Over 50 per cent of sight loss in the UK is avoidable. This shocking fact is the reason we spent £3,588,000 this year making eyecare services more appropriate and accessible to patients and working to ensure sight-saving treatments are available to all.
By making sure the commissioners of sight loss services and the people working in health care are aware of the interventions that can save people’s sight, we believe we can reduce the levels of unnecessary sight loss in the UK. We want people to be better equipped to look after their own sight by being more aware of the causes and potential signs of sight loss, and when people are diagnosed with an eye condition we want to make sure they are able to access appropriate treatments, are able to understand their eye condition and make informed choices based on understanding potential outcomes.
Highlighted activity of the year
Our Spot the signs campaign has introduced thousands of people to our work and the crucial eye health messages that could help save their sight in the future. Our Community Engagement Projects (CEPs) are in full flow and this year we began trialling potential models of work which will ultimately help reduce the levels of avoidable sight loss in key community groups. We have relaunched our eye health magazine “NB” as a free magazine so we can ensure vital eye health messages are getting to as many eye health professionals as possible.
Ensuring that proven eyecare treatments remain available on the NHS is proving challenging in the current economic climate but we continue to campaign for changes to restrictive practices and have had particular impact this year ensuring continued availability of cataract treatments.
We have launched a sight loss data tool on our website which helps service planners by providing vital local detail demonstrating the need for eye health and sight loss services. Our local campaigning work has helped to influence the Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) and should result in an improvement in local services and improved provision of eye health services. Finally, our eye health experts continue to inform and reassure people with a level of expert service that isn’t available elsewhere. We continue to be the most trusted source of eye health information for anybody losing their sight and wanting to know more about their eye condition.
Profile of sight loss
Impact goal: Increase the profile of eye health and prevention of avoidable sight loss at a national and local level across the UK
This year, to achieve this impact goal, we have campaigned to ensure that eye health and the support required by people with sight loss are included in JSNAs, have collaborated with the wider eye health sector to ensure eye health is recognised as a public health priority, and we have begun to try and influence NHS eye health provision by showcasing the findings of our Community Engagement Projects (CEPs).
As part of ongoing work, we have actively influenced 32 of the approximately 150 JSNAs across the country. We have already secured the inclusion of eye health within six JSNAs, including Essex and North Yorkshire, have strong support for it to be included in another six, including Kent and Birmingham, and are in discussions with another 20 areas. There is still much more to do to influence all JSNAs, but these successes will ensure that eye health is included in healthcare provision available in these areas and serve as an example for others to follow suit.
This year has also seen a major success in national recognition of eye health. From April 2013 sight loss became part of the Public Health Outcomes Framework in England. Anita Lightstone, UK Vision Strategy Programme Director and Chief Operations Officer for VISION 2020 (UK) Limited said:
"By working together the eye health sector has ensured that preventable sight loss has been recognised by the Government as a public health priority for the first time. This major achievement is one further crucial step on our journey to improving the eye health of the nation."
Finally, although it is early days in delivering the full impact of the projects, our CEP work is already being recognised. In Bradford six GP practices are already trialling recommended practices to improve diabetes self-care within the local community, and the potential impact of the Glasgow CEP on community healthcare services has been officially recognised by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Community Health Partnership.
Impact goal: Increase the awareness of eye health amongst the general public and our priority populations
We have delivered a number of activities this year to increase the awareness of eye health. In March we launched our Spot the signs campaign with a series of radio, newspaper and cinema advertisements, to alert people to the threats to sight of age-related eye conditions and to encourage people to look after their eyes.
This year our five Community Engagement Project (CEP) areas have started to put interventions into practice focusing on reaching at risk populations such as South Asian, African and African-Caribbean communities and people from areas of socio-economic deprivation. In addition, National Eye Health Week engaged people throughout the UK with key eye health messages with particularly strong activity in Wales and Scotland and a GP surgery based campaign across England. We have also continued our work with GPs via the Doctors.net UK training site to raise levels of understanding of sight loss and position RNIB as a key source of information for doctors.
The Spot the signs campaign had a significant impact. Over 330,000 people visited our website as a result, and over 18,000 downloaded information on crucial eye health messages that could help identify signs of sight loss and promote action to prevent it. Our CEP work is a long-term project that is identifying and promoting the most effective ways to overcome barriers to eye health, especially for those most at risk. Ultimately learning from the CEPs will be shared across the NHS leading to a reduction in sight loss. National Eye Health Week delivered eye health messages through television, newspapers, magazines, and events, across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, engaging with GPs, politicians and the general public. We believe this exposure to new information on the importance of eye health will have a similar effect to our GP training work where nearly nine in ten GPs engaged reported their intention to modify their clinical practice in relation to eye health.
About your sight
Impact goal: Increase people’s access to appropriate eyecare and understanding to manage their own eye health
In May this year we launched our Save Our Sight campaign to improve access to the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of the four leading causes of blindness. We initially focussed on access to cataract treatment throughout the UK, highlighting the fact that over half of primary care trusts in England are forcing people to live with unnecessary sight loss. Our Eye Health Information Service provides the specialist information people require when they have been diagnosed with a sight threatening eye condition. This year the service dealt with over 4,400 direct enquiries. Over 235,000 copies of our Department of Health approved “Understanding” series of eye health leaflets were distributed during the year. We also produced audio and text versions of the most popular leaflets in community ethnic languages, which are available from our website at rnib.org.uk/eyehealth
Through our Save Our Sight campaign we have challenged restrictive cataract treatment policies and succeeded in overturning restrictions in seven PCTs with a further 26 currently reviewing their policies as a direct result of our intervention. We also managed to overturn policies in 14 of the 19 PCTs we challenged regarding their service for the treatment of retinal vein occlusion (RVO). We have successfully lobbied NICE to get a number of sight-saving new drugs made available on the NHS, including Eyelea for the treatment of wet AMD. All of this fantastic work will ensure fewer people unnecessarily losing their sight.
