Olivia Curno, CEO
I am proud to be leading this organisation through momentous change, with a new name, brand and vision for the future.
We’ve achieved a lot since we were formed in 1921, investing more than £30m to support London’s sight loss communities. Despite this, alarmingly more people than ever before are needlessly going blind and the life experiences of blind and partially sighted people in the capital are deteriorating. We are needed now more than ever.
A new name
Our former name has served us well for decades but our donors, and the people we support, tell us it is no longer fit for modern day society. We are a charity that stands for quality, impact, empowerment and trustworthiness. Our old brand was holding us back and needed to be refreshed to appeal to the visually impaired community and supporters alike.
So as we say a fond farewell to the Greater London Fund for the Blind, we become the Vision Foundation, London’s sight loss charity. As the Vision Foundation we will reach more blind and partially sighted people who need us and inspire our generous supporters to join us on this journey.
We are now the Vision Foundation. We change lives and save sight.
A new approach
But we’re not just changing our name. We want to do more for more people. Sight loss is a growing problem. There are more than 200,000 people in London living with sight loss today, and 680,000 (1 in 12) adults are living with a sight threatening condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Unless things change these figures are set to increase significantly by 2030. In addition to these growing numbers, comes a frightening picture around a deteriorating quality of life.
- Employment rates have dropped in the last ten years from 33% to 26% of working age people being employed or self-employed.
- Reports of disability hate crime increased by a third in just one year between 2017 and 2018, and people tell us they feel unable to go out at night.
- Changes to the benefits system have created difficulties, in many cases leaving people distressed and facing hardship.
- Modern urban planning is creating new barriers for people with sight loss. “Shared space” pavements designed to give a clean modern look, make navigating even simple routes far harder.
We’re committed to addressing these challenges. Over the last six months, we consulted widely with people living with sight loss – we’ve held focus groups and surveys, and undertaken numerous interviews. We’ve listened to our own employees and trustees who are blind and partially sighted, and we’ve reached out to the wider sector to understand what is working well and where there are serious gaps.
In response, we’re launching an ambitious five-year strategy with the aim of making London a shining example of a sight loss aware city.
We plan to open up London’s cultural, social and economic opportunities to all blind and partially sighted people and celebrate and champion London’s visually impaired talent. But we also want to expose and address some of the the darker truths around sight loss – including the exclusion, abuse and loneliness; and by working hard in at-risk communities, we will start to prevent the avoidable but irreversible sight loss still occurring each day.
We will continue to deliver our work through charities that work in the heart of their communities, but as well as financial support we will now offer these charities wider help – from training, to networking, to shared resources and space; helping to make the whole sector as professional, impactful, and collaborative as possible. In addition, we will work to share data and stories from our partners, championing the voices of blind and partially sighted people so that together, we can influence policy and public attitudes, and ultimately transform lives.
But we can’t do this on our own. To achieve our aims, we need ongoing funding. The Vision Foundation only exists because of our generous donors – we have no historic endowment of funds, and receive no government funding.
So, if you have supported us before, please continue with us on this journey. If you are new to our work, please consider giving or getting involved however you can. And if you are already working in sight loss and have an idea for a brilliant project that can transform lives – please get in touch. We’d love to make it happen.