Help for newly diagnosed blind and partially sighted children and young people is to be boosted by a major Big Lottery Fund grant to the country’s main sight loss charity.
RNIB Scotland has been awarded £395,854 to employ two early Intervention family workers in West and Central Scotland. The three-year pilot project will deliver vital emotional and practical support to help families come to terms with a child's sight loss.
Currently around 3,000 people under the age of 20 in Scotland live with a significant visual impairment.
Dominic Everett, education and family services manager for RNIB Scotland, said: "For many parents, learning that their child has a visual impairment can be a huge shock. It can be a hugely difficult and emotional time. The most common question they ask is ‘what can my child see, and what can I do to help?’
“This award will allow us to provide wider, personalised help, when it is most needed, to newly diagnosed children across 14 local authority areas. It will ensure they develop the strategies and skills for success in life.
“We will help families to enable their child to maximise their personal independence. The right play strategies can help them to improve their social skills, make sense of their environment, and improve their confidence. Children need to understand how their own level of vision compares to their sighted peers so they can effectively interact with them.
“This project will make our early engagement with families even more effective. RNIB Scotland supports families, children and young people from their early years, right through nursery to school, and on to further and higher education or employment so they can reach their full potential.”
A parent from Aberdeenshire whose 11 year-old daughter has sight loss said RNIB Scotland had been a crucial source of information, support and hope.
"They have provided key information on ways to tackle educational issues and valuable links to other families going through the same problems," she said. "Thanks to them, my daughter became a proficient white cane-user at the age of nine which increased her confidence greatly. Just knowing RNIB is at the other end of a phone is a massive security blanket for us.
"As my child gets older, and her struggles become more complex, I can see us needing more and more support from RNIB Scotland. I am confident that support will be there. Thanks to them, we have hope for the future."
Big Lottery Fund Scotland chair Maureen McGinn said: “I am delighted that RNIB Scotland is one of the latest groups to receive an award from our Investing in Communities fund. This is life-changing money that will benefit those people and communities most in need. This grant will make a big difference where it is needed most and I wish RNIB Scotland every success as it goes on to develop and expand its project.”