We also know how effective and important our Eye Health Information Service is. In this year’s impact survey, 74 per cent of respondents felt that the information they received was better than the information they had received from other sources.
"The information you gave me was much better – the eye nurse specialist knew nothing about my situation and was rather dismissive of what I said."
User of the Eye Health Information Service.
75 per cent of respondents to the survey felt more in control of their situation as a result of talking to the Eye Health Information Service.
The information was not scary and it made sense. I was able to listen to it several times which helped me to understand it better. It made me feel included and not left out. They gave me time, before I was anxious and worried.
User of the Eye Health Information Service.
Our impact goals in 2013/2014
1. We will improve the eye health of high risk populations by improving the delivery and uptake of primary and secondary care in three of five areas, by influencing commissioners and service providers.
2. We will increase the awareness of eye health amongst the general public and our priority populations through public awareness campaigns and targeting eye health information for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups.
3. We will maintain or increase access to eye treatment services for people at risk of sight loss in NHS services and campaign for new treatments to be made available on the NHS.
Eye Health Information Service
Our work helping people better understand their eye condition and potential treatment is vitally important to many people coming to terms with losing their sight.
Gerald received a copy of our Understanding eye conditions related to diabetes leaflet after he had spoken to our Helpline about his deteriorating sight.
For want of a better expression RNIB have ‘opened my eyes’ to many aspects of living with almost total blindness, including taking up braille at the age of 74! Even after being diabetic for 48 years, and helping myself and my wife, who is 81 years old, to live at home and manage as well as we do. I also enjoy RNIB’s talking books and music.
Carla contacted our Eye Health Information Service when she wanted to find out more about laser treatment for her glaucoma.
I have been impressed with the compassionate tone and the level of knowledge. I leave every conversation not questioning anything. I feel reassured that what I am told is factually correct. Everyone communicate incredible well, I never feel rushed in fact I feel like they want to stay on phone till I’ve exhausted all the possible questions I might want to ask.
Supporting independent living
We are committed to doing all we can to help people living with a sight problem to maintain their independence and have the opportunity to lead as full and enjoyable a life as possible. This is why we have spent £87,346,000 this year on the services, support and solutions that enable people to remain independent.
Coming to terms with the fact that you are losing your sight is incredibly hard. We want the best possible support to be available to everyone at the time that they need it, and for some this starts directly after diagnosis. Over the last few years we have worked hard to increase the quantity and quality of support available in the eye clinic for people just diagnosed as losing their sight.
Some people benefit hugely from peer support in coming to terms with losing their sight. Having the opportunity to share your thoughts and concerns and learn from others in the same position can prove to be a very positive experience.
Economic independence is a vital factor in someone’s overall independence. We work with employers and blind and partially sighted people to maximise employment opportunities, we also help blind and partially sighted people to access their entitlements and ensure their needs are considered in the planning of new assessment criteria for benefits and welfare support.
Highlighted activity of the year
We are immensely proud of the fact that our Helpline was able to deal with more enquiries this year than in any previous year. People contacted us with over 466,000 enquiries during the year, and we saw an increasing complexity to these enquiries with people requiring our support to come to terms with the impact that the economic climate and changes to benefit systems and support services are having on living with sight loss. We continue to support people in claiming and receiving the benefits they are entitled to and speak up for the needs of blind and partially sighted people when changes to welfare legislation are discussed. This year we had fantastic impact securing improvements to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) criteria for blind people.
We have increased the quantity and quality of support available to people in eye clinics at the emotional time when they are diagnosed with a sight-threatening eye condition. This year across RNIB and Action for Blind People, and throughout the UK, we have supported just under 19,000 people at this critical time.
More than 30,000 people received face-to-face support around the products and aids available to help people live with sight loss. There are more than 40,000 people receiving books and magazines in a format they can read from our National Library Service, and RNIB membership is at its highest level for two years.
This year we supported 279 children and young people and 207 people aged 19-25 to ensure they have the same level of access to educational opportunities as their sighted peers. We have launched the free Load2Learn service supplying pupils and professionals with online accessible resources for students with sight problems.
We continue to be very proud of the recognition that our schools, colleges and care homes are receiving for their excellent provision. We were honoured by HRH Princess Anne opening our RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning.
Finally, as part of the Vision 2020 Future of rehab group we developed the Adult UK Sight Loss Pathway to support blind and partially sighted people to get the right support, at the right time, from the right people.
Impact goal: Increase the awareness of blind and partially sighted people to manage their sight loss and increase their awareness of social services and services in the community appropriate to their needs
This year we have been able to increase the reach and quality of eye clinic support available to people at the point of diagnosis. Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs) from the RNIB Group have supported 18,840 people during the year, and overall support is now available for patients in nearly half of eye clinics across the UK. To improve quality we have trained a record 42 people on our Eye Clinic Support Studies Course and begun the SEARCH project (Support for early reach in clinics and hospitals) to increase the confidence and competence of volunteers within the sight loss sector who support those at the point of diagnosis.
Our Helpline gave information, support and advice to a record number of people during the year, and this despite the fact that we once again saw an increase in the complexity of the enquiries we were receiving with people struggling to come to terms with the impact of the depressed economic climate on their lives.
This year we also launched our Sightline directory, which will increase people’s knowledge and opportunity to access services and support available in their area.
Our growing evidence of the impact of ECLOs shows the value and continued need for the role. Nine in ten patients didn’t know about all the services and support available to them before seeing the ECLO, and as a result of our support, 8 in 10 people who had seen an ECLO at the eye clinic said that it had helped them to start coming to terms with losing their sight. In Scotland, 9 in 10 people said that RNIB’s intervention was the main factor in improving their independence and quality of life after being diagnosed with sight loss.
"The ECLO explained registration and a variety of support services. She provided emotional support, referred me to the sensory team and arranged for a low vision assessment with volunteer transport to and from the centre. The ECLO also provided me with contact information on national and local support services such as Age Concern and RNIB. I was so very appreciative of the support provided."
