Simon Labbett, what will be important to professionals in the eye health and sight loss sectors in 2018?

Post date: 
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Simon Labbett, Chair of the RWPN

After welcoming in the New Year, it’s often an automatic reaction for many of us to think about what the next 12 months will hold.  Hannah Adams, editor of NB Online asked a number of key leaders in the eye health and sight loss sector what they think will be important for professionals in 2018.

Simon Labbett, Vision Rehab Worker and Chair of the Rehabilitation Workers' Professional Network (RWPN)

What developments do you think will be important to professionals in the eye health and sight loss sectors in 2018?
Keeping up with the latest apps is hard work but vital. Some of the stuff that is coming out is already changing the game, and the fact that it’s mainstream is even better – like the Amazon Echo. 
For me, a really reliable orientation and mobility app would be so liberating – it has always felt like it’s just out of reach but hopefully not for much longer. 
Do you have any professional new year’s resolutions for 2018? 
I have just completed a top-up degree in Vision Rehabilitation and Complex Needs. I learned a lot about providing rehabilitation to people with dementia so I am determined to bring that into my own practice this year. 
I think a lot of vision rehab workers already have the skills, it’s just recognising that the goals may be quite different for someone with dementia and take more time to work out. Building rapport with someone with dementia can take time – there’s a lot of listening to be done.
What will be your work priorities for 2018?
There is a government consultation around professional standards and registration and I am hoping this gives us a chance to re-open the discussion about professional registration for rehab workers.
Secondly, and more pressingly, there is the ever-present threat from cuts to statutory services cuts around the country. RWPN will continue to work with the larger players in the sector, but I worry about the sector's ability to mount a campaign that talks the language that local authorities understand. 
In your view, what was the biggest breakthrough in 2017?
Getting the Government to include a vision rehabilitation worker apprenticeship was a huge breakthrough last year. A lot of people worked really hard on this – especially Andrew Dodgson at Guide Dogs – and if one thing has the capability to reverse the number of rehab workers coming into the profession, this is it. I’m just sorry it only covers England.
How important do you feel rehab workers are to patient care?
Meeting the 10 Seeing it My Way outcomes becomes a whole lot more difficult for an individual who doesn’t get a good quality vision rehabilitation service: keeping your job (and using technology to do it), staying positive and well, getting out without always resorting to a taxi, looking after your children and understanding your rights.
Any other comments you might like to add?
There are some very worrying gaps in statutory provision in the UK at a local government level.  
I’m worried that the sector’s ability to campaign to fight cuts at a local level has been reduced by changes in the way campaigning is structured and resourced by RNIB despite their excellent track record in the recent past. 
When a service is cut it doesn’t come back and you potentially deprive hundreds of people a year of their legal entitlements. What's the point of the Seeing It My Way Outcomes if there are no local services to support them?

Find out how other professionals answered

Further information

  • RWPN is the professional body for Rehabilitation Workers who work with Visually Impaired People.
  • Read more about the 10 Seeing it My Way outcomes.
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