26 September 2011 CHEW Talk and Members Issues

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Minutes of General Meeting

Held on 26th September 2011 at 2:30pm

At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

David welcomed everyone to the meeting and attendees introduced themselves. There were 22 Members and guests present, and apologies were received from Liz Price, Penny Cox, George Barlow, Lewis Roberts (Researcher for Brandon Lewis MP), John Kempster, Terry Driver and Jo Howes (DIAL). Sarah Morris had been expected to attend to present feedback from Members? questions from an earlier meeting, but she did not arrive.

David welcomed Charlotte, who had been invited to talk to Members about the Cook Healthy, Eat Well (CHEW) Project, based at the Priory Centre. This was an introduction to basic cookery skills, with emphasis on healthy eating. Classes are held at various venues, and if the Group was interested, a course of 5 free sessions could be arranged, probably at the Library, with support from the HAPPI Project or other volunteers. Charlotte invited anyone interested to give her their details, or phone 01493 743020 for more information. The courses were open to anyone aged 16 or over, and were normally for four to eight people. Charlotte was warmly thanked for her presentation.

Paul Easton, Volunteer Team Leader, on behalf of Joleen and the HAPPI Project, gave a short talk about the HAPPI Project and in particular the Sow-a-Seed initiative. The HAPPI project works alongside other agencies, to provide assistance to enable older people to engage in social and healthy activities, offering one-to-one support if required, and also arranging sessions for people in residential care, such as Wii, line dancing and bingo. The Whoops-a-daisy Project was initially funded to encourage people in residential care and sheltered housing to take an interest in growing plants on windowsills. The Sow a Seed project is an extension of this, to involve the general public, schools etc in growing things indoors from seed. Trained volunteers are carefully matched with clients, and at present there are around 50 volunteers, ranging in age from 17 to over 80, who have already helped over 200 people. Paul invited Members to choose and plant their own seeds at the meeting, and a few took up this offer. David thanked Paul for his presentation and on-going support for the VIP Group.

Penny Parker, representing the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, was pleased to report that the Coalition had made a grant of £1000 to the Group, to help with running costs and publicity and in recognition of the work undertaken by the Group to improve the quality of life for blind and visually impaired people in the Great Yarmouth area, and made particular mention of the campaign for the use of yellow and black tape on scaffolding, which had been taken up in parliament by the local MP and had now been adopted by Norfolk County Council. She reminded members of the Coalition AGM on 8th October, which had a wide range of activities on offer, including Lorraine Bradwell as guest speaker, musical entertainment, a film, and looking to the future. She also gave notice of 2 workshops, one on Marketing and another on Presentation Skills, which might be of interest to Members. These events were open to all Members of the Coalition and transport would be funded. Shaun encouraged everyone to support the NCODP AGM, which was an opportunity for small groups like the VIP User Group to join together to make their voices heard. David thanked Penny for all her support, and asked her to pass on the Group?s thanks to the panel for the generous grant.

Group Update and Members? Feedback

Funding. The news of the grant from the NCOPD was very welcome, and it had been decided that those using the taxi service to attend meetings should be asked to pay a reduced rate of £4 each time, and that all members should make an additional contribution of £2 per meeting towards refreshments and running costs. Nine members (the majority of those present) were in agreement with this decision and the contributions were collected by the Treasurer.

Plans for Future Meetings. David asked those present if they were happy with the new layout of the meeting room, and asked if anyone had ideas for topics for discussion in the future, or guest speakers.

David reported that there was evidence of the success of the campaign for yellow and black scaffolding tape in Broad Row, where scaffolding had been marked with the new tape. Ian Hardy of Great Yarmouth Borough Council said that this kind of campaign was what the group did well, and even though the campaign to change the colour of scaffolding tape had taken five years, the Group?s pressure had finally brought about a result which would be of significant benefit to many people.

It was felt that the Group should maintain contact with Sarah Morris. The service and facilities provided at the hospital had improved immensely, and Darren said it was getting better all the time. The local newspaper had reported on awards being made to staff and departments at James Paget which were considered to be the Most Remarkable, following a year of nominations for members of staff or teams which really make a difference. The new medical centre at Shrublands was now open, and it was felt that the Group should email Sandy Griffiths to express concern that there is very little contrast in the décor in the building, which makes it difficult for visually impaired people to find their way around the building.

There was some general discussion about the following issues raised by Members

? lack of safe crossings (North Denes Road) – Ron

? the withdrawal/restrictions of subsidised bus travel for blind and visually impaired people and their companions

? difficulty in getting hospital transport for those in receipt of DLA ? query from Judy

? hospital transport provided for a patient after treatment but not for a close relative, although the relative is also disabled ? Brian

? buses not parking near enough to the kerb – Denis

? poor visibility of raised pavements – Ron

? bus drivers pulling off before passengers are safely seated ? Darren

? pushbikes on pavements ? Darren

? skateboards on Beccles Road during the school holiday – Judy

It was agreed that Anglian Buses were generally cheaper than First Bus. The time restrictions for use of the concessionary bus pass, particularly in the morning, created hardship for some people. The telephone survey carried out by Norfolk County Council was very limited and did not address the particular problems of blind and partially sighted people. Ian Hardy suggested that the Group send a letter to Graham Plant at Norfolk County Council, carefully setting out the specific problems for blind and partially sighted people having to travel at peak times in order to use their concessionary passes, supported by evidence of problems and asking that an exception be made, so that the relatively small number of blind and partially sighted people could retain the right to use their pass at any time of day.

