Gloucestershire Funders’ Spotlight is a series aimed at raising awareness of some of the organisations we have helped to fund. Each week we speak with a representative and ask them questions about what it is that they do, what they have learned during the last few months, and how else they might be supported to ensure they can keep making a difference to lives in Gloucestershire. This week we spoke with Jackie from Forest Sensory Services.
Q1: What does Forest Sensory Services do, where are you based and who do you work with?
Forest Sensory Services is a small charity based in the Forest of Dean. We support people learning to live with and coming to terms with sensory loss. This is usually loss of sight or hearing. We offer support to their families too as often sensory loss has an impact on the whole family. Before lockdown we were able to offer many educational, rehabilitation and social classes. These included, balance, IT using specialist software, reading book club, lunch club, singing, handbells, craft, skittles, cookery and trips out. Many of our groups are geared towards older people (as that is where most sensory loss happens) but among our new plans is Our Working Leisure Support (OWLS) which is aimed at people of working age to get them trying new outdoor activities. We also offer rehabilitation and independent living advice. Our independent living shop offers a large range of equipment to assist everyone whatever their disability.
Q2: How has Forest Sensory Services and the people you work alongside been affected over the last 3 months?
Lockdown was not pleasant for our service users. Sensory loss increased the sense of isolation and practical issues around a trip out became a major issue. People lacked understanding of how a visually impaired person social distances when they can’t see who is in front of them or where they are.
Through sheer determination we reopened on 1st august for several of our classes and the overwhelming joy expressed by those who were able to attend was a sight to lift the spirits. Not for one moment have we regretted this decision or all the hard work it has taken. Sadly today 28th September we have had to close our door for a few weeks just to keep everyone safe but we will be open as soon as it is safe.
Q3: Have you learned anything or been surprised by anything during this time?
By listening to those involved and involving them in decisions anything is possible with the right attitude.
Q4: How will the money from Gloucestershire Funders be used by Forest Sensory Services?
We operate a volunteer transport system to our classes (we are very rural). The money Gloucestershire funders has given us is being used to support our classes. The extra expense involved in bringing people in individually has been massive but never the less very important. Initially we didn’t use volunteer drivers but risk assessments showed that by putting people into bubbles we could do it more safely with our own drivers than taxis. During lockdown we offered a “one stop help shop”. Service users picked up a phone and could get help with anything. If we didn’t have the knowledge we went out and found it. We did everything from homing a cat to sorting out funeral expenses. This service was invaluable to people who were unable to access information due to lack of eyesight or technology
Q5: Are you still fundraising? How can people support your organisation?
As things start to go back into lockdown this week we are fully aware that the “one stop help shop” will need to pick up those people struggling with everyday life. We hope that things won’t be as bad this time but the NHS volunteer help may not be so readily available this time round . This means less volunteers to do more work. We will need financial grant support to run our services as individual funding decreases. We will do our best to keep the doors open for everyone that needs it.