Thursday, January 08, 2015

Getting people the help they need

Today I've had a lesson in how difficult it can be to get people the help they need.

Back in July of last year, I contacted Insight Gloucestershire about the befriending role they'd advertised for. By August, I was trained up, approved and ready. Initially, I got a few messages about a lady who might be interested in having visits, only she's very busy at the moment. That was great: if they're physically able, I think, ideally, you hope to build their confidence till you're out of a job, really, and it sounded like she was well on the way.

But that was it.

Later, through driving for Outlook -- Insight's young adults' social club -- I met some younger users. Last month, one of them said that, if I had some time on my hands, Guide Dogs was "desperate for people in Cheltenham." Their website didn't list anything closer than Gloucester, but, through the contact passed to me, I quickly learned that it was true.

I've just now returned from their My Guide - Level 1 training -- which, incidentally, is identical to the training I received from Insight last summer -- to learn that there's a woman who has been waiting to be matched up in the My Guide program since June 2014.

And she lives five minutes from me.

It's so upsetting. To think that this woman isn't suffering in silence, like so many sight-impaired people in this country; no, she's made the effort, asked for help, but because I offered my time and services -- call it befriending, or My Guide, or whatever; it's all the same thing, really -- to a different organisation, we both spent more than six months waiting.

Thanks to the people I've met through Insight, I now have some idea of how isolating these sorts of disabilities are; how low you can get. Six months could be an eternity. Guide Dogs was just telling me that the typical wait-time for a dog is a year. Waiting six months, a year, for some independence, for that little bit of help to build your confidence from, is something I really can't imagine.

I don't know what the answer is, but surely there needs to be some sort of front door that everyone -- users and service providers -- talks to, as a first step. Even if it simply routes them to the appropriate spot, a situation like this wouldn't have happened.


Steve Martin said...

Hi John,
Yes we completely agree with you, it’s so frustrating that there is no “one-stop” shop that will match up volunteers to people who need help in the sight impaired world. Unfortunately we have 3000 people on our data base here at Insight and statistics tell us that there are another 20,000 out there in Gloucestershire that we don’t know about and that don’t know about us. Sometimes we have a volunteer, such as yourself, who would like to be a befriender but we don’t have a client to match them to at the time. Luckily, you were happy to help our young adults’ group, Outlook, so we still managed to retain you as a volunteer. Often it works the other way round and we have clients looking for a befriender but no volunteer available in that area.
We really appreciate all the help you give to Outlook and it’s fantastic that you managed to get someone you could visit as well. As long as someone with a sight impairment is receiving the support they need, we’re more than happy if it comes from other avenues!

John Jarvis said...

Thanks for the comment, Steve. Those statistics are harrowing. 3000! Surely some of them are like the lady in my post: hoping to get some guiding until, for example, they're confident enough to get to and from the Honeybourne Line to walk their dog, or to and from the lido in the summer for a weekly swim.

I just wonder whether your befriender role is too restrictive. Do those 3000 -- to say nothing of the 20000 others -- know that it's all about their goals? Whatever they want to do, big or small, they can get help?

Maybe I'm naive, but each of the other three volunteers in the My Guide training yesterday said they had no idea about all the services Guide Dogs offers. Now that's Birmingham and a different organisation, but I know I could pull people aside on our High Street and get the same response.

Do you feel you're getting the word out enough at the moment?