Connect 2 Support project
For over 25 years Deafblind Scotland has been serving the deafblind community, sustaining deafblind people’s personal and professional support networks and influencing statutory services and policy. Deafblind Scotland aims to enable deafblind people to live as rightful members of their communities and offers a variety of services such as communication and linguistic access advice, advice navigating self-directed support, information and formatting services, welfare rights support, accredited training and a guide/communicator service.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People, Scotland, estimates that there are 180,000 blind people in Scotland and there are an estimated 1m people with hearing loss. Often, severely sensory impaired individuals rely on welfare benefits and incur additional expenditure due to the nature of their disability, e.g. the cost of communicators and/or interpreters.To ensure individuals’ well-being, welfare benefits can be a lifeline, but information on social welfare, welfare benefits, employment rights, education and training etc. is not easily accessible to those with sensory impairments.
Changes to benefits such as the phased introduction of Universal Credit, and changes to the State Pension introduced in 2016, will have an impact on those living with sensory impairments and there is a need to provide specialised support to help individuals with these changes and ensure the relevant information is accessible and available within the deafblind community. Unfortunately, local authorities are struggling with demand and reduced budgets leading to specialised support being either unavailable or requiring a considerable length of time to secure an appointment.
Following a successful pilot of the Connect 2 Support project, Deafblind Scotland was awarded a three-year grant to roll-out the Connect 2 Support programme nationally, supporting the Scottish deaf and/or blind communities in both rural and urban areas.Through the Connect 2 Support project, Deafblind’s Welfare Rights Officer and Welfare Rights Adviser supports deafblind and visually impaired people to make informed choices on benefits entitlements, thereby maximising their income and empowering them to make their own decisions.
Connect 2 support provides:
- One-to-one outreach work with people in their own homes or at partner premises;
- accurate and timely advice and advocacy support;
- claims assistance, benefit checks and appeals;
- accessible information and assistive technologies in each person’s required format, e.g. braille, moon, large-print, audio or email;
- a language modifying service for lengthy and complex documentation;
- travel and accompaniment to assessments, tribunals and benefit agencies where required.
Is it working?
In the past three years the Connect 2 Support project has supported 844 sensory impaired people, with 436 of those gaining a positive financial result. Of the 408 remaining, 314 people gained in ways that cannot be quantified financially, such as securing Blue Badges, referrals to occupational therapists, support letters and housing applications. Throughout the pilot and three-year project, the Connect 2 Support team have raised close to £2m in additional income for their service users: an average of £1,550 per person, per year in recurring benefits.
Assistance has been provided to service users in 16 local authorities in Scotland to date and members of the Connect 2 Support team have delivered outreach talks at Visually Impaired Groups, attended the Scottish Advisory Group on Deafblindness, where they offer assistance to deafblind people, and attended audiology and ophthalmology clinics in hospitals. Deafblind Scotland have also produced an Advice Directory and circulated it to clients and organisations they have worked with to use as a reference guide in the future.
Quotes from beneficiaries:
“With the help of Deafblind Scotland’s Connect 2 Support project I am now able to lead a more independent life and self-manage my condition.”
“I’m able to afford taxis to take me to places I need to go which helps me feel more independent and less isolated by my sensory impairment.”