July 2010 meeting – Bank Survey and Transport updates

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Minutes of General Meeting

Held on 26th July 2010 at 2:30pm

At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

The Fire Brigade were expected to arrive at 2.30pm, but during the business meeting Shaun received a message to say that they had been called to an emergency and would be unable to attend.

The Chairman, David welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Apologies had been received from Liz, Terry Driver, Lee Richmond, Frances Young and Ian Hardy.

David reported the sad news that Arthur Thorne had died at the weekend, and a minute’s silence was held in his memory. Penny would let members know of arrangements for his funeral if they contacted her.

Wendy organised a roll call of members present. There were 29 in attendance.

Everyone had received a copy of the minutes of the AGM and these were agreed as a true record of the meeting.

Update from the Telephone Survey

Penny reported that she and Linda had contacted members for their opinions about facilities provided by local banks for blind or visually impaired people. Only one, Barclays, had a headphone socket on the ATM machine, but none of the available headphones worked. Most members said that their bank was sympathetic to people with sight loss, and were reasonably satisfied with the service provided. David Mercer said that the delay in obtaining large print bank statements meant that recent transactions were not shown. The issue with chip and pin machines not recognizing signatures was discussed. Penny and Linda would continue their research and would follow up phone calls to banks on behalf of members.

Brandon Lewis MP

Penny had met the new MP for Great Yarmouth to make him aware of on-going issues, including that of using of yellow and black tape on scaffolding instead of red and white tape. He agreed to take on board this issue and would write to the Under-Secretary of State. Mr Lewis had kindly agreed to attend the VIP User Group meeting on 27th September at 3.30 pm to discuss relevant local and national issues.

Penny informed members that Clare was the new RNIB network contact.

Public Involvement Meeting at James Paget Hospital on 23rd July.

David reported on a meeting he had attended on behalf of the Group, which was attended by the Chief Executive of the Hospital Trust. He would send Penny a copy of the minutes of the meeting, which was looking for new members. More public involvement in the running of the hospital was being encouraged. Any incidents of bad practice or unsatisfactory service should be reported immediately or as soon as possible. Top management at the hospital were actively going around the hospital, speaking to staff and patients and were keen to make informed decisions, and for there to be good communication with patients and the public.

He reported that movement plates could be fitted to beds and chairs in the hospital, to alert staff immediately if anyone fell.

A Mystery Shopper from the Deaf Awareness group had visited the hospital and was concerned that staff were still not always aware of patients’ sensory problems. Wendy said that education of all staff was vital. Linda commented that ward staff did not seem able to cope with more than one problem or disability at a time, which caused difficulties for patients with multiple health problems. Various solutions were put forward including a card beside or over the bed, a broken eye sign inside the front cover of personal medical records, coloured wristbands, a yellow logo on the BP/temperature chart at the foot of the bed. David said that the consensus at the meeting was that patients’ health and happiness were more important than privacy, and that a simple sign or card giving brief details of an individual’s needs or difficulties would improve the quality of a stay in hospital. Penny said that she would chase up a response from Sarah Morris to the suggestions put forward when she attended a previous VIP User Group meeting, and follow-up news of the scheme being piloted in Bedford of using coloured wrist bands.


David reported on a public meeting he and George had attended on behalf of the Group, with representatives of First Bus, Anglia buses, Norfolk County Council and National Express trains. He told members of a change in frequency of buses at Cobholm – in future it would be a 3 hourly service, 3 times a day run by Anglia buses and would go via Lowestoft to Southwold. He also reported that in future there would be a traffic light system in bus drivers’ cabs, which would make the driver (but not passengers) aware of bad practices when the red light showed, and the driver would have to report back the same day with an explanation. David Mercer said that he would like more information about this system, as it paid to know what was going on.

