“We received an increase in requests for support in all areas”

Demand on local sight loss charities has increased vastly since before the pandemic, a report has revealed

blind person's stick
Pexels/Gustavo Fring

Demand for the services provided by local sight loss charities has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic, the Specsavers State of the UK’s Eye Health report has said.

New registrations increased by 59% in the year ending March 2022 when compared to the previous year and by 18% compared to the year ending March 2020, 13 charities have reported.

The charities manage the Sight Impairment Register for 19 Council areas in England and Scotland.

The reports highlight that more people are registering as blind or partially sighted than before the pandemic.

Charities that are changing the way they work in light of increased registrations include MyVision Oxfordshire, which provides services to support the 23,000 people in Oxfordshire who live with visual impairment.

The charity is increasing its presence in the wider community to provide services closer to home, after finding that those it supports are more reluctant to travel since the pandemic.

A decrease in reliable public transport has also been noted as a reason for the required change in service provision, Mark Upton, chief executive officer of MyVision Oxfordshire, said.

Meanwhile Laura Hughes, chief executive officer of Moorvision, which offers information, advice, support and activities for families of children and young people with vision impairment in Devon, said: “We received an increase in requests for support in all areas, particularly with access to education and healthcare.”

Details are included in Specsavers’ State of the UK’s Eye Health 2022 report, which the multiple hopes will shine “a light on the need to draw on the expertise of the whole eye care sector to care for the nation’s eye health and reduce avoidable sight loss.”

East Cheshire Eye Society has noticed “the significant increase in mental health issues among people with a range of eye conditions,” Alan Chappell, charity manager, said in the report.

Visionary is an umbrella body for local sight loss charities that supports more than 100 local member organisations throughout the UK and works with more than 250,000 people with a sight conditions and vision loss. Its chief executive officer, Fiona Sandford, highlighted the possible link between waiting list backlogs and the increased number of registrations.

Sandford said: “Nobody should lose their sight from a treatable condition at any time and definitely not while they are waiting to be seen for a problem which has already been identified.”

She added: “This outcome is catastrophic. We must work together for a brighter future.”

The full State of the UK's Eye Health report can be viewed online.