Patient of RNIB Cymru ECLO.
In addition, the SEARCH project has begun strongly and volunteers are reporting to us increased confidence and skill in giving information and support to patients in eye clinics where there isn’t an ECLO. Finally, our Helpline also continues to be a vital source of increased reassurance and confidence for people:
"When I reached breaking point you were there, ready to help me out of the depths of my despair."
Caller to the RNIB Helpline.
Impact goal: Increase the confidence, self-esteem and social inclusion of older blind and partially sighted people through peer support networks and community engagement.
Our work to deliver this impact includes our Finding Your Feet course. This gives people the opportunity to come to terms with their sight loss by meeting people in a similar situation to themselves and discussing their challenges and the potential solutions. Since 2009 over 400 people have attended the courses.
We also bring blind and partially sighted adults together via our Talk and Support groups. These telephone groups – which include Telebefriending socialising groups and Telephone book clubs which quite often include talks with famous authors – give people the opportunity to socialise and learn from the experiences of other people in a similar situation to themselves. This year 1,955 people were involved in weekly telephone groups.
This year the Stafford OPTiC project (Older People Taking Control) was launched by a partnership of organisations including RNIB, Action for Blind People, Age UK, local charities and the local fire and rescue service, with the aim of working together to identify older people who would benefit from peer support groups and buddying schemes to help build their confidence and understanding of eye health.
An external evaluation of Finding Your Feet found that participants reported increased social inclusion and reduced stress as a result of the course, and that these impacts can still be present after a year.
"It reinforced the fact that I’m not on my own, there are others sharing similar problems – there is information out there to help and it’s good to get that information."
Finding Your Feet programme attendee.
"The confidence increase has been sustained, I got involved in things I wouldn’t have got involved in had I not gone on the course."
Finding Your Feet programme attendee.
Our Talk and Support groups continue to deliver positive change to people’s lives also:
"I’ve found that it’s given me a lot more courage now to go back out and start to do work in the community. And the ladies that make up our little group are really lovely. You feel like you’ve all known each other for many, many more years than the three years."
Talk and Support participant.
Our OPTiC project is also beginning to make an impact. Over 4,000 households have been screened and offered eye health advice this year, around 300 of whom have been signposted to support organisations and community groups suitable to their needs. These people may not have been linked in without this work, and we hope the support will go on to make a real difference to their day-to-day lives.
Impact goal: Maintain the economic independence and associated quality of life gained by blind and partially sighted people by protecting their statutory benefit entitlements and influencing PIP assessment criteria and implementation procedures.
Across the RNIB Group this year we have given over 6,000 people the support they need to understand and claim the benefits they are entitled to. This support has been vitally important during this time of economic change and uncertainty.
We have campaigned to change the criteria by which blind and partially sighted people will be assessed when claiming PIP which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This included over 90 per cent of MPs being lobbied by their constituents, organising blindfold walks with MPs in their constituencies, using national and local press to raise the profile of our campaign and much more besides.
This year we have identified £12.9million in previously unclaimed benefit entitlements for 6,191 blind and partially sighted people. Impact evidence from our service in RNIB Cymru shows that this income helps reduce social isolation, improve emotional wellbeing, and help relieve the pressure on their family and carers.
Our successful PIP campaign secured clear changes to the criteria by which people will be assessed. As a direct result blind adults who will now be entitled to the enhanced rate of PIP will be over £1,750 a year better off than we originally feared. This income will allow people to maintain their independence in areas of life others take for granted such as travel and seeing family.
Impact goal: Improve the quality of life of working age blind and partially sighted people through delivering existing employment services and developing new interventions.
This year has seen the successful conclusion of our ENABLER project. This has been developing a toolkit to assess the skills, aspirations and barriers to employment of blind and partially sighted people, and piloting new ways of moving them closer to employment, an outcome many find extremely challenging if not impossible. Overall through our employment support work, we have worked with employers and trained blind and partially sighted people to secure new employment or retain their job when they were losing their sight.
Due to the declining trends in employment we have undertaken an inquiry into the employment of blind and partially sighted people in the UK and we will use the findings to develop the support we provide.
Overall this year we have helped blind and partially sighted people secure or retain 804 jobs. Over half of these are permanent roles, and over half are within the private sector. One in three jobs were for clients under 25 which we hope will ensure they are able to have equal opportunities to build careers as others in society. Although the overall figure is lower than we had hoped due to few referrals from Government Work programmes, we are pleased to have helped find employment in a time when many are finding it hard.
The ENABLER project worked with a small group of clients who had not worked for a long time or faced significant barriers to employment. Of the 14 blind and partially sighted people involved, 12 secured positive outcomes: three in paid employment, three in full-time education and six in voluntary positions. The toolkit used to help these individuals will be shared across the sector, hopefully changing practice wider than RNIB.
"I’m looking at jobs that I never dreamed of looking at and applying for them. I realised that I have skills that I picked up when volunteering that can be transferred, such as teaching and working with mental health issues."
An ENABLER project participant
"It’s been life changing. Personally I’ve gone through the ceiling. I can present myself in a proper manner... Now, I read the job description and person spec and it means something to me. What I’ve learnt has given me so much more of a chance."
An ENABLER project participant
Our impact goals in 2013/2014
1. We will increase the emotional wellbeing and practical skills of people at the point of diagnosis by continuing to develop the quality and quantity of early intervention support in eye clinics.
2. We will increase the knowledge and preparedness of blind and partially sighted people for the transition from DLA to PIP in 2014 and 2015.
3. We will improve the quality of education for blind and partially sighted people by increasing the support and information available to education professionals and making mainstream education accessible.
4. We will increase the employment opportunity of blind and partially sighted people of working age by increasing their work-related skills and confidence and working with employers to raise awareness.
Anna is 15 years old and has been attending the RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning for the last ten years. Anna has cerebral palsy, could not see very much at all, has physical disabilities which meant she was using a wheelchair and had limited communication skills.