Various members gave details of good and bad experiences with public transport. David had written to the bus company on behalf of George, after an experience where he put his stick out for a bus arriving at a bus stop, but it failed to stop. Others had a similar experience. There was no bus shelter on Prince of Wales Road, and no inspector at Market Gates to help passengers with information. Apparently there is only one inspector on duty in the whole county on Wednesdays. He also said that other drivers getting on to buses often stood talking to the driver whilst the bus was in motion, and that this was dangerous. Linda said that she had recently been on a bus which had been involved in an accident with a car. The police had to be called but the driver did not bother to inform passengers what was going on. Someone had hit the bus shelter near the gasometers; the shelter had been removed, but the pavement had been left in an uneven and potentially dangerous state. George said that on one occasion when he was on his way home, using his white stick and wearing dark glasses, he had asked someone where the next bus was going, and was asked “Can’t you read?”. Wendy said that she had been contacted by one of the bus companies following complaints by visually impaired people, but could not identify anyone who had made these complaints. Penny and Linda suggested that seats in the first rows on buses should be marked with yellow bars, and that it might be helpful if the Group could arrange to be taken on a walk around stationary buses of different sizes, just to get a feel for what they were really like.

Some Group members had very favourable comments about pre-booked assistance on trains. Great Yarmouth railway station was unmanned after 6 pm which was problematic. David Mercer brought up the question of different fares depending on how and where tickets were booked, and recommended that Disabled Person Railcard holders use the service of

Pat Clark had travelled from Great Yarmouth via Harwich to Denmark and had been very pleased with the assistance given. David told a very encouraging story about a return trip to Cambridge, where he had received assistance throughout the journey and stay at a hotel. George had travelled to Harrow on the Hill, a 17 hour journey during which there had been an unforeseen delay and he had received no assistance at all. Members were encouraged to book in advance and ask for Assistance when travelling by train.

Community Services

Paul Bowerbank reported that there would be a VIP Day very soon, and mentioned the Mystery Shopper experience

With regard to hospital appointments and admissions, workshops were being introduced to encourage a consistent approach to patients. He made mention of discussions about a passport-style booklet or information card containing vital information about patients. PALS had expressed concern about patients being moved frequently from one bed or one place to another, and that patient records did not necessarily travel at the same speed. An example was cited of a patient who was moved five times in 14 hours and missed out on vital medication. Paul encouraged members to take responsibility for stating their needs whilst in hospital. David said that efforts were being made to cut out necessary movement of patients with dementia as they found this disorientating.

Paul said that research at a London Hospital indicated that there was a direct link between sight loss and dementia, and that low vision can improve people’s memory.

There was a target date of 2011 to set up additional service for deaf/blind people in Great Yarmouth, which was welcomed by the group, because at present the headquarters was at Peterborough.

Paul described an invention by Paul Whiley, a 26 year old unemployed young man in Newcastle. It was like a credit card with a picture on one side of a bridge in Newcastle. On the other side of the card, was one of six pictures, showing how people with six different forms of visual impairment might see the same picture, to visually inform other people of their problem. It was agreed that this would be a good idea to follow up locally.

Paul reported that of 12 young people who needed help with access to further or higher education in his area, all 12 were enabled to carry out their studies at East Norfolk College, Great Yarmouth College and UEA. Of 33 others seeking employment, six had found work.

New Training and Development Centre – NCoDP

Penny Parker told the Group that the Centre had been launched at a high profile reception last week and that Disability and Equality Awareness training was taking place. Courses would be open to any services, and training was available to statutory bodies as well as disabled people. The next course on 23rd September was fully booked.

Social Events

Someone commented that all the best social events for blind people seemed to take place in Norwich. Wendy pointed out that there was a craft group, book club, sailing, walking and bowls and the computer group in Yarmouth. She was in the office on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, and would be pleased to hear suggestions for further activities. She was willing to arrange a Games Club on Thursday mornings; if people let her know what they wanted, she could get games such as whist, dominoes, ludo and crib from Norwich.

Other Business

David informed the group that on 1st and 2nd September at the Bradbury Centre, NNAB, Magpie Road in Norwich there was to be an exhibition of equipment for professionals and families with visually impaired young people, 11-6 each day. There would be demonstrations of equipment and services and advice from NNAB. If anyone wished to attend this event, please phone or email David.

Work on the Community Garden at the Library was continuing; it still had a cycle path running through it.

