Partially sighted woman ‘appalled’ at talking books scheme cutback

Elizabeth Jackson, 73, from Bury St Edmunds, with her Daisy Player
Elizabeth Jackson, 73, from Bury St Edmunds, with her Daisy Player
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A partially sighted woman from Bury St Edmunds says it is ‘disgraceful’ that a vital talking books service for the blind is being cut back by a council.

Elizabeth Jackson, 73, has been using the the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) scheme, which is paid for by Suffolk County Council, for the past four years. CD audio books are sent through the post to be played in a special easy-to-use gadget called a Daisy Player.

But Mrs Jackson was shocked when an assessor, from social enterprise Sensing Change, which manages the project, told her only people using the talking books for an educational or work-based purpose could continue to use the service.

Mrs Jackson fears how vulnerable people will cope without the scheme, which serves about 200 people and costs £50 annually to join.

She said: “I am appalled that the council could be so mean about people who are partially sighted and blind.

“It is disgraceful, it is depriving people who are in need. It is going to save the council a paltry amount of money compared to their budget.

“If you are a widow or widower and cannot get out of the house, this is taking away one of life’s pleasures.

“It is not that I am incensed over the fact I have got to pay for the service myself now, it’s that I’m worried about people who are very vulnerable, especially older people.”

A spokeswoman from the RNIB said it had received a number of complaints about the scheme.

She said: We are aware and concerned about this situation regarding Daisy Players in Suffolk and have received a number of complaints on the matter direct as well.

“We have scheduled a meeting with Suffolk council for the beginning of May to express our concerns and try to see if the matter can be resolved.”

Suffolk County Council says although Fair Access to Care Services criteria mean that the service won’t be withdrawn if it has ‘critical and substantial involvement in aspects of work, education or learning’, consideration is also taken into an individual’s circumstances.

A spokeswoman said: “A review was carried out in 2010 and found that many customers were not using this service or were at minimal use.

“As a result of a review many subscriptions were stopped.

“People in receipt of the Talking Books service are having their needs reviewed, as is standard practice with any other service. This is not about cutting the service but ensuring it is appropriate to people’s needs.”

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