Today, there are around 180,000 blind and partially sighted people in Scotland, and by the end of the decade this number will have increased to over 200,000. All of us providing support for sight loss, whether that be charities, health services or local authorities, have to do more to ensure people know where they can turn to for help when they need it so they can live well with sight loss.
We’re pleased the Scottish Government is taking action in this area. Their new Eyes.Scot website provides excellent information on eye health services and the plans for a new National Low Vision Service means people will receive speedier support when they have been diagnosed with an eye condition.
However, with the impact of Covid resulting in waiting times for treatment for a number of eye conditions extending to many months, right now more people are having to cope with sight loss. Even after waiting times return to normal, which we hope will be soon, there will still be an increased need for support.
As Scotland’s biggest third sector sight loss organisation, Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans recognise we also need to reach many more people affected by sight loss. In a survey of over 200 people who use our services, 55 per cent of respondents said they hadn’t received enough information about where they could find support after their diagnosis; while over 80 per cent said it was important to provide more support to family members and carers.Everyone affected by sight loss should have someone to turn to. That is why we have established Sight Scotland Support Line, which provides information and advice to people affected by sight loss throughout Scotland. Our freephone helpline 0800 024 8973 is available Monday to Friday from 9am–5pm. Our community team respond to calls to provide tailored information and advice for blind and partially sighted people, as well as families and carers. We have also produced a new guide, ‘Support for Sight Loss’ which is available on our website sightscotland.org.uk.
Maree Todd MSP, Scottish Government Minister with responsibility for visual impairment, officially launched the Sight Scotland Support Line during National Eye Health Week in September. We’re pleased the support we’re providing is already making a difference. Agnes Stevenson, aged 78, of Prestonpans, East Lothian was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration three years ago. Struggling with the impact of her sight loss, Agnes reached out to Sight Scotland earlier this year.
Agnes told us: “I didn’t know anything about macular degeneration. When I was told I had it, I was devastated.
“There must be hundreds of people like me. The Sight Scotland Support Line can be a huge help for people impacted by sight loss. I feel I have some support now. There was somebody there who would listen to me. It’s been a blessing. They’ve introduced me to different options and given me so much confidence. I see a future for myself and that is thanks to Sight Scotland.
“There is somebody there for you. You don’t need to be alone.”
Hawys Kilday, Director of Services for Sight Scotland