To begin with, Anna was very defensive, had no confidence and could not walk at all. But the physio team at the Pears Centre worked very hard with Anna and she moved from not being able to walk at all, to being able to walk with minimal assistance.
"It is believing in the young people as much as anything, and thinking they can achieve things that they might have thought unachievable before."
John, Anna’s father.
"We feel that Anna’s educational and physical needs are met by the school so we don’t feel that we have to be her physiotherapist, or her speech and language therapist, or her teacher, we can be her mum and her dad and her brother and try as far as possible just to enjoy the things that we would want to enjoy such as going on holiday, going out for meals and being together."
Jo, Anna’s mother.
Creating an inclusive society
We want the UK to be a better place to live for people who are blind or partially sighted. In 2012/13 we spent £9,395,000 working to improve the travel, shopping and banking experiences for people with sight problems, as well as ensuring better ways to read, watch television and get the most from technology.
Accessible mobile phones and the internet can be vital components of living independently for people with sight problems, and we worked with manufacturers and service providers to improve the accessibility of devices and online services. Finding the confidence to travel when you lose your sight can be difficult. We want blind and partially sighted people to get around safely and independently. To achieve this, we support blind and partially sighted people to challenge poor practice and work with transport organisations to make their services more accessible. Reading classics and the latest books is a joy for anyone with a love of reading, yet for many blind and partially sighted people this choice isn’t always possible. We have worked with publishers and retailers to ensure that more books are available to blind and partially sighted people in a format they can read; whether that is accessible eBooks, large print, braille or audio.
Highlighted activity from the year
We have had some great successes this year in our work to influence key industries to improve the availability of products and services that are accessible to blind and partially sighted people.
Our work with the banking industry had a major impact this year. In November 2012 Barclays introduced 2,500 talking ATMs, The Co-operative Bank has started to roll them out and we have commitments to do the same from Lloyds, Nationwide and NatWest. This will mean that for the first time, some blind and partially sighted people will be able to access their own money independently.
Our work behind the scenes also changed the mobile phone industry with all UK networks now offering at least three accessible mobile devices and Microsoft promising an in-built screen reader on the next version of the Windows Phone.
We encouraged more people with sight problems to try out new technologies, persuaded popular online services and apps to improve their accessibility, and launched an affordable computer with in-built screen reader and magnification.
More television programmes than ever before were audio described and we saw audio description move to some online TV services. With advice from our experts, Panasonic launched the world’s first range of digital televisions with integrated voice guidance; and after several years work with Ivona on a text-to-speech solution and manufacturers TVonics, the first talking Freeview and HD recorder was launched. Blind and partially sighted people also benefited from audio description on broadcast coverage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and at the Games themselves. Finally we launched our “Stop for me, speak to me” campaign to improve bus services for blind and partially sighted people, which has highlighted to the major bus operators the everyday problems blind and partially sighted people experience, and began discussions on the possible solutions.
Mobiles and the internet
Impact goal: Increase the accessibility of the internet and mobile phones for blind and partially sighted people through advocating and supporting changes to websites and apps.
We have worked with the developers of mobile devices to influence the development of a wider range of accessible options for people with sight problems. Our advocacy and consultancy with web developers has led to a wider range of websites being easier for people with sight problems to use.
This year’s Switch on to technology month proved more popular than ever. We ran a series of events, to promote new technology products, which could improve independence. We also expanded still further our Technology Support Squad which visits people in their home or helps them over the phone to get to grips with new technology such as computers, software, telephones, televisions and radios.
This year we have also increased our Phone Watch events which give industry professionals and blind and partially sighted people the opportunity to discuss the accessibility features of phones, running 25 events across the UK.
Thanks to our work advising and encouraging mobile phone companies, all UK mobile phone networks now offer at least three accessible mobile devices, and Microsoft are promising an in-built screen reader on the next version of the Windows Phone. We have influenced the increased accessibility of a number of online services including the Money Advice Service and the Money Saving Expert website, the Audible website where people can download audio books, and eBay who as well as the work they have already done with us to improve their service for blind and partially sighted people, will this year be getting feedback from our members on how it can be improved further.
Our evaluation of the Technology Support Squad shows that the service is having the positive effect we hoped it would have. 7 in 10 clients said we were able to resolve their query when we visited, 90 per cent said it made them feel more included in everyday life, and 89 per cent reported that the service had helped them become more independent.
"Thanks to the patient and helpful volunteer from the Technology Support Squad, I now love listening to my digital radio and have discovered dozens of new local and national stations."
Technology support squad user.
This year’s Switch on to technology month exceeded its objectives and reached over 9,000 people directly and online, over 1,200 of whom were involved in activities such as technology taster events.
The positive impact of Phone Watch events this year has led to partnerships and sponsorship from O2, and Qualcomm have agreed to fund a post for an additional member of the Phone Watch team in 2013/14. People attending the events find them incredibly valuable as part of the buying process, and also to give them more confidence with using devices they already own.
"Thrilled to bits to go. Feel much more confident using my new tablet/phone. I met other people and found out information about technology because since I lost my sight I felt lonely."
Impact goal: Increase access to independent travel for blind and partially sighted people by working with bus operators to make changes to their services and information
This year we launched our “Stop for me, speak to me” bus campaign, looking to secure improvements to driver awareness, behaviours and stopping practices. So far five RNIB member forums have set up workshops with representatives from bus companies, and there have been six “Swap with me” events involving blind and partially sighted people and bus companies to raise awareness of sight problems and bus travel. All of the major bus companies have been involved with the campaign in at least one part of the country.
Our travel and shopping buddy pilot project in Birmingham was completed this year. This project trained volunteers to act as “buddy” partners in escorting blind and partially sighted people to get around and shop. Over the two years, 78 blind and partially sighted people were involved in the project, and 46 volunteers were fully trained. We held our first Travel matters month in February 2013, with lots of targeted activity aimed at enabling more people to travel independently and safely. The month was a great success and we directly engaged with over 10,000 people.
