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BBC Radio 4 In Touch
28 October 2008

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Factsheet

CHARITIES

Two well-known organisations, the Royal National Institute of Blind people, and the smaller, but increasingly high profile Action for Blind People, have announced that they are moving closer together.

To find out exactly what that meant Peter talked to their chief executives; Stephen Remington of Action for Blind people; and Lesley-Anne Alexander of the RNIB.

CONTACTS

RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
Web: www.rnib.org.uk
The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.


ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
14-16 Verney Road
London
SE16 3DZ
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
Web: www.afbp.org
Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.


CRICKET

Earlier this year, with the help of the organisation Cricket for Change, the English Blind Cricket Team visited Barbados. In Touch asked one of the squad, Hassan Khan, to keep an audio diary.

CONTACTS

CRICKET FOR CHANGE
The Cricket Centre
Plough Lane
Wallington
Surrey
SM6 8JQ
Tel: 0208 669 2177
www.cricketforchange.org.uk
Cricket for Change provides cricketing opportunities to young people living on housing estates, and young people with a disability.


BLIND CRICKET UK
www.blindcricket.org.uk


CATH BIRCHALL
Cath Birchall is currently on a trip of a lifetime circumnavigating the globe with her partner Bernard Smith.

Mani Djazmi tracked Cath down to a noisy Istanbul airport and he began by asking her why they have ditched the bike for a plane.

For further information or for details of how to donate, see:
http://www.worldtour.org.uk/

Information can also be downloaded in PDF format from:
www.worldtour.org.uk/documents/Catherine%20Birchall%202.pdf


GENERAL CONTACTS

RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
Web: www.rnib.org.uk
The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.


HENSHAWS SOCIETY FOR BLIND PEOPLE (HSBP)
John Derby House
88-92 Talbot Road
Old Trafford
Manchester
M16 0GS
Tel: 0161 872 1234
Email: info@hsbp.co.uk
Web: www.henshaws.org.uk
Henshaws provides a wide range of services for people who have sight difficulties. They aim to enable visually impaired people of all ages to maximise their independence and enjoy a high quality of life. They have centres in: Harrogate, Knaresborough, Liverpool, Llandudno, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Salford, Southport and Trafford.


THE GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND ASSOCIATION (GDBA)
Burghfield Common
Reading
RG7 3YG
Tel: 0118 983 5555
Email: guidedogs@guidedogs.org.uk
Web: www.guidedogs.org.uk
The GDBA’s mission is to provide guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.


ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
14-16 Verney Road
London
SE16 3DZ
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
Web: www.afbp.org
Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.


NATIONAL LEAGUE OF THE BLIND AND DISABLED
Central Office
Swinton House
324 Grays Inn Road
London
WC1X 8DD
Tel: 020 7837 6103
Textphone: 020 7837 6103
National League of the Blind and Disabled is a registered trade union and is involved in all issues regarding the employment of blind and disabled people in the UK.


NATIONAL LIBRARY FOR THE BLIND (NLB)
Far Cromwell Road
Bredbury
Stockport
SK6 2SG
Tel: 0161 406 2525
Textphone: 0161 355 2043
Email: enquiries@nlbuk.org
Web: www.nlb-online.org
Trustees from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and the National Library for the Blind (NLB) have agreed to merge the library services of both charities as of 1 January 2007, creating the new RNIB National Library Service.


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (England)
Freepost RRLL-GHUX-CTRX
Arndale House
Arndale Centre
Manchester
M4 3EQ
0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 6620 - England textphone
0845 604 6630 - England fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Wales)
Freepost RRLR-UEYB-UYZL
3rd Floor
3 Callaghan Square
Cardiff
CF10 5BT
0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
0845 604 8820 - Wales textphone
0845 604 8830 - Wales fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Scotland)
Freepost RRLL-GYLB-UJTA
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
Glasgow
G2 8DU
0845 604 5510 - Scotland Main
0845 604 5520 - Scotland Textphone
0845 604 5530 - Scotland – Fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


DISABLED LIVING FOUNDATION
380-384 Harrow Road
London
W9 2HU
Tel: 0845 130 9177
Web: www.dlf.org.uk
The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and advice on disability equipment.


