27th September 2010 Brandon Lewis MP, RNIB and World Sight Day Updates

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Minutes of General Meeting

Held on 27th September 2010 at 2:30pm

At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

There were 26 people in attendance. The MP for Great Yarmouth, Mr Brandon Lewis, arrived at 3:30 pm.

David Wilkinson took the Chair.

Apologies had been received from Linda Cooper, George Barlow, Siobhan Meade, Pat Crawford and Pauline Goleby.

The minutes of the previous meeting were reviewed and agreed as a correct record.

Claire and Thomas Kay from RNIB were welcomed to the meeting.

In her update on the Group?s projects, Penny Cox said that she was pressing for a counselling service through the eye clinic at JPH for people who contracted eye disease and needed extra support beyond the medical support provided at the clinic.

The problems of access to public transport were being highlighted by a national campaign by the RNIB. Areas of concern were the need for audio description, provision for guide dogs, for drivers to stop automatically for blind people waiting at bus stops, and allowing disabled people time to sit down before the bus pulls off. The Group were encouraged to let Claire know about any specific issues. David Mercer told Claire about the yellow card system for blind people implemented by Lancashire County Council, which has bus numbers clearly marked both in Braille and black letters, so that bus drivers can clearly see which bus a blind person is waiting for. Agreement from Norfolk County Council and the bus drivers would be needed before a system like this could be implemented in Norfolk. David Mercer felt that Norfolk County Council had too many rules.

Terry Driver raised an issue which he would like the MP to take on board, regarding the crossing on the road at Caister, where barriers had been removed two and a half years ago, and his unsuccessful campaign to have them reinstated both for the safety of children and disabled people, and to stop motorists driving on to the pavement near the crossing. Reinstatement of the barrier would make this a much safer place to cross. Ron Larner also highlighted the need for a safe crossing on North Denes. It was felt that these two concerns should be passed on to Norfolk County Council Highways Department.

The unresolved problems about lack of barriers and the positioning of the crossing on Yarmouth Way were again mentioned, also the distance it was necessary to walk in Gorleston between the hospital and the seafront using safe crossings.

Ian Hardy suggested that research be carried out and that photographic evidence and lists of danger areas be compiled so that a positive case for change could be put to the Highways Department.

Judy Morrow informed the Group of changes which had taken place at Great Yarmouth College, including moving the Reception area nearer the Library and a new pathway between the two main buildings.

Penny Parker, from the Coalition, gave notice of a workshop at Framingham Pigot about how services could be developed and improved. Anyone interested in going was asked to contact David Wilkinson.

The Banks Survey was completed, and it was felt that any remaining issues were being dealt with by members themselves. Members were told that Lloyds Bank could send texts to phones on request. Terry Driver asked whether it would be possible for the problem with the delay in sending out large print statements could be taken on board by the RNIB in consultation with the bank ombudsman.

With regard to the Bus Survey it was felt that under the new ?Equality Act? the bus companies have an obligation to make their services as accessible to disabled people as to anyone else. Ian Hardy suggested that the Group should build up a list of data about particular incidents where the bus service had failed to meet visually impaired people?s needs.

Shaun reported that the website is growing and now has the facility to contribute anything via email.

Penny and Linda were thanked for their work on behalf of the Group to help make Yarmouth Library an easily accessible place for visually impaired people. Anyone interested in Human Book Day should speak to Shaun or David.

A new local home help service had been launched by Age Concern in Yarmouth, providing reliable and vetted assistants to help older people with domestic tasks including housework, shopping, ironing, laundry and many other domestic chores. The contact telephone number is 01493 806322.

David also recommended another service run by the Borough Council, Safe at Home, which offers help with small household jobs, at the rate of £10 per hour. Contact 01493 846190 for more details.

Chris Stanley from Great Yarmouth Lions gave details of this year?s Global Event on World Vision Day on Saturday, 9th October. The local event would take place in St George?s Park from 12 noon, when the Marine Cadet band would be playing and the HAPPI group and Lions? group would have stands. The MP and Mayor would attend the Blindfold Walk starting at 2pm. It was hoped that there would be a Mercury reporter in attendance.

The Disability Forum AGM would be held at 2pm on 5th October at Lichfield and Cobholm Community Centre.

On 8th October DIAL?s own AGM would meet at the Library.

On 9th October the NCoDP AGM would be held at Worstead at 10am. Lunch would be provided. Shaun would be attending.

Wendy told the Group that Christmas cards made by the NNAB craft group were on sale, priced £1 each.

The Centre would be closed on 14th October for the NNAB AGM.

Lakeland would be holding an open evening from 6-8pm on 9th November in Norwich.

It was confirmed that all members receive Grapevine, and mention was made of the brilliant new audio equipment. Tony Wright, former MP for Great Yarmouth, had nominated Grapevine for a Queen?s Award for voluntary service.

Changes to DLA from April 2011 could affect some visually impaired people. Some members may be eligible for higher mobility rate. The Benefit Agency will be in touch over the next few months.