This year we have also successfully installed our React wayfinding system at six new sites. This technology helps blind and partially sighted people to benefit from talking signs and talking bus stops and timetables.
The bus campaign is already making an impact in local areas including First Group in Worcester, which has agreed to work with local blind and partially sighted people on a regular basis to improve the training offered to their bus drivers, Arriva buses in Manchester, which has requested materials to improve bus driver training, Transport for London, which has agreed to hold events with all of the major bus companies in London, and Reading buses, which has been working closely with us on many aspects of their service. We also presented our “beacon” award to Trent Barton buses for its first-class customer service results: putting the customer at the heart of everything they do; and recruiting great drivers and providing them with first class visual awareness training. We will promote these fantastic initiatives, encouraging industry to follow this lead and service excellence for blind and partially sighted people. In evaluating the Birmingham travel buddy scheme, we found a range of positive impacts. Blind and partially sighted people became more confident in getting around outside the home, developed new friendships that reduced social isolation, and saved money through using less private transport; volunteers learnt more about sight problems in others and their own eye health; and transport providers were given valuable first hand feedback on the experiences of customers with sight problems using their services.
Impact goal: Improve the quality of life of blind and partially sighted people by making the most popular books in 2012/13 available in a format they can read
We have achieved a great deal through our influencing work with stakeholders across the digital publishing industry. We have developed positive working relationships with major publishers, such as Penguin and Simon and Schuster, device and app developers, such as Amazon, Kobo and Adobe as well as with umbrella bodies, such as the Publishers Association.
Our National Library Service continues to offer high quality giant print, DAISY audio and braille books for more than 40,000 users of the service. This year, we sent out over 1.5 million talking books.
We ran a number of outreach events across the UK raising awareness of the reading opportunities eBooks and downloadable audio books can offer to blind and partially sighted people, including hands on demonstrations of devices.
Our publishing influence led to the joint creation of the 'Joint Statement on Accessibility and eBooks' issued by The Publishers Association in April 2012. This called on the industry to incorporate features that assist accessibility for all readers.
Each year we measure the accessibility of the top 1,000 books. In 2009, there were no accessible books available from the mainstream. Thanks to our work with the industry and improvements to players, apps, eBooks and policies, this year 84 per cent of the top 1,000 titles were available as a fully accessible eBook.
The impact of our outreach events is illustrated by a young man who attended an event in Scotland. He came to find out how he could use eBooks and had no idea that the iPad he already owned had the capability to speak to him. We were able to show him how to do this and he was thrilled because he had been struggling to operate it and read his eBook collection.
"You can read the latest novel at the same time as everyone else is reading the latest novel."
Our impact goals in 2013/2014
1 We will improve the experience of independent travel of blind and partially sighted people by improving the range of accessible technology solutions and promoting good practice amongst travel providers.
2 We will increase the opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to shop and control their own money by influencing the accessibility of technology and the customer experience.
3 We will increase access for blind and partially sighted people to information, services and apps by influencing the accessibility of online services and mobile phones.
Engelina developed macular degeneration in her 70s. Before long she found herself unable to read or write. After visiting RNIB’s resource centre and getting some advice Engelina was able to get a computer with Zoom Text and a speaker to enable her to type emails and keep in touch with her family.
"I find the technology supplied by RNIB very helpful in my life, especially my computer. It is an enormous help to me, I could not do without it since I can’t see to read and I can’t see what I write. RNIB have helped me enormously with all the questions I’ve had about technology especially. I couldn’t do without RNIB."
We are now four years into the RNIB Group strategy for the five years to March 2014. This is based around the three aims of prevention of sight loss, independent living and creating an inclusive society. The Group Statement of Financial Activities (SOFA) reflects this strategy.
Of our overall incoming resources 61 per cent (2012: 58 per cent) came from fundraising activity (including 35 per cent, or £40.7million, from legacies; 2012: 32 per cent or £35.5million), 37 per cent (2012: 40 per cent) from service related income and 2 per cent (2012: 2 per cent) from other sources.
We have changed the basis of the estimation of the value of the legacy debtor in the financial statements as we believe our previous approach was too cautious. This has resulted in an uplift in the debtor value year on year of circa £4.7million in addition to an underlying increase of £0.5million.
Like many other voluntary organisations, we have felt the impact of government cuts on our service income which has fallen by £1.2million or 3 per cent (2012: £1.8million or 4 per cent). We endeavour to be constantly and consistently more effective whilst ensuring we are delivering to meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
Group incoming resources have risen by £5.4million (2012: fell by £4.7million). This is due to the two areas highlighted above, together with an increase in gains on disposal of properties which amounted to £1.5million (2012: rise of £0.7million), the reduction in income from the defined benefit scheme of £0.9million (2012: rise of £0.4million), a rise in investment income of £0.3million (2012: fall of £0.6million) and a rise in donations and gifts of £0.4million (2012: fall of £2.1million).
Our outgoing resources were split between supporting our three strategic aims of prevention of sight loss (3 per cent; 2012: 3 per cent), independent living (75 per cent; 2012: 75 per cent) and creating an inclusive society (9 per cent; 2012: 8 per cent), together with the costs of raising funds (12 per cent; 2012: 13 per cent) and the governance costs for the organisation (1 per cent; 2012: 1 per cent). What we did with these resources is explained in “Our work in 2012/13” earlier in this report. Group outgoing resources have risen by £3.7million primarily due to increased spend on supporting independent living.
RNIB’s associated charities are Action for Blind People, Cardiff, Vales and Valleys (CVV) and National Talking Newspapers and Magazines (NTNM). These charities contributed income of £23.1million (2012: £26million) of which £12.3million related to grants from RNIB (2012: £13.1million) and charitable activities of £23.3million (2012: £24.6million) to the Group in 2012/13.
Other significant activity during the year was:
We have spent £908,000 continuing the implementation of a new Customer Relationship Management system for the Charity to deliver improved customer interaction. This system will deepen our understanding of our customers needs and enable us to deliver services better; it should be in place in autumn 2013.