Penny Cox raised the subject of the on-going problems at the top of Yarmouth Way. The crossing had been moved further down the road, but people were still crossing at the corner where the lights used to be, because no barriers had been installed. She felt that this was at odds with the agreed plans, but David Wardale did not appear to be willing to take the matter any further. She felt it was not only hazardous for people with poor vision and people with guide dogs, but also for people in wheelchairs and young children. Brandon Lewis’s secretary had phoned David Wardale but no progress was made. It was felt that the tactile surface would not be recognised by guide dogs. Tim said that individual guide dogs would be trained in the areas most frequently used by their owners. Penny said that David Wardale had given mixed messages, but the facts were that although drivers can see ahead, pedestrians can’t see cars coming, which makes it a dangerous place for anyone to cross. David suggestion a demonstration, but only six members voted to support this.

Other potential hazards were at Centre 81, where dropped kerbs had been built on corners, Northgate Street where dropped kerbs were at different places on each side of the road, so the crossing points were not straight across the road.

It was suggested that the Group should speak to someone at Norfolk County Council who collects data of accident blackspots to see if they could influence rethinking of these problem areas.

Shaun said there was a problem with parked cars along Gorleston seafront, which prevented people seeing or hearing cars coming along the road.

Mark said that there was to be a Mobility Scooter Safety Event at the King’s Centre on 29th July; members might be interested to go along to hear what these scooters sound like.

Penny Cox questioned whether she should reissue the invitation to the fire brigade to come to the next meeting, before Brandon Lewis. As Clare from RNIB was coming on the same day it was felt that it would be better to invite them at a later date.

Penny Parker said that there was to be a meeting at Framingham Pigot on Monday, with the fire service access group, to discuss the level of egress to fire exits from public buildings. David and George indicated that they would like to attend if transport could be provided. Penny Cox explained that today’s visit from the fire service was mainly to test how guide dogs reacted to instructions from firemen in an emergency and whether breathing apparatus prevented deaf people from hearing instructions clearly.

David gave notice of a meeting of the Disability Forum at Cobholm & Lichfield on 10th August and the AGM there on 5th September.

Penny Cox asked members to note the Christmas Lunch on 13th December at the Furzedown Hotel. More details later.

David reminded members that the website was up and running and that newsletters would be placed on it.

Penny Parker said that Ann Young of the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People would be arranging 15th anniversary celebrations next year, and asked the VIP User Group if they could think of any ways to celebrate the achievements of disabled people across Norfolk. Ann’s letter would be sent out with the minutes.

The Great Yarmouth Lions Club would be arranging something for Sight Awareness Day again this year. More details to follow.

David Mercer encouraged members to write to their MPs about DLA for blind people. Mr Cameron had said that this was secure, but it would be sensible to write to MPs – if more than 10 people wrote the matter would have to be brought up in Parliament.

Linda encouraged members who were interested in sailing to think about joining her, Penny and Pat at Sailability. They had recently been sailing on the River Orwell at Ipswich with the East Anglian Sailing Association. Four free trial sessions were available, and 1:1 tuition was given. It was possible to get to Sailability on public transport.

Group members were asked whether they thought that carrying out phone surveys was a good idea. It was agreed that Penny and Linda should complete and follow up the bank survey, and then perhaps do a similar survey of bus services.

David Mercer expressed his frustration about difficulties in getting household utilities paperwork and bills in large print.

Wendy said that on Thursday 16th September there would be an Independent Living morning, with a talk and question time at 1030 and demonstrations of gadgets from Lakeland and other suppliers.

The NCODP AGM would be on 9th October at Worstead. David would pass details on to Penny.

Questions for Brandon Lewis should be brought on the day of his visit, i.e. the next meeting on 27th September.

The meeting ended at about 4.10pm.

Agenda for VIP User Group

Monday 27 September 2010

2:30pm to 4:30pm

Wherry Way Communal Room,

Caister Road,

Great Yarmouth

NR30 4DG

1 Introductions

2 Review of Minutes of last Meeting

3 Updates from projects

4 Brandon Lewis MP

5 Christmas Lunch Review


7 Time and Date of next Meeting


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