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MSP fights to save Highlands sight charity

By Tom Ramage

Highland 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 March 31 deadline as NHS Highland are unable to uplift funding – even though Sight Action have had no uplift in funding for the past 12 years compounded, she believes, by a 10% cut in funding in 2010-11.

Rhoda Grant MSP, Helen Besent (Visual Impairment Support Assistant), Gillian Mitchell (Executive Manager), Mary Munro (Admin Officer).
Rhoda Grant MSP, Helen Besent (Visual Impairment Support Assistant), Gillian Mitchell (Executive Manager), Mary Munro (Admin Officer).

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 (Labour) 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.

She said today (February 17): “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 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.”

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