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North-east sensory loss charity's new report shows life-changing impact of services

By Kyle Ritchie

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A north-east charity that supports thousands of people with sensory loss has published a report showing the life changing impact of its work.

North East Sensory Services (NESS) produced its Social Impact Report based on outcomes achieved for the people they support across the region.

The charity supports more than 6250 people with sensory impairment and their families, through a wide range of social care services, to help them live as independently and confidently as possible.

Aileen Gourlay is supported by Gill Sutherland from North East Sensory Services.
Aileen Gourlay is supported by Gill Sutherland from North East Sensory Services.

The report illustrates the outcomes achieved by people against the charity’s objectives to assess the impact of their work on the people they support.

It found that in the past year:

  • 71 per cent are looking after themselves more independently.
  • 52 per cent are less socially isolated.
  • 87 per cent have reduced some of the negative impacts of their sensory loss.
  • 23 per cent have increased their income to improve or maintain their lifestyle.
  • 52 per cent have increased their participation in their community/society.

Last year, NESS supported 6259 people. Fifty-two per cent were deaf or hard of hearing and 48 per cent were visually impaired.

Nearly 2500 lived in Aberdeen and 1663 lived in Dundee, while 1023 lived in Moray, 776 in Angus and 305 in Aberdeenshire.

The report also found NESS’s volunteers contributed more than £180,000 worth of services to the charity.

Volunteers carry out a wide range of work, including providing transport, running groups and social activities.

Volunteers gave a total of 11,026 hours to the charity – the equivalent of six additional full-time staff.

It is the third time that NESS has produced social accounts, which look at the activities of the whole organisation, measuring, monitoring and analysing its activity based upon its mission, values and projected outcomes, to produce evidence of its impact.

The report covers the period from April 2022 to March 2023.

Other key findings include:

  • 95 per cent of people said they got the service when they needed it.
  • 94 per cent said the staff understood the challenges they were facing.
  • 93 per cent said the information we provided was helpful.
  • 91 per cent said our support helped them to make the best of their situation.

Adam Hillhouse, head of enterprise at NESS, said: “We are thrilled to see the difference that we have made to the lives of people who are affected by sensory loss, and would like to thank our staff and volunteers who thoughtfully and tirelessly deliver the best possible services.

“The findings will be used to inform and improve our practice, increasing the positive impact of our life changing work.

“Significant sight and/or hearing loss have a major impact on people’s ability to lead an independent, confident life, but that means different things to different people, which is why we strive to offer really individualised, personalised support that allows people to thrive.”

One person that has been supported by the charity is Aileen Gourlay. She is 93-years-old and is registered as severely sight impaired, but is determined to do the things she enjoys and try new things.

Aileen has been supported by NESS’s Gill Sutherland for just over a year. Here she explains a bit more about how NESS has helped her live independently and with confidence.

She said: “NESS has been so helpful. It is unbelievable the things they have done.

“Gill has pulled out all the stops for me. She helped me with things that I qualified for to make life easier – a blue badge, a free travel pass – all sorts of things that help me get out and about.

"She also helped me with my personal finances and to apply for a reduced television licence.

“NESS also came to my home and advised me on lighting and road safety. They helped me with my cooker and air fryer, so it is easier for me to cook.

“I use a hearing aid and I needed to replace the batteries, but I couldn’t see to do it. They helped me find someone to replace them.

“I love reading, and Gill recommended talking books from the RNIB. We have ordered special speakers, and I am looking forward to them coming.

“NESS is exceptional. It is all things that make life a bit more pleasant. I used to be a real jigsaw fan but couldn’t do them anymore. Gill helped me put in an order for a large piece jigsaw.

"She is just tremendous. I enjoy going out and about to clubs and social activities. Gill helped me sign up for Out and About, so I go on trips and for a cup of tea with them.

"I get tired but I would rather be tired and seeing people and going to places than stay in the house and do nothing.

"I see the girls from my old embroidery club once a week as well, and I love seeing them and have a cup of tea and slice of cake together.

“Gill talks to me as a person. She doesn’t tell me what to do. She just listens and offers advice.

"I really can’t fault her at all. I know that if I had a problem she would always help”.

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