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January 17, 2023

Grant amount: £12,000

Fight Against Blindness

  • Grant programme: Positive Futures
  • Region: South West

Towards the costs of providing clinical psychology services for children and young people with sight loss and visual impairment in Oxfordshire

About the organisation

Fight Against Blindness provides specialist psychology for children and young people disabled and disadvantaged by Sight Loss and Visual Impairment, to reach their full potential.

Organisation’s objectives
  • Provide specialist psychology to promote mental health at home, hospital and in the community.
  • Support to children and young people to reach their full potential educationally and socially.
  • Support up to 100 beneficiaries a year in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
  • Enable greater independence, social inclusion, support early development, academic success, improved family life, mental health, well being, job prospects, medical outcomes. Reduce feelings of isolation, tackle barriers to improve life chances.
  • Targeted research to support the above.

About the project

Specialist Clinical Psychology Service for Children and Young People with Sight Loss and Visual Impairment to promote their welfare and mental health in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire

The need

Sight loss can be devastating to young children as it is very difficult for them to cope with the prospect of progressive and sometimes aggressive visual deterioration.  Older children often cannot come to terms with being ‘different’ from peers and can develop emotional disorders including anxiety, depression, low self esteem, and self harm.

Children with Visual Impairment (VI) are three times more likely to develop a mental health problem (GOSH).  An estimated 3,500 children/young people with VI in the UK need psychological help each year.

Many children we help in Oxford have multiple conditions such as sight loss and Autism, and hereditary conditions such as Retinitis Pigmentosa (vision loss including tunnel vision, night blindness, blindness), Usher (blind and deaf), all requiring a carefully considered psychological approach.

Sight loss in children has a huge negative impact on educational attainment, employability, life chances and social engagement. Early specialist intervention is essential for future wellbeing.

There is no current legislation which recommends or stipulates the need for the service. It is not commissioned by the NHS or provided by any other charity or organization.

Intervention

Our psychologist at the Oxford Eye Hospital works 1:1 with children presenting a range of difficulties, helping them  manage their mental health and eye conditions in everyday life.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Training, and other specialist psychological techniques provide coping skills aligned with usually complex medical conditions. liaison with schools and other professional bodies is given.

Partners

John Radcliffe Hospital, schools, social services, judicial services, Multi Disiplinary Teams, National Health Institiute of Research.  Partners in associated charities include RNIB, GDBA, Usher Kids, Blind in Business, SAFE (charity that supports young people who have been a victim of a crime).

Case studies

Case study 1

Teenager with a dual diagnosis of severe vision loss and a mental condition was seen by FAB psychologist. The teenager has good academic ability and is very keen to perform well. Has been supported by FAB over the years, and anxiety often peaks at the start of the new academic year with staff turnover, increased uncertainty and change in scheduling and academic pressure.

Work carried out with both teenager and parents to enable more independent decisions when faced with change at home and at school, as can be anxious about making choices. We also worked together on emotional regulation and utilising a menu of coping strategies when feeling overwhelmed. Multidisiplininary Team meetings enabled the school and home system to communicate well and understand distress keeping in mind diagnosis of Autism and sensory sensitivities. Teenager now engaging well and due to start further education, support will continue on requested.

Case study 2

Teenager referred to FAB with hereditary sight loss and ongoing mental health issues of low mood, deliberate self-harm and suicidal ideation. Immediate post assessment action included liaison with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMH), Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), teenager’s GP and SAFE to determine what each were prepared “to offer and to do” in terms of support, and which is best placed to support this child going forward. Further psychology sessions will occur with patient and family to improve mental health and the effectiveness of other agency support. Ongoing case

Impact of PHF’s support

25 children (0-18) a year, directly benefit from PHF’s funding.  Eye conditions include Retinitis Pigmentosa, Retinoblastoma, Branchio-oculo-facial syndrome, Anterior Segment Dysgenesis and Secondary Glaucoma, Stargardt, Functional Sight Loss, Unexplained Vision Loss, Usher, Detached Retina. Some conditions are further complicated by Autism, Albinism, Brain Tumour and other complex needs.

Training delivered and disesemination

Season 2 of our highly successful podcast, training to Usher Kids and presentation of our Oxford work at the Vision Conference Birmingham.

Ongoing legacy

Our service is firmly established in Oxford for the foreseeable future thanks to the generous support of PHF.

How does the organisation exemplify PHF’s values?

Excellence

  • Oxford is the centre of excellence for our service.  Dr Ian McCubbin Principal Clinical Psychologist, Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society, MA (hons), DClinPSych University of Oxford, is our psychologist in Oxford and the Lead Psychologist for FAB.  We promote shared learning from Oxford through reqular peer reviews with other specialist psychologists.

Entrepreneurship

  • The Oxford service has identified many conditions needing special attention, including sight loss and autism, sight loss with no medical cause.  This initiated our unique reseach project at the Oxford Children’s Hospital where our beneficiaries provide data for analysis to improve service, we have full ethics approval.  Publication for the benefit of the public is planned. Two seasons of our highly successful podcasts for parents/carers of children disadvantaged by sight loss in association with the RNIB are available on our website.

Integrity

  • Our service is unconditional, confidential and free.  There are no barriers to its provision for any reason including race, religion, sexual orientation, social background, financial status.

Sustainability

  • We have sustained our service for over 10 years in Oxford and aim to continue for as long as needed and finance allows. The success of our Oxford work and its service model were used to set up our new service at Great Ormond Street Hospital for the children of London.  We invest in fundraising. Our current fundraising strategy aims to increase annual income, diversify income to reduce risk and build unrestricted income.  We have achieved and are sustaining income growth to meet the need. It remains a challenge securing sufficient unrestricted funding so we are making applications for unrestricted grants and developing plans to promote regular giving.