MSP determined to help in the fight to save Highlands and Islands charity - Third sector groups await decision on funding
17th February 2020
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has tabled a motion for debate in the Scottish Parliament in a bid to save a local charity, Sight Action, as NHS Highland make funding cuts and re-design services for the blind and visually impaired.
It was indicated to Mrs Grant at the end of last year that Sight Action's valuable services to almost 3,000 blind or visually impaired adults and children will no longer continue past the 31st March 2020. NHS Highland are unable to uplift funding - even though Sight Action have had no uplift in funding for the past twelve years compounded, she believes, by a 10% cut in funding in 2010-11.
This will also have a knock-on effect to service users on the Western Isles as Western Isles Council also have an agreement with Sight Action to provide specialist services.
Mrs Grant has contacted NHS Highland asking if they have done an Islands Impact Assessment in Skye where some of the service users live. She has also asked what services will be available post 31st March and has contacted Highland Council as the statutory duty to provide these services lies with them. Mrs Grant has now also submitted a motion for debate in the Scottish Parliament.
Rhoda Grant said: "Firstly, my primary concern is with these 3,000 people who will be affected by this. Sight Action offers an invaluable service to these people as they provide not only physical and practical help but also emotional support."
Some service users have taken part in a survey conducted by Sight Action where they were asked what the impact would be if these services were removed. One said they would be devastated if they had nobody local that they knew. Another said removing the support would be so detrimental and they would be lost without such a committed and local service. Another anonymously said they would feel totally isolated as they know of no other organisation in the Highlands that offers practical support on how to live life without sight.
Mrs Grant continued: "The service users and I want this charity to be saved. I am concerned about what level of service will be available after 31st March and we need to ensure service users receive the same amount of care and support and that the health board and local authority don't cut this to the bare bones of a service."
Any reduction to Sight Action are likely to have a knock on affect in Caithness as the local group are contracted for 15 hours per week as part of the services they provide for the blind and sight affected people.
Recent meetings by NHS Highland with third sector representatives did not give any comfort as no details were given of possible funding for the next financial year commencing on 1st April 2020.
Motion submitted (11.02.20)
Motion Number: S5M-20810
Lodged By: Rhoda Grant
Date Lodged: 11/02/2020
Title: ♦ Highlands and Islands Charity Hands Back Contract Due to Lack of Funding
That the Parliament acknowledges that the Highlands and Islands charity, Sight Action, will no longer be able to provide services on behalf of NHS Highland and The Highland Council beyond 31 March 2020; notes that Sight Action provides support and rehabilitation to almost 3,000 blind and visually-impaired adults and children; understands that the reason for Sight Action handing back the contract is due to there being no uplift in funding for the last 12 years, compounded by what it understands is a 10% funding cut in 2010-11; believes that the result of this will be that future services and support will not be carried out by low-vision specialist rehabilitation workers; acknowledges the view that statutory care in the community should be funded properly so that services, such as this one, can continue to provide specialist help, and sympathises with service users during this uncertain time.
Photo (left to right) - Rhoda Grant MSP, Helen Besent (Visual Impairment Support Assistant), Gillian Mitchell (Executive Manager), Mary Munro (Admin Officer).