We have been able to continue to fund Eye Clinic Liaison Officers around the UK and have been working to influence the funding of these posts from government in the future.
We were able to make the Load2Learn service for schools to download accessible educational materials free for schools to use in 2012.
Free reserves at the end of the year stood at £20.7million (2012: £20.4million), which is broadly in line with our reserves policy.
An actuarial valuation was carried out at 31 March 2012 by the Pension Scheme’s actuaries “Aon Hewitt”, using the projected unit method. The valuation disclosed that the market value of the Scheme’s assets (excluding Voluntary Contributions) at that date was £149million, and that there was a deficit (calculated as the excess of the market value of the Scheme’s assets to the value of its past service ongoing liabilities, with allowance for future pay increases) of £10.1million. Contributions by RNIB on the defined benefit element of the Scheme increased to 12.9 per cent of pensionable salaries. In addition RNIB and Action share the administrative costs of the Scheme. As a part of the recovery plan RNIB agreed to make additional contributions of £830,000 a year until 30 June 2018. The pension scheme trustees have considered whether the measure used for inflation linked increases should be based on CPI rather than RPI. Given the Scheme rules, it has been decided to continue to use RPI.
The two subsidiary trading companies of the Group contributed £378,000 to the RNIB Group through gift aid, and two subsidiary charities gifted £267,000 to RNIB.
We are very grateful for the continued support of donors through legacies, gifts and donations, as well as the work of our many volunteers, which allows the vital work of RNIB to continue. The challenge of raising £66.5million (2012: £64.5million) for 2013/14 is a tall mountain to climb but we are convinced that we will achieve it so that we can ensure blind and partially sighted people receive the support they need and deserve.
Total voluntary income for 2012/13 amounted to £70.1million (2012: £64.5million), an increase of £5.6million against 2011/12 and ahead of our budget for the year. We are pleased to have achieved this against the background of the current economic difficulties that we all face, though it should be noted that this result is positively impacted by the change in the approach to the estimation of the legacy debtor as noted in the Financial review. Gifts in kind included in voluntary income amount to £1.1million for free advertising in relation to Read for RNIB Day and £0.4million for pro bono work from various firms of lawyers.
On 1 April 2009 RNIB and Action entered into an association agreement. Under the terms of that agreement RNIB has taken over the responsibility for the fundraising operation of Action in return for a grant. The grant in 2012/13 amounted to £8.4million. The net proceeds of this fundraising activity have been restricted within these accounts for the benefit of Action.
Fundraising costs for 2012/13 amounted to £14.4million which is the same as 2011/12. The fundraising costs are net of an internal recharge in the sum of £5.2million (2012: £4.8million) for costs incurred in raising public awareness about matters relating to sight loss. These costs have been included within the costs of “Charitable activities”.
We have continued to invest in our supporter relationship management programme, which we regard as an essential investment to secure long-term income. It will also help us to be more efficient in communicating essential messages and collecting donations. Our investment in fundraising is vital to sustaining our income and our ability to plan and fund direct services, but we remain focused on driving efficiencies and reducing our costs.
RNIB is a member of the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) scheme, the body of self-regulation of fundraising in the UK, and as a member we adhere to the highest standards of good practice. RNIB is also a member of the Institute of Fundraising and adheres to contemporary best practice codes of fundraising.
Volunteers are vital to our work and enable us to make a difference to more people with sight problems than would otherwise be possible. This includes the fantastic work of our Technology Support Squad, visiting people in their homes and helping people to make the most of computers, mobile phones and other new technology. Volunteers also help by recording audio material for blind and partially sighted people, facilitating peer support telephone groups, helping people get out and about safely and much more besides, including all the wonderful support we receive at fundraising events.
Without our volunteers it would not be possible to achieve nearly as much as we do. Across the RNIB Group we have benefited from the support of 3,800 volunteers during the year (2012: 3,700) contributing over 33,800 hours (2012: 28,200) of their time every month.
Employing disabled people
RNIB recognises the exclusion and disadvantages that disabled people experience as a result of social, economic, and material barriers, created by the world in which we live. RNIB also recognises that disabled people may be enabled by learning additional skills.
RNIB is working to ensure that disabled people receive the maximum possible benefit that can accrue to them through the Equality Act (Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland). As an employer, RNIB takes steps to ensure that it meets its obligations under the law and, where possible, exceeds them. This includes making reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of disabled job applicants and employees. RNIB extends this principle to committee members, Trustees and volunteers in line with best practice.
Currently 12 per cent (2012: 13 per cent) of our employees are disabled. Through our Access Technology Support Unit we are able to provide specialist advice and support to ensure that disabled staff have the appropriate equipment and training to perform effectively. Additional reasonable adjustments are also made for disabled staff as required. Our Disabled Staff Forum provides feedback on specific issues which affect disabled staff.
Engagement with staff
RNIB has a number of mechanisms for engaging with staff and seeking their views, both formal and informal. Our Staff Information and Consultation Forums meet at site, regional and national level to discuss areas that are specifically of interest to staff but also to receive information about the financial health of the organisation and how we are achieving our strategic goals. Staff are also increasingly using the internal intranet discussion boards to share ideas and raise issues. During the last year the staff forum representatives have received additional training to support their roles and responsibilities with some elements provided by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). A new position of chair of the forum was created and appointed to and the forum has been engaged in an increasing range of discussions which have included the workplace pensions auto enrolment scheme and pay and reward matters.
Statement of investment principles
Investment decisions are taken on the advice of the Investment Committee whose members have a finance, investment or commercial background.
The Charity’s investment policy is to hold assets to achieve an appropriate return with an appropriate level of risk when considered alongside the Charity’s business plan and level of reserves. It has three investment objectives:
to invest prudently – the basic investment strategy of the Charity has been to invest in a way that the minimum level of reserves is very likely to remain covered, but with some investment risk being taken on the assets over and above this minimum level;
to invest in liquid assets – the Charity could call upon its quoted investments at any point. It should be straightforward to sell the Charity’s assets down to cash, and doing so should result in the cash being available quickly and without the potential for significant adverse impact on the value of investments;
to invest ethically – the Charity wishes to avoid unethical investments, and in particular tobacco stocks due to the link between smoking and certain conditions that result in sight loss.
