Our new policy function

Posted: 14/02/2018 | ,

Our new policy function

By Richard Baker, Policy Manager

With the number of people living with sight loss in Scotland expected to double by 2050 in line with population ageing, it is more important than ever to ensure that the challenges facing vision impaired people are taken into account by politicians and other decision makers. 

John Swinney MSP meets a pupil during a visit to the Royal Blind SchoolThat is why I am delighted to have joined Royal Blind Group as Policy Manager. I previously held a similar role at Age Scotland as Policy and Communications Manager. So I am very much aware that an increasing number of older people in our society means that our services and communities will need to be better equipped to support and include people with sight loss.

This new policy function is part of Royal Blind’s commitment to improving the lives of people of all ages living with sight loss across the country. Policy changes at all levels of government affect people with vision impairment, particularly as they affect public services such as health and social care, education and support for employment.

Each of our services are affected by areas of policy which are currently undergoing major reforms. The integration of health and social care and debates over care funding are crucial for our specialist care homes. The Scottish Government’s proposals for schools reforms and consultation on mainstreaming will be of great significance for the Royal Blind School and Learning Hub. The UK Government has set out a 10 year strategy to help more disabled people into work over the next decade. Under 50% of people with a disability are in work compared with 80% of non-disabled people. This will be of importance to the Scottish Braille Press as an employer of disabled people. As part of the broad coalition of charities involved in Unforgotten Forces, Scottish War Blinded is seeking to support more older veterans and raise awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant.

Of course there are many other issues as well, from social security reform to NHS workforce planning. We have just responded to the Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee’s Inquiry into the impact of leaving the EU on health and social care, given we employ a number of staff from countries in the EU.  

Although we are at the outset of establishing our policy function, we feel we are well placed to make a significant contribution to policy development for vision impaired people. Our input will come through the expertise of the staff in our services and crucially through the views, experience and knowledge of the people who use our services. The Residents’ Committees of our care homes, the Pupil Forum of the Royal Blind School and the Members’ Council of Scottish War Blinded will all have an important role in policy development, to ensure that our positions on issues are informed by the lived experiences of vision impaired people.

In what is an important year for Royal Blind and Scottish War Blinded there will be many developments which will affect the policy context for vision impairment for the years ahead.  In collaboration with the vision impaired people we work with, we look forward to engaging with politicians, academics, third sector partners, the media and many others to achieve the positive change we seek for blind and partially sighted people in Scotland.