Work by a Bognor Regis-based charity has saved public services more than £1m in the past four years.
Chief executive Nik Demetriades said 4Sight Vision Support had shown its worth since 2015 by helping visually impaired people keep their independence.
“We have saved the NHS and West Sussex County Council £1.2m in the past four years,”
he told the charity’s annual meeting. We have stopped people having falls and from having mental health problems.”
The situations were more prominent in people with sight problems than those without. They could be prevented through its outreach team, sight care advisers, staff members and volunteers.
“These are really huge numbers for the visually impaired population compared to the general population. There is also the £250,000 worth of hours from our volunteers every year.”
His report to the meeting held last Friday at the charity’s base in Victoria Drive also revealed its number of members – at 2,107 – had reached its highest level in some five years.
This was a staggering 26 per cent increase on the previous year. He said later:
“Our number of members is increasing at the rate of 50 people a month. That level of growth is unsustainable.
“That is why we are talking to the right people in the NHS and the county council to say that we need additional support. We are talking to them about the best way to achieve that.”
Cllr Debbie Kennard, the county council’s former cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, attended the meeting and thanked 4Sight Vision Support for its work.
“Funding is always tight but we have had a few changes at the moment, with a new leadership, and we will be focusing on new priorities to see what we can do for the future.”
The past year had seen the charity spend more money than it received as its reserves reduced by nearly £200,000 to just over £900,000 to fund a planned investment programme in its services.
This would include a focus on visually impaired younger people in 2020.
“We also have plans to start thinking about people of working age who we know are struggling after they have experienced sight loss they were not expecting,”
said Mr Demetriades.
“They are likely to lose their jobs and their confidence. We know that and that is why our next bit of research will be around that. That will happen in the next 12-24 months.”
The numbers of those working age with sight problems in the county was unknown, he said. But an estimate by 4Sight Vision Support a few years ago revealed 481 of them.
Chairman Dr Norman Boyland told the meeting it was essential the charity ensured it could thrive in the period of change the UK was undergoing. Its trustees were committed to ensuring that was the case.
“We need to think about the actions we need to take to ensure the sustainability of the charity in the future.
“We will need to continue to change and find new ways of doing things as the environment in which we work evolves,”