2017 Grant Fund: Vision Care for Homeless People

If you're sleeping rough and need spectacles what do you do?  In the next in our series of Grant Fund recipients, we look at Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP).

VCHP is a registered charity providing eye tests and glasses to homeless and vulnerable people in an environment in which they feel safe and welcome.

Life on the street is hard – you can be cold, hungry, abused, attacked and sick. Add in poor sight and life can become almost unendurable. Restoring vision enables people to take the first steps to take control of their lives. Homeless people are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to obtaining sight tests and glasses. They suffer more eye problems than the general population, find high street opticians difficult to use, are prone to losing or breaking their glasses, and often miss out on having their glasses paid for by the NHS, so cannot afford them. The charity, established in 2003 by optometrists in London, operates 6 clinics in England, plus all day sessions over 6 days for Crisis at Christmas.

The Birmingham Clinic is based at SIFA Fireside, a homeless persons’ day centre, in Digbeth, http://www.sifafireside.co.uk/. The Clinic is open every Monday from 9am to 1pm. VCHP promote the Clinic widely in Birmingham, via organisations such as the Homeless Forum, and the Birmingham Christmas Shelter, held at the St George’s Community Hub in Newtown. From January to the end of October 2016 the Clinic treated 105 patients; on average the Clinic treats 4 patients per session. Each consultation can take 45 minutes as clients can have complex mental and physical health needs.

Our grant will be used to pay a locum optometrist. Although VCHP have volunteers to help run the Clinic, they need to employ a locum optometrist. They can claim funding back from the NHS if a person has an NI Number and is on benefits, but only around half of their clients fall into that category so they must raise funds to cover the costs for the remainder. Our grant means VCHP can guarantee to provide another seven sessions in 2017.  You can see a short BBC interview with VCHP here.

The Wisdom Factory CIC is a social enterprise creating wisdom from knowledge, skills and experience for community benefit. At least 5% of turnover is set aside for a grant-making fund that will be allocated to Birmingham good causes in the spring of each year, just after the company’s year-end. And we’re based in an old factory.

My name is Mike Mounfield and I am a Director of The Wisdom Factory CIC as well as a projects manager, trainer and developer of our BIDBase web database project.