The Council’s Deaf and Visual Impairment service team, which is part of Adult Social Care, provides support for deaf, and deafblind people, and people with hearing visual impairments in Derby.

The team supports and empowers deaf adults and children, and adults with visual impairments to be as independent as possible, and provides valuable information and advice about accessing services.

For people who are more vulnerable or have additional needs such as mental health, autism, learning difficulties or physical disabilities, they provide additional support to them and their families to enable them to lead a good quality of life.

With COIVD-19 meaning people working from home, wearing face coverings, and turning to the internet to communicate, their work has never been more important.

Sue Drummond, the Manager for Deaf and Visual impairment teams explained;

“At the start of lockdown, like many others, our team had to change their normal ways of providing support.

“Most of our work is within the community, visiting people’s homes to advise on assess their needs and having face-to-face conversations. When the team initially wasn’t able to do that, we offered to support  to the Community Hub”

Dermot Bishop, a Rehabilitation Officer, and Lisa Burton, the team clerk, had their job roles changed overnight thanks to the pandemic. Working with the Community Hub, they took on responsibility for making calls to over 350 people open to social care who were shielding to make sure that they were able to get the essential supplies they needed including food, shopping and medication. They were also able to provide information about the support that was available from the Community Hub.

This work was tough, but rewarding, with some people having no human contact, and many being near the end of food supplies. Sue said;

“The people who we support can be very vulnerable and these phone calls were sometimes the only time they had contact with another person that week. One only had some packets of mashed potato left in the house so the call from Dermot was a real lifeline.

“Once the shielding calls were completed, Lisa and Dermot began to contact the hundreds of people on the blind or visually impaired registers to check if they were OK, and had enough food and supplies.

“They were also able to provide people with crucial information from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Community Hub.”

As lockdown has progressed, and measures have eased, Sue and the team have been able to get back to business in some ways.

“The teams have done an amazing job, adapting to the unusual circumstances that COVID and the lockdown brought, and have kept up the level of service that we provide to its usual high standards. Our deaf service team has even been able to complete home visits whilst staying COVID safe and adhering to Government advice.” Sue said.

While adapting to new ways of working has been difficult, other aspects of the job have been even harder.

Sue explained;

“Alongside the changes in working practice, the whole team has for example, had to cope with barriers created by technology as many of our customers cannot use online services. They have coped well and have found the strength to carry on their great work supporting our vulnerable customers to stay safe.

“I am very proud of everything they have achieved”.