RNIB Talk and Support runs free befriending social groups for adults with sight loss across the UK.
They provide opportunities for you to socialise in small groups by phone to build friendships and get peer support with other people in a similar situation. We match individuals together for conversations based on age and group preferences.
Trained volunteers or RNIB staff facilitate the groups. Typically, Talk and Support befriending groups meet on the same day, at the same time, each week. Each group runs for 55 minutes. Our facilitators help the group chat together and keep the conversation flowing.
We can also offer advice on accessible connection options if individuals are keen to communicate outside of their befriending group.
You don't need any special equipment to take part in our social groups. All you need is access to a phone and somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit while you take part.
We have lots of people who successfully take part in our groups who have difficulties with hearing. If you use a hearing aid or amplified phone then please call us to discuss if you have any concerns.
We offer four specialist groups every week for people with Charles Bonnet syndrome to meet others in a similar situation and gain peer support. Also, we have someone from Esme's Umbrella who attends the groups to provide information about the condition.
To join a group, please register your interest by filling in our webform.
We spoke to three people who have all been a part of the Talk and Support community for many years to find out about their experiences. Read their Talk and Support stories here.
1. When do the groups meet and for how long?
Befriending groups meet over the telephone, once a week, for around 55 minutes. Groups run between 9.30am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.
2. What do people in Talk and Support groups talk about?
Every one of our friendly groups is different and it’s up to the people in each group to decide what they would like to talk about. People talk about everything from families and daily life to current affairs and interests. People often share practical information and encouragement about living with sight loss.
3. I'm a quiet person, what if I don't have much to say?
People from all walks of life join the service. We do our best to find you a group where you'll feel comfortable and able to contribute. The volunteer hosting the group will ensure everyone has an opportunity to talk and join in the group discussion.
4. What happens if I want to exchange contact details with friends that I've made in my group?
Our groups are safe and confidential and we would never share your details with others without your permission. If you do make friends and want to talk at other times, we'll help you to do this outside of the group.
5. What happens if I can't attend my group or need to take a break?
If you are unable to attend your group for any reason, please let us know.
6. How will you match me to a Talk and Support group?
Our priority is to match you with a group which has like-minded people, perhaps of a similar age, interests and situation, rather than eye condition or where you live in the UK. You can also specify if you prefer to connect with women only, men only or in a mixed group.
7. How long will if take to match me to a Talk and Support group?
Depending upon your availability, we'll try our best to offer you a group within two weeks of you registering your interest. We’ll let you know if it takes longer.
8. What's it like to attend a Talk and Support group?
You can read about some of the group members' experiences on our Talk and Support stories page.
In March 2020, Gill had to stop work because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown. She said:
I was feeling very isolated, but The Guide Dog's Engagement Officer told me about RNIB Talk and Support. I joined the group in May 2020 and have continued since then. It's great to be able to speak to other people who are in the same position as me.
"Talk and Support is very convenient, as I’m able to arrange my work around it, and we have a regular time every week that we talk. We usually compare the weather and talk about the coronavirus situation, then we chat about our personal lives. I think we know a great deal about each other now, I really enjoy it."
Mandeep has taken part in his weekly Talk and Support group for almost a decade. He enjoys hearing about experiences people have had. He said:
For example, with sports, I was intrigued by how blind people played football, and couldn't understand how they did it. In these groups, you come across people who have actually done these things and are happy to talk about how they did it.
Sarah said: “The coronavirus pandemic has been a frightening time and RNIB has been there for me”. Sarah loves that the group hardly ever talk about their sight loss. “Alan is the co-ordinator and he does a really good job of including everyone in the group. Some people are quite shy, and Alan makes sure he includes everyone in the conversation. I’m so grateful to him and others for giving up their time to provide the service”.
Ian said the group is good for him because he doesn't have a lot of friends in his local area.
It gives me a chance to meet other blind people from around the country, who I wouldn't get to meet in ordinary circumstances. My favourite part is being able to make friends and find out what everyone likes to do.
"In our group, we all like computers quite a lot, so we're all quite techie and we exchange tips with each other. I just like getting to know people and I like the friendliness of it all," he said.