year.

Thank you for your support this past year and we hope that this will continue into 2018 when we celebrate our gold and silver anniversary year. We will be celebrating 2 of our vital services, Focus Day Services will be celebrating 50 years of providing day services and Low Vision clinic will be celebrating 25 years of service to people living with sight loss in Birmingham.

Watch this space for lots of exciting celebrations and ways you can get involved!! Happy Holidays.

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Christmas jumpers are as much a part of the festive period as turkey, tinsel, and loads of presents around the Christmas tree. Click here to learn more

Focus Birmingham specialises in supporting people affected by sight loss or other disabilities. This year we are hoping to go one step further by asking everyone to wear a Christmas jumper on Friday 15th December to raise help raise awareness for those who are living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham. Let us come together as a community to look out for one another at this time of the year and tackle isolation and loneliness, especially those most vulnerable.

“More than 29,000 people in Birmingham live with sight loss, which has devastating consequences. It prevents people from driving and working, it may restrict social interaction, cause isolation, and remove a person’s independence. And it can lead to low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence or depression.

“This Christmas we are asking for people’s support, by wearing their n Christmas Jumper with pride on Friday December 15th. This will help raise awareness for those who are living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham.  This will be a chance to do something fun and support Focus for one day by wearing the wackiest Christmas jumper you can find in all its knitted glory.”

In addition, we are encouraging everyone to take an ‘elfie selfie’ by snapping a fun photo of themselves in their Christmas knit and sending it to Focus via the charity’s social media sites on our handle @focusbirmingham. All posts will be shared to raise awareness as well as to thank people for their support.

So, if you aren’t able to dedicate a day to wearing fun Christmassy jumpers then why not create your own event! Get as creative as possible by putting your own Christmas knit design on a wonderfully homemade cupcakes to share with family, friends and colleagues.”

If you would like to know more about getting involved with Focus Birmingham you can click here or email jasmin@focusbirmingham.org.uk or call her on 0121 478 5239 for a fundraising pack full of fun seasonal ideas.

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Focus Birmingham - Services update

Focus Birmingham would like to advise all staff and service users to stay safe during the snow. If you have any concerns please contact your local emergency services by telephoning 999.

Important Notice: Please Read

Focus Birmingham have decided to close all our service provisions tomorrow (11th December) due to the hazardous weather and driving conditions.

Please follow @UKSnowUpdates or visit your Local Met Office Weather website for up to date information regarding the snow and we hope to be up and running as normal on Tuesday 12th December.

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Better Healthcare Access Report published

Better Healthcare Access for people with visual impairment - Report published

This published report summarises a piece of work completed in Birmingham to help identify and break down barriers experienced by people with visual impairment when accessing GP healthcare services. Work was undertaken by Focus Birmingham and funded by the West Midlands Clinical Networks, NHS England.

Changes that sight loss brings can have a significant impact on many areas of everyday life including affecting a patient’s ability to engage with their GP. We believe that people with sight loss face unintentional, but very real barriers when trying to access primary care.  This may mean that people with VI:

  • are more reluctant to attend routine appointments
  • have poorer quality information to help them manage their health
  • neglect support, meaning chronic conditions worsen unnecessarily

Andrew Miller, Lead Optometrist at Focus Birmingam, said,“Over the last 12 months it has been lovely to work with several GP practices all across Birmingham. It has been really pleasing to see how keen the staff have been in trying to understand and support the needs of people with sight loss.”

To download and read the final report please click here.   If you have any questions or would like to get in touch please go to our Contact Us page. 

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TLC Lottery celebrating 20 years

Three Birmingham based charities have said thank you to local people for helping raise £5 million in vital funds in just 20 years. Focus Birmingham, Birmingham Saint Mary’s Hospice and Acorns Children’s Hospice have received the impressive amount from the TLC Lottery, an organisation which has been supporting the charities since 1997.

Players of the TLC Lottery pay £1 per weekly draw competing for prizes ranging from £10 to £1000 and the money raised after running costs and prizes is split between the three charities.

Lynne Carter, Head of Fundraising at Acorns Children’s Hospice, said: “On behalf of everyone we support at Acorns I want to say a huge thank you to the commitment of the loyal players who have contributed to the Lottery over the past 20 years. Your generosity means we can continue our vital work.

“We have to raise nearly £10 million every year to provide our services, which means not only care for children, but also a network of specialist support for the whole family.”

Hamish Shilliday, head of fundraising at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, said: “The TLC is a fantastic initiative which allows players to have fun whilst raising vital funds for three local charities.

“I would like to thank all the players who have taken part over the past 20 years – with your continued support, we are able to provide expert care to local individuals and families living with terminal illness.”

Jasmin Rana, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Focus Birmingham, said: “The TLC Lottery initiative has allowed Focus Birmingham to provide specialist support and services to people living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham for the past 20 years. We are truly grateful to the contributions made by the players over the years. Thank You.”

The TLC Lottery is holding a thank you and celebration event on 20 October at locations based at the three charities. For more information and to sign up to the lottery, please visit www.tlclottery.co.uk

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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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