RNIB reacts to Government’s plans to expand access to shoppers at risk of missing out

Post date: 
Monday, 27 April 2020
Other campaigning
Photo of an isle in a supermarket

RNIB, along with other sight loss charities, has been calling for better supermarket access for people with sight loss during the coronavirus outbreak. 

We sent a letter - with other sight loss charities - to George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), followed with a petition supported with 22,563 signatures. Thank you to everyone who took part.

We are pleased to say that it seems like the Government is listening. In Sunday’s daily coronavirus briefing George Eustice recognised that some people outside the 'shielded' group may need help getting food because of a disability or medical condition and lack of local support.

He announced some supermarkets will be working with Government and Local Authorities on a referral system so that when someone is not 'shielded' but vulnerable for another reason and in "desperate need", their Local Authority can refer them to a supermarket priority delivery slot.

It's great that the Government have started to listen to our calls to expand priority home deliveries to a wider group of people and this is a good first step. It's vital that blind and partially sighted people who need it are included in this scheme. It is also important that all supermarkets with online deliveries take part.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Social Change at RNIB said:

It’s fantastic to hear that George Eustice has finally started to listen to our calls to extend priority home deliveries to a wider group of people. That councils will have the power to refer those most in need is a good first step. It is vital that blind and partially sighted people are identified for this new support. We call on the Government, supermarkets and councils to work with us so that anyone with sight loss across the UK who need a priority slot are able to access one.

Our helpline has received more than 100 calls a day from blind and partially sighted people who are worried about to get hold of essential items they need.

Current social distancing rules make going to the supermarket incredibly difficult for many. Limitations on access to online shopping has meant that people with sight loss have been excluded from priority slots – putting thousands of people in an impossible situation.

We have been doing everything we can to ensure that blind and partially sighted people can access the food and other necessities they need.  

We are determined to support those who need us throughout the crisis in any way we can and will continue to press the Government to make sure these most basic needs are met.