Deafblind UK receives £497,286 from the National Lottery Community Fund to tackle loneliness in Northern Ireland

We are delighted to have received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to tackle loneliness and social isolation amongst older people in Northern Ireland – a common issue amongst those who have deafblindness.

The National Lottery Community Fund has given £497,286 over five years to support the ‘Out of the Shadows’ project which will be run by our Northern Ireland branch, Deafblind NI. Older people with deafblindness will be supported to attend local support and social groups and, with the help of befrienders, reconnect with their local communities. We will also be working with local organisations to increase awareness and understanding of deafblindness and ensure that local organisations know how to support people who are deafblind.

The project will provide resources and expertise to enable older deafblind people to enjoy activities that they may have given up due to ill health and give them the confidence to try new activities. It will give them opportunities and confidence to meet new people and reduce social isolation.

Deafblind NI already provides vital and life changing services to people who are deafblind and experiencing loneliness, such as guiding and communication support and social groups. The newly funded project will allow the charity to increase the provision and support even more people.

Director of Operations, Simone Moore said: “The older people that we currently support in Northern Ireland tell us that the main issue they face is a lack of social interaction and increased loneliness as their deafblindness progresses. There are just over 11,000 deafblind people in Northern Ireland so through our ‘Out of the Shadows’ project we can reach out to more of these people.”

Deafblind NI member, Mary has Glaucoma and cataracts and wears two hearing aids. Project Lead Officer, Paula Meenan said: “Mary used to love watching soaps and listening to music but when we first met her, her confidence was very low and she didn’t like leaving the family home. After a lot of encouragement from her husband, she came along to our local deafblind social group – and she loved it! Mary took part in a recent reminiscence project at the group which included doing hand prints and chosing songs that evoked special memories. She later did a speech at the reminiscence project celebration event and said: “I wouldn’t have been able to speak a couple of years ago as my confidence would have been low. Deafblind NI has helped me to leave the house and overcome my fears about speaking in public.”

Deafblind UK’s CEO Steve Conway said: “Age related deafblindness can take affect so gradually that often, people don’t even realise there is a problem until it’s too late. We are delighted that National Lottery players have been able to support this project and we are extremely grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for enabling us to bring people with deafblindness out of the shadows.”