THRIVE
The Geoffrey Udall Centre
Beech Hill
Reading RG7 2AT
Tel: 0118 9885688
Email: info@thrive.org.uk
www.thrive.org.uk
http://www.thrive.org.uk/gardening-for-partially-sighted-people.asp
www.carryongardening.org.uk
Thrive is a national charity, founded in 1978, whose aim is to research, educate and promote the use and advantages of gardening for those with a disability. Thrive’s vision is that the benefits of gardening are known to, and can be accessed by, anyone with a disability.

Thrive has been supporting blind gardeners for over 30 years, and established the Blind Gardeners’ Club with RNIB in 2006 to help gardeners share information and techniques. Membership of the club costs £9 a year and includes:



The BBC is not responsible for external websites 

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Transcript

IN TOUCH

TX: 28.10.08 2040-2100


PRESENTER: PETER WHITE

PRODUCER: CHERYL GABRIEL


White
Good Evening. Tonight: a united front, a loss of choice for blind people, or a bit of empire-building; we'll be looking at the implications of charities combining their resources. In a big week for international cricket, we'll have an audio-diary which is more about fun than winning $20 million; and we'll be catching up with Cath Birchall - the intrepid In Touch listener currently going round the world on a motorbike.

It's often said that there are just too many organisations for visually-impaired people; that there must be enormous duplication of effort. But then if you suggest that a few of them might like to move over and help tidy up the sector, there are howls of protest. But it does seem that the process is underway, and that it may well be hastened by the current economic situation. Two well-known organisations, the giant in charity terms the Royal National Institute of Blind people, and the smaller, but increasingly high profile Action for Blind People, have announced that they are moving closer together. Well to find out exactly what that means we brought together their chief executives - Stephen Remington of Action for Blind people and Lesley-Anne Alexander of the RNIB and I began by asking Lesley-Anne, exactly what was being proposed.

Alexander
The proposal is that RNIB and Action for Blind People join forces so that we can deliver seamless joined up services to blind and partially sighted people on the ground across England.

White
When you say joined forces does that mean you're going to be one organisation?

Alexander
What's happening is that Action for Blind People is joining the RNIB group and RNIB will be delivering services on the ground through Action and that's alongside the services that Action already delivers on the ground.

White
So I mean if you made a parallel, as it were, with the National Library Service with the National Library for the Blind would that be a fairly accurate picture of what we're seeing here?

Alexander
No it wouldn't. The merger with National Library for the Blind was a very different legal and company structure to the one that we're proposing with Action.

White
So it's not a merger?

Alexander
That's right it's not.

White
And you're calling it - more an association?

Alexander
We're calling it an associate charity model. It's a name that we've ascribed to it because people seem fascinated in what it's called. I think I'm rather more keen to talk about what it might deliver.

White
Well we'll talk about that in a moment but Stephen Remington, if I can bring you in on this. I mean Action for Blind People is the smaller of the two charities, there'll obviously be a worry - presumably in your own organisation - that you're being swallowed?

Remington
Well I think that would be very unfounded if there was such a worry because the whole arrangement with the associate charity structure means that Action for Blind People will continue as a charity in its own right, that's what we expect and will continue with its name and its brand. And we will be working with RNIB to deliver Action Zone and RNIB's regional services on the ground.

White
So will you be specialising in certain aspects of the work?

Remington
We'll be doing a broader range of work than we are at the moment because by combining RNIB's excellent regional services and Action for Blind People's present services there will obviously be a broader range of services. And the key is to ensure that there is a universal standard eventually available to all visually impaired people round the country when they need it, available to all, so goodbye postcode lottery. That's the aim in the longer term.

White
Okay. Lesley-Anne Alexander you said you wanted to talk about what it will deliver, Stephen's kind of started on that, but more specifically why are you doing this now and what will it deliver?

Alexander
We're doing this to put life to the UK vision strategy, to actually make it happen in action on the ground. We want to work in partnership with local societies. But what we've also said is that we must get rid of the waste for duplication and competition between all the charities for blind and partially sighted people. And this new structure will allow us to do this. No longer will there be, for instance, parallel employment services between RNIB and Action where, quite frankly, what we do on occasion is just confuse blind and partially sighted people. There'll be one point of delivery for those sorts of services between Action and RNIB.

White
But I mean some - you say duplication, some people would say healthy competition, somewhere else for people to go for a service if they're not happy with what they're getting somewhere else.

Alexander
Yeah I've heard this argument put quite often and I think given the market in which we operate competition isn't a fair comparison. I mean there is so much unmet need to have organisations wasting resources competing with each other I don't really think that competition is the issue.

