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Norfolk charity ‘better placed to face the challenges of the future than ever’, annual meeting is told

The 214th annual meeting of one of Norfolk’s oldest charities has heard how a year of modernisation and restructuring has made it ‘fit for the future’ – as well as hearing how the organisation rose to the challenge of Covid-19.

Sight loss charity Vision Norfolk held its annual meeting online for the first time due to lockdown restrictions.

Keynote speaker Lady Philippa Dannatt MBE, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and a vice-president of the charity, said that the changes made over the past year were designed to deliver “what visually-impaired people need, rather than what we think should be delivered to them”.

Lady Dannatt told the meeting that although change can be unsettling, “any organisation has to adapt to the changing world if it is to remain relevant”.

The meeting saw the launch of Vision Norfolk’s annual report, which outlined the charity’s new vision that ‘all visually-impaired people in Norfolk should live independent and fulfilled lives’.

“It is particularly important that Vision Norfolk becomes better at supporting people in their own homes to live independent lives – this is increasingly what they aspire to do,” said Lady Dannatt. “It is vital that the charity is able to enable them to do this, as well as remaining economically active – a key factor in being independent.”

As part of this renewed drive to deliver services in the community, Vision Norfolk has developed three new multi-service local ‘hubs’ in King’s Lynn, Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

“These hubs will help us become more agile, signposting people towards where they can find help and support,” said Rev Canon Simon Stokes, co-chair of Trustees at the charity, and who is himself blind.

“They will help visually-impaired people lead independent lives, dipping in and out of our services as they need them.”

Chief executive Gina Dormer told the meeting that the changes had been made following an intensive consultation process with visually-impaired people throughout the county.

“We spent much of the year listening to our service users, as well as visually-impaired people who weren’t using our services, through a series of consultations and village hall meetings. These were about helping us define what Vision Norfolk will be in the future, and ensuring that we will genuinely meet the needs of those living with sight loss in our county.”

The end of the year was overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and Lady Dannatt paid tribute to the way the charity had stepped up to provide support for visually-impaired people across Norfolk during the crisis.

“The dedication of the staff in providing support during the pandemic has been inspirational,” she said. “In the charity’s Thomas Tawell House care home, staff put themselves selflessly on the front line, with some even isolating themselves from their own families so that they could continue to provide care.

“In addition, many thousands of phone calls were made to check on people’s practical and emotional needs, as well as home and garden meetings undertaken by the Community Team.

“After a period of transition, not to mention the particular and unforeseen challenges of the pandemic, Vision Norfolk is better placed to meet the challenges of the future than ever, and totally focussed on meeting the needs of the visually-impaired people of Norfolk.”

As well as Lady Dannatt, Vision Norfolk’s virtual annual meeting was also attended by the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Cllr Vaughan Thomas; the Mayor of King’s Lynn, Cllr Geoff Hipperson; the Sheriff of Norwich, Dr Marian Prinsley; and the High Sheriff of Norfolk, lady Georgina Roberts.

Copies of the charity’s Annual Report are also available by phoning Vision Norfolk on 01603 573000.

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