A Newport-based community housing and care scheme is preparing to mark its 10th anniversary with a special celebration, on the same day that that it will be awarded the highest accreditation from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) for its work to empower its tenants with sight loss and impaired vision.
Willowbrook in Bettws, which is owned and operated by Linc Care, the health and social care division of Linc Cymru Housing Association Ltd (Linc) and opened its doors in July 2005, is to be awarded the RNIB Visibly Better Platinum Award. It is the highest accreditation awarded by the RNIB and demonstrates Linc Cymru’s commitment to providing the best levels of accessibility to its tenants and highlights the practical and innovative help it gives to enable tenants to live as independently as possible.
Anne Thomas, executive director Linc Care, said: “We are delighted to receive this award in recognition of the ongoing work we do to ensure our tenants live in the best possible environment.
“We strive to ensure that we meet the standards required to obtain accreditation from the RNIB, but we also involve our tenants in every step of the process. All of our teams receive RNIB training and work closely with interior designers, decorators and building contractors, so that everyone understands the significance of the changes to the people who use our services.
“Introducing different colour schemes on each of the floors to help people identify if they are on the right level and making sure that there are colour contrasts to help people identify different objects when they are moving around the scheme are just some of the measures we have introduced to enable our tenants to live safely and independently.
“Lighting levels are also extremely important, for example it may take several minutes for some people’s eyes to adjust when they go from a bright room to a dark one. We have consequently installed consistent, even and controlled lighting levels throughout the scheme enabling tenants to move around the scheme safely and continue with, or take up hobbies and interests and be involved with things important to them.”
“This is the fifth one of Linc’s schemes to attain the RNIB Platinum Award and we are in the process of working with the RNIB to enhance the remaining two of our ExtraCare schemes. Combatting loneliness and boredom and promoting, well-being, dignity, choice and independence are at the heart of Linc’s values and so it is really important to us that we involve tenants in the process when we are reviewing the facilities at our schemes.”
Ceri Jackson, director RNIB Cymru, said: “Our Visibly Better awards make a huge difference to the lives of tenants. Often the changes are very simple, but lead to a reduction in falls and accidents. Although the standards are aimed at improving accessibility for people with sight loss, they will benefit a wide range of tenants, including people with dementia or mobility problems.
“We know that one in five people aged 75 and over are living with sight loss, and that sight loss is set to double in the next 25 years. I congratulate Linc for achieving the highest level, a platinum award, helping to make every day better for people with sight loss.”
For tenants like Gwyneth Dennison and Enid Taylor moving into Willowbrook had a life-changing effect. Mrs Dennison has lived in Bettws all of her life but, after suffering a fall, she moved to Willowbrook in September 2011. She is blind in her left eye and has very limited vision in her right eye which impacts heavily on her ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Commenting on her experiences living at Willowbrook, Mrs Dennison said: “The improved lighting and colour contrasting at Willowbrook is much better for my eyesight. Thanks to the design of the scheme, and the support of the staff, I can now move around the scheme with much more independence and confidence. I am very happy at Willowbrook.”
Mrs Taylor moved to Willowbrook in June 2013 after she had a stroke and now suffers from macular degeneration. She said: “At Willowbrook, everything is under one roof. I have made great friends. The new lighting has made all the difference and the colours are much lighter. Dark colours are no good for my eyesight.”
In addition to the presentation of the RNIB Award, tenants and guests will come together for an afternoon tea to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the scheme. Mrs Thomas added: “We are really looking forward to celebrating this special milestone. We work hard with our partners in Newport City Council to provide the right balance of care, support and independence to each tenant and this, coupled with community spirit and the dedication of our staff, makes Willowbrook really special.”
Linc Care is part of Linc Cymru. It operates across South Wales and provides homes and services to older and vulnerable tenants. Linc Care specialises in supported housing for vulnerable people, extra care and sheltered housing for older people, nursing, residential and convalescent care.
Visibly Better Cymru is an accreditation scheme for supported housing and other public spaces. Organisations work towards six standards, which focus on different aspects of accessibility, and receive Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of accreditation as they progress through the standards. Visibly Better accreditation is a hallmark of good practice, recognised by Welsh Government.