Our Strategy for 2020 - 2025
Deafblind UK was founded in 1928 by a small group of deafblind people and their carers. The then named National Deaf-Blind Helpers League set out to improve social conditions for people who were deafblind encouraging confidence and providing practical help. These are the same outcomes that matter to people with deafblindness today and they are encapsulated in our mission that underpins our service delivery.
We are proud of our heritage but equally ambitious for our future. We have seen a lot of positive changes over the years, but for people living with deafblindness or varying degrees of dual sensory loss we’re entering a new era of possibilities and challenges. As an organisation, it is vital we continue to change and innovate to ensure our services meet the needs of our members and that we extend our reach to as many people with deafblindness or dual sensory loss and their families as possible.
Deafblind UK is a membership organisation for and led by people who are deafblind. This strategy, which will define our service delivery until 2025, has been shaped and informed by their views, experiences and opinions. We have also learned from the experience gained by our staff and volunteers who support people who are deafblind.
Articles of Association
Deafblind UK has the following objects in our Articles of Association which determine that the purpose of our charity is to support and enable people who are deafblind to live the life they choose by;
- Providing support workers, and support and training to our support workers
- Providing specially designed or adapted housing, and items, services or facilities
- Promoting social inclusion by:
- providing education and information to support and enable deafblind people to integrate into society.
- raising public awareness of the issues affecting deafblind people, both generally and in relation to their social exclusion.
- providing social groups, forums, advocacy and general support.
- providing recreational facilities and opportunities for deafblind people.
Our mission is to work with people who are deafblind, making connections and delivering quality support and information to enable people who are deafblind to live more independently and with greater confidence and increased control.
Our vision for the future is a society where people with sight and hearing loss can live a full life. We will achieve this through the strategic objectives defined in this strategy.
The Care Act 2014 defines deafblindness as a condition where an individual’s combined sight and hearing impairment cause difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility, which includes people with progressive sight and hearing loss.
In the UK today, there are an estimated 394,000 people with some degree of sight and hearing loss with approximately 60% being over 70. As people live longer it is forecast that the incidence of acquired deafblindness, where an individual’s sight and hearing loss gets worse through aging, will increase leading to the total number of people living with deafblindness reaching 600,000 by 2030. In addition, a study by the Centre for Disability Research (CeDR) estimated 0.031% (31 in every 100,000) children and young people up to the age of 19 in the UK have co-occurring vision and hearing impairments.
The combination of a hearing and sight loss creates a unique set of wider needs that, without the right support, can leave deafblind people vulnerable, marginalised and isolated. Combined sight and hearing loss affect a person’s ability to access mainstream information and services, engage socially, undertake daily tasks and get out and about. If the appropriate care and support is not provided, the inability to perform these activities can lead to diminished independence and confidence which often leads to isolation, anxiety and depression.
Barriers which exclude people with deafblindness from social interactions and so increase their isolation and loneliness include:
- A lack of understanding about how to communicate and interact with people who are deafblind
- Inaccessible venues and events for social opportunities
- A lack of information in accessible formats about social opportunities
- A lack of accessible public transport or inaccessible street environments such as pavements blocked by cars or street clutter can make getting out and about more difficult
- Poor access to professional communication support such as interpreters
- A lack of access to educational or employment restricts opportunities for social interaction and financial independence
(Addressing loneliness in disabled people report 2017.)
The environment at the beginning of the period covered by this strategy is dominated by the COVID-19 outbreak which is having a profound impact on the isolation experienced by people who are deafblind and our ability to deliver face to face services. We will continue to adapt our service delivery model as described in this strategy to counter the effects of pandemic whilst not losing sight of our longer-term objectives.
Our social care system is already struggling to meet the needs of our older people with 26% fewer people now receiving help than 6 years ago. Pervasive cuts to Local Authority budgets have been passed on to care providers like Deafblind UK through real-term cuts in fees making our much needed and valued services less and less sustainable. This combined with an acute shortage of support workers, higher regulatory standards and the increasing level of the National Living Wage, places us under unprecedented pressure which threatens to undermine our ability to support people in care settings or their own homes.
Strengths and opportunities
Deafblind UK has key strengths which it can use to support effective service delivery to people who are deafblind. These include:
- Committed and experienced Trustees, some of whom are deafblind themselves, who can provide sound governance and advice
- Highly motivated staff and volunteers who continue to provide a very high standard of care and support
- A very good reputation for the standards of care we deliver, evidenced by CQC Grade of Good
We also have opportunities to continue to improve the way we work by increasing the effectiveness of the services we deliver through
- Partnership working with other organisations
- Embracing improvements and accessibility of technology
- Improving our internal administrative processes
- Providing improved professional development for our staff
As the operating environment and the needs and expectations of our members and customers change, we must play to our strengths and adapt our services to ensure we achieve our vision. We need to be responsive to our customer and stakeholder expectations in terms of quality, effectiveness and value for money.
We have identified six overarching strategic objectives that will enable us to deliver our vision;
- Develop our offering to people who are deafblind
- Support more people who are deafblind
- Develop knowledge and understanding of deafblindness
- Raise the profile of Deafblind UK
- Further develop and engage our people
- Secure Deafblind UK as a sustainable organisation for the future
Objective 1 - Develop our offering to people who are deafblind
We want to ensure that what we do now, and in the future, meets the needs of people who are deafblind. It is important that what we do is regarded as being of high quality and value for money by those using and funding our products & services.