White
Stephen Remington, you've often said to me, or members of Action for Blind People have said to me, we're lean and that's what makes us good, isn't there a danger that you're losing that?

Remington
Not a bit, no, no, we may - we'll be a little bit bigger but that doesn't mean we'll be fatter. Action for Blind People will still be run on the principles that it's run at present. We look forward to working closely with colleagues from the RNIB, in that way the organisation will be larger than it is at the moment and there's a tremendous amount that Action has to learn from the way RNIB works and I hope the other way round.

White
Can I ask you both this? Some people will be worried about jobs, they'll think if you're - in order to get rid of duplication that means getting rid of the people who duplicate doesn't it?

Remington
This is a plan for expansion not contraction. There is so much unmet need, as Lesley-Anne has said, around the country that subject to getting the resources together - and surely we can get more resources together than we can separately - subject to getting those resources together we'll be able to tackle that unmet need around the country.

White
So no job losses Lesley-Anne?

Alexander
I would be a very, very strange manager if I sat here and said and promised absolutely no job losses. What Stephen and I both know is that there is much, much more work that needs to be done than is currently being done, so we don't see a reduction in staffing numbers at all.

White
I don't think it's a secret, is it, that you've thought about this, both of you, for a while and I think you got quite close to it once and decided it wouldn't work and people were opposed to it, what's changed?

Alexander
I think the group structure that we've constructed is what's changed. It gives Action, as a charity, its own identity and it retains all that's very special about Action and I think that's an area that maybe we didn't work hard enough at last time round. So hopefully the associate charity structure in this group company model will be something that will set a fire burning in the rest of the sector.

White
What's the timescale Stephen?

Remington
We would like to see the association created by April 2009. There is an enormous amount of work to do between now and then and there'll be a great deal of work to continue afterwards.

White
Just one other thing perhaps to both of you - is there a political element to this in the sense that when you approach governments with - over issues you perhaps want to indicate that it's one organisation, it's more powerful, it's got more clout in terms of numbers and unitedness - if that's such a word?

Alexander
I think I'm on very public record Peter as saying that when we're not united as a sector we do a disservice to people. I think government like to see gaps between our opinion in order to do nothing about some of the issues that really, really need to be tackled. So I think there's an absolute political dimension to us getting together and that will be that more of the sector are speaking with one voice.

White
You will know that the RNIB sometimes gets accused of empire building, is this a bit of empire building and will there - to be consistent about what you've just said - will there be other organisations that you would want to draw in?

Alexander
This isn't at all about RNIB empire building, this is about finding a solution to some of the waste in the sector, the waste through duplication of competition and this is about us providing more and better services to blind and partially sighted people. If other organisations want to join in then that is absolutely fantastic and we'd be delighted to hear from anyone, particularly the larger national charities, because really that's where we need to be the most united. Wouldn't it be great if Guide Dogs, Action and RNIB all really got it together?

White
Stephen, as far as Action for Blind People is concerned, absolutely happy, have you put this to your staff, is everybody on board?

Remington
It's early days, we are very happy indeed. Clearly we've got lots of talking to do to our staff, this is a very new idea and we're going to make a huge success of this.

White
Stephen Remington and Lesley-Anne Alexander.

It's a big week for international cricket, culminating in the $20 million at stake on Saturday when an England cricket 11 meets a West Indian 11. But for the blind and partially sighted cricketers who represent England, just getting the fare to get out to Barbados is challenge enough. But earlier this year, with the help of the organisation Cricket for Change, they made it, and while he was there we asked one of the squad, Hassan Khan, to keep an audio diary for us. He did, and when he came into the studio yesterday we played some of the extracts together, and I began by asking Hassan for his overall impressions of the tour.

Khan
Peter, the Barbados trip was phenomenal, I mean it literally was the trip of a lifetime. I loved every bit of it.

White
And what about the cricket - did you win?

Khan
Well we lost our first two matches to the West Indian blind cricket team. They obviously had more experience and better players and older players. We won our last game against Barbados - a phenomenal victory actually - where the whole team was together, the passion was high, it was a brilliant match.

White
Now you made the diary, as I said, we're going to play some extracts from it. So who are we going to hear from first?

Khan
Well you're going to hear from Dan Field. I was walking along the beach with him actually going to a little restaurant, I asked him what he does with the team before the actual match.