Nelly suggested that the other problems experienced by blind and partially sighted public transport users could be addressed by disability awareness training for bus drivers, and suggested that the Group be pro-active in making contact with the bus companies, providing evidence of the kind of problems which they had encountered, with the offer for some Members of the Group to make short presentation of ways in which drivers could make travelling by bus more user friendly. Tim said that his son had undergone 3 days of training with National Express, and everyone agreed that their experience of the service provided by National Express coaches was very positive.

David told Members about the withdrawal of National Express coach concessionary discount scheme for the over 60s and disabled people with effect from 31st October 2011. However, tickets booked before that date for trips up to 31st August 2012 would still attract the half-price discount. The telephone number for more information is 0871 818181.

Tim said that the police had been very helpful when he had reported that the new occupants of a house in Caister were parking their car on the pavement adjacent to an overgrown hedge. After a visit from the PCSO there had been no further problems with the car. It was felt that a meeting with the PCSO responsible for North Denes Road would be helpful. David said he would make contact with the police and set up a meeting for Darren and Ron to air their concerns. It was also felt that it might be helpful to invite the local PCSO to a future meeting, and Members were encouraged to think of any questions which they might like answered.

Members discussed their experiences of shopping in local supermarkets. Most were found to be very helpful for those able to locate the customer services desk. Don said that he gives his shopping list to an assistant in Sainsbury?s and they shop for him.

A member said she was experiencing some difficulties with the changeover from DLA to Employment Support Allowance. The ESA was topped up so that her allowance stayed the same, but Inland Revenue had changed her Tax Coding as a consequence.

Other Business

The new telephone number for Hospital Transport is 01493 453777.

The number to ring the TPS registration line to block unsolicited telephone callers is 0845 0700707.

Christmas Lunch. Penny had provisionally booked the Furzedown Hotel for 12th December, 12 noon for 12.30 pm, 3-course lunch, cost £18.50 per head. Friends and families were warmly invited, and there would be a raffle.

Digital TV Switchover. David reminded Members that this is to take place on 9th and 23rd November, and after those dates there would be no analogue TV reception. On Wednesday there will be a presentation at the Cobholm and Lichfield Community Centre about the Switchover.

World Sight Day is on Saturday 15th October, from 12 noon, when the Lions Club would again be organising a blindfold walk around the St George?s Park to raise awareness of what it is like to be blind or partially sighted. At 12.15pm Lions Clubs around the world will be planting a tree in recognition of World Sight Day. Jeremy Goss would be in attendance with his cycle following his sponsored trip to Germany on behalf of NNAB.

March Against Government Cuts to those hardest hit. This was scheduled to take place in Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich on 22nd October. NCODP and the HAPPI Project would be taking part, and Members were encouraged to join in. Chapelfield Gardens are just beyond the Theatre Royal.

Darren asked whether there were any opportunities for blind and visually impaired people to learn to read and write. David would investigate and let Darren know. It was thought that the college only provided this kind of service for students aiming to work.

David said that whilst he was on holiday there would be an opportunity for a taster computer course at NNAB on Monday 3rd October at 11.30am. Brian Hannant said that he would be interested. Brian also thanks Members for welcoming him to the Group, which he had found enlightening.

David had reported that Terry had attended a meeting of SENSE, and wondered if they provided anything of interest to VIP Group Members, but it was felt that their interests were covered by existing groups and service provided by NNAB. Discounted tickets for some audio descripted theatre productions were available. Tim said that staff at the Theatre Royal were very helpful, and there was a concession for companions of blind people to certain performances. Wendy said that it was possible that NNAB could arrange transport for daytime/weekday performances if enough notice was given.

On Thursday 29th September at NNAB from 10-2 there was to be a demonstration of Humanware equipment including the Breeze trekking device, and on 13th October a demonstration of magnifiers.

All relevant dates, telephone numbers and information would be included in the next newsletter.

The next meeting would be held on 28th November at 2pm at Wherry Way, when it was hoped that a representative of the Highways Department of Norfolk County Council would come to answer Members? questions.

The meeting closed at 4.25pm.

Shaun McGarry, Vice Chairman

Great Yarmouth VIP User Group

01493 60 22 72 * 07 985 916 244

vicechair@gyvipusergroup.org.uk

http://www.gyvipusergroup.org.uk www.gyvipusergroup.org.uk

*** Achieving better understanding and Respect for Visually Impaired People ***

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