We will do this by
- Raising awareness and improving accessibility of our existing services such as our helpline, wellbeing service, digital inclusion and befriending and companion services so they are available and accessed by more of our members
- Reducing isolation by connecting people who are deafblind with each other, with their community and with Deafblind UK by;
- Creating social groups and community hubs in 10 centres of population each year either independently or with other organisations
- Providing regional and local virtual social groups where demand exists
- Facilitating people who are deafblind to join activity groups that reflect their individual interests
- Providing an on-line directory of deafblind friendly activity providers
- Supporting people to identify and understand their sight and hearing loss through partnerships with health/social care professionals and focusing on early intervention and prevention
- Investing in Rainbow Court and similar properties to provide high quality independent or supported living accommodation for people who are deafblind
- Where demand exists work in partnership with Local Authorities and housing associations to create new supported living facilities
- Develop and deliver a comprehensive range of services that will help people who are deafblind access and benefit from modern technology
- Provide group and individual training in accessibility software
- Offer loan equipment for training
- Partner with technology providers to improve understanding and access to modern equipment and systems
- Operate an IT helpline to provide information and troubleshooting services
- Provide access to holiday accommodation by acquiring property and/or caravans, or through partnerships with organisations that provide holiday facilities such as tour operators and guest houses
Objective 2 – Support more people who are deafblind
It is considered that there are many more people who are deafblind in the UK who would benefit from our support particularly those younger members of the deafblind community, so we need to ensure we are relevant, and our services are accessible.
We will do this by
- Using social media to reach out to younger people who are deafblind or experiencing sight and hearing loss
- Working with Local Authorities to identify people who are deafblind in their areas
- Providing more accessible information on our services for distribution to people who are deafblind
- Work with specialist schools and professionals such as audiologists and ophthalmologists to raise awareness of deafblindness and available support
- Running campaigns to increase the number of people of all ages we support by 10% each year
Objective 3 - Develop knowledge and understanding of deafblindness
We want to be at the forefront of knowledge about deafblindness so people who are deafblind, their families, carers and professionals working in the field of dual sensory loss approach us for advice and support.
We will do this by
- Developing our research capability to carry out our own studies, commission larger pieces of work and influence international work
- Publishing findings from research on our website and in each issue of Open Hand magazine and through webinars so that up-to-date information and knowledge can be shared more widely
- Working with technology companies to ensure the needs of people who are deafblind are factored into accessibility provision and to support the development of haptic technology
- Developing accredited external training and professional development programmes for health and social care professionals to develop their skills in working with dual sensory loss
- As a member of the Deafblind Studies Board of Partners support the delivery of the Deafblind Studies Diploma courses by Birmingham City University
- Hosting an annual Deafblind Convention in a different city each year where professional, academic, commercial and charity speakers can share research and best practice, and people who are deafblind can access organisations that offer services and equipment
- Providing training and awareness modules to public, private and charitable organisations, community groups and schools, using the experience and presence of deafblind members in the delivery
Objective 4 - Raise the profile of Deafblind UK
We want to increase public awareness of deafblindness so that more people understand what deafblindness is and what Deafblind UK does. It is important that people can recognise, support and appropriately signpost people who are deafblind to the services they need, and that Deafblind UK is recognised as the experts in deafblindness.
We will do this by:
- Developing a sustainable messaging campaign online and through social media to raise awareness of deafblindness and develop more support for our services
- Listening to the concerns of people who are deafblind and campaigning on their behalf to ensure their views are heard at the highest level
- Transforming our brand so that everyone with dual sensory loss, regardless of their degree of impairment, knows that Deafblind UK is relevant and has something to offer them and their families
- Make awards at the Deafblind Convention to organisations and individuals to recognise their work in the field of deafblindness
Objective 5 - Further develop and engage our people
We want to be an organisation which is consistently described by its employees and volunteers as a great place to be and whose values are embodied in everything we do. We aim to be an employer of choice in the social care sector.
We will do this by:
- Regularly engaging and communicating with our staff and volunteers to ensure they are well informed through a monthly newsletter and weekly team meetings at all levels
- Publicising and demonstrating our organisational values and behaviours to ensure they are understood and recognised throughout the charity
- Maintaining a beneficial pay and reward structure so we can recruit and retain the best people.
- Providing access to external training programmes which develops staff
- Fund one place annually on the Deafblind Studies Diploma Course
- Developing bespoke internal training suited to the needs of differing staff/volunteer groups
- Run bi-monthly induction training to all staff and volunteers
Objective 6 - Secure Deafblind UK as a sustainable organisation
We believe people who are deafblind should have access to an organisation that champions their rights and opportunities. We want Deafblind UK to be that organisation for the long term and therefore need to be financially and organisationally strong.
We will do this by:
- Diversifying and growing our income streams; increasing our care & support customer base; increasing our range of paid for services such as external training and assessments and, investing in our fundraising activities such as community fundraising to maximise our return
- Maintaining reserves which are invested in managed funds for growth and income
- Opening up to two charity shops each year in different centres of population across the UK
- Reducing our organisational costs to ensure we operate as effectively and efficiently as possible
- Developing and nurturing mutually beneficial partnerships with likeminded organisations and exploring opportunities for shared services
Successful delivery of the strategy will mean that Deafblind UK;
- Offers quality services and access to technology that meet the needs of as many people who are deafblind as possible
- Champions the understanding and awareness of deafblindness
- Has a committed, engaged and well-trained workforce
- Has a sustainable financial future
Our strategy needs to be defined in advance but also be responsive to changes in our operating environment and the needs of our members and customers. Key to the success of implementing our strategy will be to ensure our governance and management structures and processes direct and support service delivery.
We will communicate the Strategy to our staff and stakeholders regularly and frequently to ensure it remains relevant and is used in our day-to-day business planning and prioritisation. A detailed action plan with KPIs will support the strategy and will be reported to the Board quarterly.
The strategy will be reviewed by the Board annually with any proposed changes to ensure it remains aligned to the needs of our customers and the wider deafblind community.