Ambitious plans for the redevelopment of St George?s included live concerts screened from London, amateur dramatic performances and a community building and bar were discussed. Building was due to start in November and last for 18 months. The issue of audio description would be looked into in consultation with the Theatre Royal, which had the latest high-tech equipment. Concern was expressed about access, crossing places and the obstruction caused by hoardings around the site. The Group would monitor the redevelopment programme.

There was to be a special performance of the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk in Norwich on Saturday 9th January 2011. Mark, at the Norwich office had details. Terry Driver said he had attended a performance at the Theatre Royal where there was provision for a neck loop system, audio description and a signer who was very talented.

The Menu for the Christmas lunch on Monday, 13th December at the Furzedown Hotel, 12 for 12.45, had been sent out. Please put money and your choice of menu in a sealed envelope for Penny at the next meeting, or send it to Penny a.s.a.p. ? her address is on the back of the menu.

Brandon Lewis, MP arrived at the meeting at 3:30 pm

Mr Lewis began by saying how much he was looking forward to the World Vision Day blindfold walk in the park on 9th October.

On the issue of yellow and black scaffold tape, he had made a representation to the Coalition Government. The government does not, and will not, prescribe colours; this is a matter for local authorities, so he has written to Norfolk County Council and is awaiting a reply. He and his assistant would take every opportunity, including a meeting on 28th October, to get officials to understand the significance of the colours and educate councils to make the change from red and white to yellow and black. This would not necessarily take effect immediately.

Tim spoke of the RNIB campaign to differentiate shared surfaces on roads and pavements. This was a problem, especially with guide dogs. Mr Lewis said this was a local government issue, and should be taken up with the local council; there was no prescribed standard for differentiation.

Electric cars were a potential problem for visually impaired and deaf people, which also needed to be addressed.

It was felt that there was often a lack of respect or care for those who are deaf and/or blind, and problems such as the shared surfaces and electric cars highlight this lack of understanding.

Young blind people frequently lack confidence, and are often discouraged from being ambitious. There are certain jobs ? such as stenography, where blind people can, with encouragement, give better service than a sighted person, and it was hoped that MPs could open up opportunities for young people in this area of expertise. Mr Lewis said that he could influence those in a position to help, but not necessarily fix things, pointing out that MPs are not super social workers, but if he agrees with a cause he will certainly put pressure on colleagues. He said that there will be changes to Department of Work and Pensions legislation before Christmas, and that the government will try to create more imaginative ways to help people get back to work.

Penny Cox said that only 10% of TV output was thought to be audio descripted, and this tended to be only the more popular shows such as soaps. Mr Lewis would make enquiries about whether this could be enhanced, but pointed out that it was difficult to regulate private companies which broadcast. The BBC was independent and impartial in the process of change.

Penny Parker, on behalf of the NCoDP asked the MP how the coalition can defend an equality bill which impacts on the independence of disabled people. Mr Lewis said that he did not know what will be in the comprehensive spending review, but that cuts were essential because the previous government had spent money which the country did not have. It was felt that there were many quangos and non-departmental bodies and agencies which received funding from which where was no obvious benefit to people. The MP said that there were really tough times ahead which would impact on everyone. Penny expressed concern about how the coalition will be able to monitor the effect this will have on individuals. It was to be hoped that genuinely disabled people would not be penalised by the campaign to get those on Incapacity Benefit back to work. Mr Lewis would assess feedback from people who genuinely needed help, and would be vigilant and listen to what people had to say at surgeries he would be holding around the Borough.

Ian Hardy expressed concerns about how frequent changes in education are affecting young people, and how the current economic climate will affect university graduates in the future, and disabled people longer term. Mr Lewis?s expectation was that in five years? time the county of Norfolk would be ?buzzing?, with marketing of renewable energy worth £100m to the local economy, and the Outer Harbour and dualling of the A47/A11 unlocking a huge range of growth in the area and creating new jobs and new opportunities. He said we have a duty to ensure that aspiration is there among the young people of Great Yarmouth to work and be successful.

In conclusion, Brandon Lewis thanked the Group for inviting him to the meeting, and said that his community liaison assistant Lewis would try to attend future meetings and feedback information.

Mr Lewis was thanked for giving up his time to attend the meeting.

Any other Business

At the next meeting on 29th November, Jason would give a talk about the new Summary Care Records, and Sarah Morris, from the JPH Ophthalmic Ward would give an update on the issues discussed with her at a previous meeting.

Members were reminded that analogue TV would no longer be available next autumn.

The meeting closed at 4.30pm.

Agenda for VIP User Group

Monday 29th November 2010

2:30pm to 4:30pm

Wherry Way Communal Room,

Caister Road,

Great Yarmouth

NR30 4DG

1 Introductions

2 Members Present

3 Summary Care Records ? Explained

4 Update from JPH ? Sarah Morris

5 Sensory Support Threatened Closure

6 AOB

7 Time and Date of next Meeting

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