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.