The Dorset Blind Association (DBA) is set to face significant service cutbacks due to financial pressures. Funding for the charity has dropped significantly after the withdrawal of the charity’s National Lottery Grant.
Many partially sighted and blind people in Dorset rely on the charity for support, with this increasing each year.
Jonathan Holyhead, CEO of the DBA, said that there has been a “reduction in local authority support for blind and partially sighted people across the whole country” and that this “reflects reduction in central government funding generally”.
The end of their National Lottery Grant has hit at a time of financial stress on the charity, as it has also seen a huge drop in other vital sources, posing a problem for the charity to provide its usual services.
Mr Holyhead said: “In the current financial year we are down £100,000 on what we would usually expect and need. The Lottery Grant would have historically provided us with 20% of our annual income.”
Last year the charity was forced to make redundancies to their community support workers team.
A user of the DBA’s services, Chris, has been helped by the charity significantly.
He said: “The DBA need to get more funding so they can get more volunteers. You need people, even a voice on the end of the phone is important.
“One volunteer might meet one person for five minutes, but that five minutes is a life time for them. That’s how important volunteers are, you can’t get past that.”
Council support for people with sight loss has been cut by half since 2008, as well as help from the NHS being limited due to strict budget and time constraints, means that more people are turning to charities such as the DBA.
Mr Holyhead said: “Every time someone with sight loss can’t be helped by a local authority or health service, because they are stretched as well, their first port of call is a charity like ours. That is driving demand of our services up.”
“We really need to find another £40,000 by the end of March to ensure all our current services can continue.” Mr Holyhead said that leaving those with sight loss to cope on their own is “not acceptable”. He said: “You wouldn’t want that for yourself or a loved one.”
Dorset Blind Association already caters for 30,000 people in Dorset with serious sight loss, which Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) research predicts will double by 2050.
The charity has already received a positive response to their appeal but still need the help of the public to ensure they can continue to provide this service to partially sighted and blind people in Dorset.
Mr Holyhead added: “If we can’t get enough funding, we will have to start cutting back on the services and then fewer blind and partially sighted people across Dorset will receive help.”