The benchmark allocation for investments is 20-30 per cent in equities, 30-40 per cent in bonds and 30-40 per cent in cash. This strategy was developed with the advice of Hewitt Associates and takes into account the nature of the Charity’s business as reflected in its business plans. At 31 March 2013 the allocation of investments is 27.3 per cent in equities, 33.4 per cent in bonds and 39.3 per cent in cash.
It is the Charity’s intention to maintain sufficient short term cash holdings to meet fluctuating needs, and to make appropriate use of an overdraft facility as required with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The Charity’s reserves policy is to set the level of free reserves using a risk-based approach. The level of reserves is reviewed on an annual basis and is currently set at £20million. Planned project expenditure from designated funds and the current economic uncertainty have led the Charity to hold its investments in a low risk and liquid portfolio.
It is the Charity’s aim to perform an annual desk top review of Investment Managers and to meet them as appropriate.
The Charity has mandates with Legal & General and Foreign & Colonial (F&C) and fee structures are:
Legal & General Ethical Trust – 0.3 per cent per annum;
Legal & General Cash Trust – 0.2 per cent per annum;
Foreign & Colonial Ethical Bond Fund Share Class 2 – 0.55 per cent per annum.
The Endowment Funds are managed by F&C. F&C fee structures are:
Foreign & Colonial Ethical Bond Fund Share Class 2 – 0.55 per cent per annum;
Foreign & Colonial Stewardship Income Fund (Dist) Share Class 2 – 0.88 per cent per annum.
The Group investments include a further £47,000 relating to the CVV and £8,522,000 for Action. Other than the investments of Staffordshire Blind, all Action’s funds are now managed by Legal & General, using pooled funds to match the allocation set out in their investment strategy, and their performance is closely monitored against, and closely matches, publicly available market benchmarks. The investments of Staffordshire Blind are managed by Investec Wealth and Investment.
The funds in which the investments are held are measured against agreed benchmark indices for each relevant holding. The performance for the investments held by RNIB as at 31 March 2013 against each fund’s benchmark index is detailed in the following table.
Value at 31 March 2013
Performance in year to 31 March 2013
As our UK equities are invested in an Ethical fund, the stocks in the index are screened before being accepted into the fund. Of the 350 stocks in the index the fund only holds approximately 220, which had a positive impact on the fund's relative returns over the year to 31 March 2013 as the 220 stocks held performed better than the wider market.
Cash deposits are placed on behalf of the RNIB Group including the Associated Charities by their respective banking organisations.
At 31 March 2013 the Group’s cash and short-term deposits stood at £3.7million (2012: £6.9million). During the year the Group interest received on cash and short-term deposits was £12,000 (2012: £26,000) of which £4,000 (2012: £3,000) related to the RNIB Charity. The RNIB Charity’s short-term deposits were all overnight places and the average return made was 0.20 per cent (2012: 0.25 per cent). At 31 March 2013 the unrealised gain on the Endowment Funds was £540,000 (2012: £141,000), and the breakdown of the unrealised gain by fund can be found in note 19.
The Elizabeth Eagle-Bott and Dr Duncan Leeds Funds are held in both the F&C Stewardship Fund and the F&C Ethical Bond Fund.
The Emma Nye Fund is held in the F&C Stewardship Fund only.
The Bristol Blind and GDC Rushton Funds are held in the F&C Ethical Bond Fund only.
The Sunshine Fund is held in the F&C Ethical Bond Fund, F&C Stewardship Fund and F&C Money Markets Fund.
RNIB’s reserves policy focuses on the level of “free reserves”. Free reserves exclude restricted funds and designated funds, which include the net book value of land and buildings occupied by RNIB services and activities. The assessment of free reserves excludes any surplus or deficit reported on the pension scheme.
The recommended free reserves level is calculated annually in advance of the budget process on the basis of the financial impact of the current risks facing RNIB. The reserves policy is reviewed annually by the Trustees.
RNIB seeks to maintain free reserves to manage the risks to which the Charity is exposed in the course of its business, including but not limited to safeguarding against volatile income, both voluntary and service.
The Trustees consider that in order to meet these needs, and to operate effectively, RNIB needs reserves of around £20million based on the current analysis of risk. RNIB’s free reserves were £20.7million at 31 March 2013 (2012: £20.4million). The Trustees have agreed a business plan in support of the strategy which aims to keep reserves close to the reserves policy level during the strategy period.
The actuarial valuation of RNIB’s Pension Scheme at 31 March 2013 for the purposes of FRS17 showed a surplus of £4.4million (2012: a deficit of £11.5million), which is added to the level of free reserves as required by FRS17. The corresponding asset does not result in an immediate cash flow impact on the Charity. A full triennial valuation of the pension fund took place as at 31 March 2012 and the updated valuation has been produced and considered by the Pension Scheme Trustees. Contributions to the scheme are met through planned income. The level of free reserves has been calculated excluding the FRS17 surplus.
At 31 March 2013 RNIB held designated funds totalling £48.9million (2012: £47.2million). Of this, £39.7million (2012: £39.9million) relates to properties and £1.7million (2012: £1.5million) relates to other assets. Both of these are used directly in undertaking RNIB’s objectives. The remaining funds amounting to £7.5million (2012: £5.8million) represent the investment and mergers funds together with amounts expected to be spent within three years on the maintenance and replacement of properties and other assets and specific projects. The fund definitions can be found within note 19.
Where restricted fund balances are in a deficit situation, then unless these will be covered by forthcoming receipts, the deficit balances are charged to general funds. Such balances in 2013 amounted to £173,000 (2012: £201,000), all of which are to be covered by forthcoming receipts.
