Before they are ‘introduced’ to a client, a visitor undertakes a two-hour training session.
Typically, visitors help their clients by filling in forms; personal shopping; undertaking small household tasks; reading/writing correspondence; finding lost items and taking them on outings. Each ‘matching’ is monitored closely: visitors are required to submit reports and the Scheme Manager periodically rings or visits clients to review the matching. Visitors are recruited via Volunteer Bureaux, local press publicity and advertisements, parish magazines, postcards in shops and talks. A visitor may be matched with more than one client. Clients are derived from a variety of referral sources — principally, Adult Social Care, other charities for the visually impaired, GP surgeries, other health services, and Age Concern. Self referrals are also accepted.
Most of our clients are over 85 years of age. Most do not have relatives living nearby and are socially and/or geographically isolated. Homecall helps them to maintain their independence and stay in their own homes. Although established originally to benefit blind and partially sighted people — regardless of whether or not they choose to be registered — one unintended social benefit of Homecall’s service has been to relieve the pressure on residential and nursing homes and help to alleviate ‘bed blocking’.
Homecall currently maintains a list of between 50 and 60 visitors with a similar number of clients. Our visitors usually visit their clients weekly — a total of approximately 2,500 and 3,000 visits per annum. A majority of our visitors are above retirement age themselves.
Because it is known that a significant number of older people prefer not to register as blind or partially-sighted (and therefore do not show up in Adult Social Care statistics), it is difficult to determine the level of unmet demand. However, it is estimated that one in five people will eventually suffer from visual impairment.