Our Strategy for 2018-2023
Deafblind UK has a proud history spanning 90 years. Despite the passing of time, the same things matter to people with deafblindness today as they did 90 years ago and Deafblind UK continues to offer the same support today.
We are incredibly 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 growing membership and that we extend our reach to more people with deafblindness or dual sensory loss and their families.
This strategic plan sets out some ambitious plans for the next five years. We will develop new and enhanced services so we can provide greater care, support and advice to more people across the UK. We will invest in research so that we better understand the needs of our members; in our infrastructure so we can continue to deliver effective and efficient services; and in our staff and volunteers. We will also continue to raise awareness of deafblindness and what Deafblind UK does so that more people can be signposted to the support and advice they need.
Deafblind UK is a membership organisation for and led by people who are deafblind. Our strategy therefore has been shaped and informed by their views, experiences and opinions. We held a series of membership forums across the country so that we could hear directly from people who are deafblind, their families and carers. We also talked to our staff and volunteers to hear about their experiences and what matters to them and the deafblind people they work with.
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 deafblind people. 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.
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 affects 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)
Deafblindness most commonly affects older people with some estimates stating 1 in 5 people over the age of 85 will have sight and hearing loss. It is inevitable therefore that with people living longer the need for support for people living with deafblindness has never been greater.
The increase in need comes at a time when 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 providers under unprecedented pressure which threatens to undermine their 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.
Through our work with trustees, members, staff and volunteers we have identified five overarching strategic objectives that will enable us to deliver our vision:
- Improve our services to 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 - Improve our services 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:
Investing in our existing services such as our Information and Advice Line, Welfare Calls, Digital Inclusion and Befriending & Companion Services so they are available and accessed by more of our members.
Developing, piloting and rolling out new services based on our members needs such as Activity Centres and Healthcare Liaison Officers
Reducing isolation by connecting people who are deafblind with each other, with their community and with Deafblind UK through social groups, shared interest activities, companions and technology
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 with deafblindness
Objective 2 - 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 Open Hand magazine so that information and knowledge can be shared more widely.
- Further developing our own knowledge and expertise in deafblindness, through training programmes which upskills all staff
- 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
- Establishing and hosting a bi-ennial UK Deafblind conference where national and international speakers discuss the latest developments, research, issues and best practice
Objective 3 - 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 to raise awareness of deafblindness and develop more support for our services
- Establishing DBUK as a respected voice for people with deafblindness; listening to their concerns and campaigning on their behalf to ensure the views of deafblind people 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
Objective 4 - 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.
- Reviewing our organisational values and behaviors to ensure they are appropriate and understood.
- Maintain a beneficial pay & reward structure so we can recruit and retain the best people.
- Developing bespoke internal training suited to the needs of differing staff/volunteer groups.
Objective 5 - 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:
- Growing our membership by extending our reach to more people with dual sensory loss and their families to ensure we truly represent all people who are deafblind
- Diversifying and growing our income streams; increasing our care and 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
- 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 and co-location
- Ensuring our buildings are fit for purpose, well maintained and provide good return on investment
Successful delivery of the strategy will mean that Deafblind UK:
- Offers quality services that meet the needs of as many deafblind people 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.
Performance against the goals will be reported to the Board quarterly.
The strategy will be presented to the Board annually with any proposed changes to ensure it remains aligned to the needs of our customers and members.