Services for blind people in Wokingham are criticised
Published: 2 Oct 2013 12:300 comments
A study by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) claims that blind people in the borough have suffered a 83% drop in care and support on offer by the council since 2005.
Wokingham Borough Coun-cil was ranked fifth in the top 20 worst authorities by the RNIB.
However, in a statement, the council has strongly questioned the figures used in the report, and added: “Wokingham is concerned to read the content of the RNIB report and presentation of some of the data provided within it.
“We believe the data is taken from statutory returns provided and doesn’t accurately reflect the offer of support we provide to blind and visually impaired residents.”
The RNIB report said there were 120 service users in 2005/06, falling to 20 service users in 2012/13 – a 83% drop.
The council confirmed that in 2012/13 it had 20 service users who needed critical care support, based solely on visual impairment, and it had tightened its eligibility criteria for statutory social care support in 2008.
However, the council pointed out that another 70 people were supported through rehabilitation or other services, and said: “The number of people who receive support is far greater than thaose cited in the report.” There are four bands relating to blindness – critical, moderate, substantial and low. Before, 2008 the council had provided services for critical, moderate and substantial but now only focuses on critical after a consultation in 2007.
Rachel Harby, public relations officer for the RNIB, said: “RNIB is not saying these areas don’t have some services, local societies etc in place – we’re simply reporting the raw data that local authorities themselves have reported.
“Some blind and partially sighted people might have benefited from rehab and been effectively helped so they didn’t need to go on to receive long-term care but this would only make sense if the numbers receiving rehab had gone up between 2005/6 and 2012/13.
“In fact when you look at the numbers, the number of blind and partially sighted people receiving 'professional support’ comprising rehab went down 7% in this period.”
The council claims the figures do not encompass other forms of support and organisations it commissions to provide care.
Data for the RNIB report was gathered from local government data and Freedom of Information requests to councils with social services responsibilities.
'Facing Blindness Alone’, is available at www.rnib.org.uk/get