“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see” – Mark Twain
This is the quote that sits above me on the noticeboard. It is one the welfare rights team here at Deafblind Scotland embody.
Working in any Welfare Rights team can see you assisting those with complex needs, from different backgrounds to ensure they are given fair representation that is all the more complex when those who need support have a hearing and sight impairment.
Many people living with sight or hearing loss do not have the means in which to research what benefits would they could be eligible for. Even if they did have this information, making a phone call or filling in a form would be very challenging or impossible. We feel that with the correct support those with dual sensory loss can flourish and feel confident to seek advice on welfare rights and even challenge decisions.
We assist those in their preferred communication whether that is speech/hearing, British sign language, Deafblind manual, Deafblind hands-on signing and so on. Those who seek help may be deafblind or may have been assessed for a visual impairment. We understand people with a visual impairment can also struggle to access benefits. We can offer communication support such as large print, braille or moon (a system of raised shapes, which can help blind people, of any age, to read by touch). It is imperative that the service user understands what we are applying for on their behalf and that they are happy for us to do so.
We make home visits which service users prefer as they do not have to organise a guide or transport and endure the stress and anxiety that comes with an unknown journey. Our job is to assist them in their welfare rights and treat them as an individual and put the control in their hands where at some points in their life they feel this has been taken away from them. This could be something as simple as reading and interpreting letters for them or attending appeal hearings with them.
We work in partnership with other mainstream organisations and also take welfare rights referrals from them
As a charity Deafblind Scotland have around 750 members with about 95 accessing the guide service. They are guided and given communication support to get to medical appointments, go shopping, go to the bank, socialise at clubs or whatever else the service user would like. The service user builds up a partnership with the guides and from these visits guides have referred members to Welfare Rights. Service users know that the Welfare Rights team have the same understanding of their various health conditions or communication needs. This puts them at ease and feel more comfortable accessing the service. Different services may not be able to easily explain what they need, understand the communication they need and most importantly deserve to have.
We have received positive feedback from service users such as; “Just to say thanks so much for all your recent help, advice & support with the PIP process. I really have appreciated this so much as I know I really couldn’t have managed this without your involvement. It’s a really stressful process to go through and you really helped in easing a lot of the stress and pressure for me”. “It’s really wonderful that Deafblind have received the financial funding to start and hopefully continue this vital service and support for the most ‘vulnerable’ members in the community.” Messages like this spur us on and let us know that the assistance we are giving is person-centred.
Deafblind Scotland’s Welfare Rights team has been supporting those with dual sensory loss and visually impaired adults since August 2014 and has raised more than £800,000 for those we have assisted.