Charity claims blind people ‘left to fend for themselves’

The RNIB report claims blind people are being failed by the government

The RNIB report claims blind people are being failed by the government - Credit: Archant

The number of blind people receiving council support has dropped by nearly half since last year and by 68 per cent since 2005.

A report from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) found that only 75 visually impaired people in the borough used council services in 2012/13, down from 135 in 2011/12, and 68 per cent lower than in 2005.

However, the council disputed the RNIB’s data, saying it has offered support and advice to 904 blind and partially sighted people over the last year, with 448 people receiving specialist help from rehabilitation officers.

A council spokesman said: “We are proud to say that in Barking and Dagenham we continue to buck the trend, retaining two full time, fully qualified rehabilitation officers and an additional full time specialist for people who have a combined sight and hearing impairment.”

He said this meant there were two officers for a population of 180,000, one of the best levels of provision in the country.

The RNIB report ‘Facing Blindness Alone’ is very critical of government cuts in support services for blind people.

The charity said the decline of service users in Barking and Dagenham was part of a national trend, and praised the council for being the first to set up a Vision Strategy Group to work on care for blind people.

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Richard Holmes, RNIB Regional Campaigns Officer for London, said blind people were “being left to fend for themselves” and called on the government to ensure its Care Bill addressed this.

The research was commissioned by the RNIB using council data analysed by the National Centre for Social Research and data obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

Keith Denham, a blind resident of Arden Crescent, Dagenham, said: “The council is alright at providing talking book machines and equipment if you want it, but if you want to talk to someone about issues there is no-one to listen.”