International Agency of the Month: Scottish War Blinded Celebrates 100 Years of Service
Date Posted: 11/01/2015
As part of our International Agency of the Month feature, November brings the spotlight on an agency from Scotland with an interview with Hannah Mitchell, the Campaigns Coordinator at Scottish War Blinded. Hannah Mitchell’s role involves promoting services to stakeholders in order to increase membership referrals and public awareness of membership eligibility.
Key Veteran Charity
The Scottish War Blinded is one of the key veterans’ charities in Scotland that provides support, services and financial assistance to veterans who have a significant sight loss, either sustained during their service or subsequently in later life.
Maribel: Please give us a brief history of your agency.
Hannah Mitchell: The organization, Scottish War Blinded, was established in 1915 to support blinded soldiers returning to Scotland from World War One. Many soldiers were blinded by the use of poisonous gases during this conflict. Rehabilitation focused upon pre-vocational skills, assisting independent living and establishing a strong foundation towards employability and raising self-esteem. One hundred years on, the charity continues to support visually-impaired veterans.
Maribel: How do you support these visually-impaired veterans?
Hannah: Our outreach team covers the whole of Scotland and assists veterans with sight loss in their own homes and communities. We opened the Linburn Centre in West Lothian in January 2011. The Centre functions as a day centre for members resident within traveling distance. It is also a resource for occasional use for people from further afield.
Maribel: Are services free to your clients?
Hannah:Yes. Our services are free to access by our members. The charity is funded by generous public donations. Also, the eligibility of membership has changed in recent years to include veterans whose sight loss was not sustained as a direct result of active service.
Maribel: In what way are you reaching those who require your services?
Hannah: As our membership eligibility for whom we are able to support has changed relatively recently, there is limited awareness among our target audiences of veterans with visual impairments that they are eligible for membership, irrespective of the cause or timing of their sight loss.
As our services have expanded in recent years to incorporate outreach assistance across Scotland, we continue to raise awareness of our enhanced provision.
Maribel: Are there other ways in which you are raising public awareness?
Hannah: We would also like to raise public awareness and increase the numbers of health care professionals who are equipped to use our referral process to assist veterans in accessing our services because we know there are thousands of Scottish veterans struggling with sight loss, who are not currently accessing our services.
Maribel: Do you have future plans for expansion?
Hannah: Yes. We have recently received planning permission to build a new centre in the West of Scotland, so during 2015 and into 2016 we will be working on promoting this up-coming development to ensure more veterans are able to access its facilities upon its opening in early 2017.
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