Risk is not only about threats that have to be managed; it is equally about the potential failure to seize opportunities. RNIB Group views the strategic management of risk as an integral element of its decision making processes and culture, supporting effective planning and evaluation of its activities. Identified risks are embedded in our strategic and operational management processes.
Governance of the Group’s risk management ultimately sits with the Board of Trustees. Detailed consideration of risk is delegated to Audit Committee, who are assisted by senior management in continually reviewing risk and reporting to the Board. A formal review of risk takes place every quarter.
At present, there are six key strategic risk areas which the Board of Trustees have identified. Deployment of the Group’s risk management controls and mitigations continue to remain effective, with the overall risk position remaining stable and reductions in some areas (such as risks associated with large projects). Key areas of concern continue to be risks associated with reductions in public spending meaning less funds available for blind and partially sighted people and changes to public sector contracting arrangements.
The very nature of this risk area means the Board of Trustees is focused on changes within the external environment, and developing and implementing strategies to further influence UK, country and local government, and international decision makers for the benefit of blind and partially sighted people.
The risk management approach details the structures and processes that have been put in place, and the key roles and responsibilities for successful risk management. The Board of Trustees are therefore satisfied that the major risks have been identified and processes for addressing them have been implemented. It is recognised that any control systems can only provide reasonable but not absolute assurance that major risks have been adequately managed.
Having reviewed the strategic risks facing the Charity, the business plan for the period 2013/14 and beyond, and the cash and investments forecast over the same period, the Board of Trustees considers that there are sufficient reserves held at 31 March 2013 to manage those risks successfully despite the current uncertain economic outlook. The Trustees consider that there is a reasonable expectation that the Group has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. Accordingly, they continue to adopt the ‘going concern’ basis in preparing the annual report and financial statements.
Health, safety and the environment
In recent years we have focused on our environmental impact as part of our drive towards sustainable development. This development is reliant on our employees who are our greatest asset in achieving our goals. We are firmly committed to ensuring the occupational health and safety of our staff and volunteers and to working practices based on solid risk management principles, which lead to more efficient and cost effective ways of working. We value our staff and volunteers and are seeking to continually improve the way we work to the benefit of all who work in and access our services.
For the sixth consecutive year we have measured our environmental impact considering waste, water and energy usage, with the aim of reducing this impact, and in particular our carbon footprint. Our objective is to maximise the environmental efficiency of our buildings and work practices, reducing pollution and avoiding unnecessary costs. We have identified five priorities to address: zero carbon, zero waste, health and happiness, sustainable materials and sustainable transport.
For the RNIB Charity the figures for 2010/11 formed the baseline for the targets which have been agreed. We continue to follow the international environmental management standard ISO 14001 and are committed to continual improvement and to meeting or exceeding the requirements of applicable environmental legislation through our policies and procedures.
The performance for the year against our targets is set out in the following table.
Buildings – 10 per cent total reduction (CO2 tonnes) over five years – [baseline 4,104]
4,270 (4 per cent increase from baseline)
3,910 (4.8 per cent reduction)
Reduce total waste by 10 per cent over five years [baseline 1,668]
1,426 (15 per cent decrease)
1,670 (0.1 per cent increase)
Recycling rate of 40 per cent per annum
37 per cent
34 per cent
Reduce air, road and rail travel (CO2 tonnes) by 2.5 per cent per annum for five years [baseline 846]
671 (18 per cent reduction)
821 (3 per cent reduction)
Develop a sustainable procurement policy
Draft policy developed
Health and happiness
Reduce staff sickness levels from 10 working days in 2011
Health and happiness
Improve staff satisfaction ratings in biennial staff survey from 73 per cent
Results available autumn 2013.
Not measured this year
The figures represent the amount of electricity/gas usage in our buildings converted to carbon tonnes. This year there has been a 4 per cent increase (from baseline) in CO2 tonnes energy used for our buildings. This increase in CO2 is due to higher than average use of gas (compared to the average for the last 20 years) at nearly all of our sites which is attributable to the very cold weather.
Waste initiatives have been successful with a 15 per cent reduction in overall waste and 37 per cent recycling rate. We are striving to share best practice across the organisation with a view to achieving our 40 per cent recycling rate in 2013/14.
Air, road and rail transport demonstrates the biggest reduction in CO2 emissions with virtually an 18 per cent reduction from 821 tonnes last year to 671 tonnes this year. During the coming year we will continue to encourage staff to use rail instead of road transport and to make greater use of telephone conferencing.
The Sustainable Procurement Policy has been reviewed and approved. This is supported by more efficient processes for the evaluation of contractors ensuring we work alongside suppliers with sound environmental principles and practices.
Health and happiness
Sickness absence levels overall remain at 10 working days lost per person. Initiatives to reduce sickness absence levels include a review of health and wellbeing benefits available to staff and encouragement to maintain healthy lifestyles. The Human Resources department plays a key role in the support of managers managing sickness absences, return to work interviews have increased and case handling has improved. This work is ongoing and during 2013 the staff survey will provide further insights for improvement.
During 2013/14 the governance of health, safety and the environment (HSE) will be enhanced with the development and implementation of key performance indicators agreed and monitored by the HSE Group. The HSE team is working to continuously improve our performance with legal compliance setting the baseline. Action plans include the review and consolidation of a safety management system reflecting the requirements of OHSAS 18001 (a British standard for health and safety management) and identifying the risk control performance indicators such as fire safety, control of contractors, lone working, manual handling and work-related stress. Our risks are as varied as our activities and we are working to eliminate or reduce any risks arising.
Risk management will continue to be a priority for the team and we will deliver a comprehensive training programme to improve our management and processes.
We will establish an Energy Champion and Energy team to assist in the development of action plans across the Group. A programme of sustainable development workshops has taken place with more planned for the coming year. In addition we will be regularly promoting initiatives to improve our carbon footprint and environmental credentials which will include carbon reduction and recycling events.
Signed on behalf of RNIB Trustees