Field
The warm ups we've introduced for this tour is something that I as a player do with the England blind cricket team and they're just encouraged to get people moving, get them running about, get the bodies warm, get the blood pumping to the muscles but also to encourage coordination, which is a massively important in any sport but especially in disabled sport where kids don't always physically develop as quick as able bodied children as they're not always able to participate in mainstream sport at school. So these things are fantastic for just developing hand to eye coordination, core stability, that sort of thing.

Khan
I am actually now with Sarah, one of the players obviously who's going to be playing, and how are you finding Barbados?

Sarah
Brilliant, it's really cool.

Khan
You're in the team tomorrow I believe?

Sarah
Yeah I am and quite a bit nervous but it's going to be good and I'll enjoy it, definitely.

Khan
You're the only girl on tour with 11 or 12 other lads, how does it feel to be the only girl in a team?

Sarah
Quite annoying a lot of the time.

Khan
I'm sure it is.

Actuality from training

White
So what's all that about Hassan? First of all who were the Pirates, I could hear the chanting in the background there?

Khan
Yes well the pirates was our team name, quite appropriate actually going to the West Indies. Pirate is our identity now and we love the Pirates.

White
And who was the guy asking for cool water?

Khan
Well yes I think we needed cool water in 35 degrees. The guy was actually a commentator, he was blind himself, interestingly enough.

White
We do say on this programme that blindness is no bar to anything but I would have thought commentating on a match could be a bit tricky, how does he do it?

Khan
Well he commentated with the sound of the game, so he could hear what was going on out on the field. Not only that he had a scorer next to him, he was fully sighted, thankfully enough, so he told him what was going on in the game. I mean when I was commentating myself I could hear how the shot was hit and how the ball was bowled, just by the sound.

White
Well perhaps we can hear a little bit of the interview that you did in the commentary box.

Avril
I am Anthony Avril, I am from the island of St Lucia and I am here giving commentary together with Hassan. It's quite a good experience here for us.

Khan
How do you think the Pirates are putting up - are they putting up a good fight against....?

Avril
Well they are, they are, you know, I understand that they have not played any matches longer than 25 overs, this is a 40 over, they have just come in to the Caribbean and coping with the heat and everything else, they're giving a very good account of themselves I think.

Khan
Absolutely, the Pirates have been playing since Christmas and I believe the West Indian team have been playing five years now?

Avril
Five years now but you know the West Indies team is made up of players from a number of islands and for example this match we were not even able to get them together for a practise before these games, so it's quite a challenge for us.

White
Hassan, did you just meet cricketers or did you get the chance to talk to anybody else from Barbados, perhaps not directly associated with the cricket?

Khan
Well of course cricket was the main focus but we did meet locals and in fact one of the training days I came across a guy, a local, who was hanging his head over a fence in quite windy conditions, I'd say, I asked him what he was doing, he said - I was quite fascinated by the game - so I'd thought I'd carry out a little interview with him.

Well for once we've actually got a different accent, different voice, I'm with Chris who's a local here. Hi Chris.

Chris
Hi, how are you doing?

Khan
I'm good thank you. I suppose I have to ask you - how do you cope with the heat here?

Chris
Well of course this comes so naturally for us you know being from where our ancestors came from. So we are strong people when it comes to taking this heat.

Khan
What's the culture like in Barbados?

Chris
Well very nice easy pace, easy going. We tend to have problems but you don't ever really see it, we don't show it. We're always cool, easy going people.

Khan
Do you play cricket yourself?

Chris
Oh yes I play cricket.

Khan
And you support the West Indies do you?

Chris
Well I'm a West Indian. You know I like to see good cricket on the whole so it doesn't really matter which team is playing as long as it's good cricket.

Khan
Well thanks for that Chris, nice tune mate.

Chris
Yeah thank you buddy.

White
So clearly everybody having a good time. Hassan, when is your next trip and do you know where you're going?

Khan
I'm afraid I don't, you know Peter it took a lot of time and a lot of money to organise this trip. Hopefully Cricket for Change will set something up for the Pirates to play again.

White
And hopefully you can practise your two developing skills of cricket and broadcasting.

Khan
Thanks very much Peter.

White
Thank you. Hassan Khan.

Now Barbados may feel pretty exotic as the temperature begins to drop here but it's not enough for Cath Birchall. Now you may recall that Cath is currently embarked on the trip of a lifetime circumnavigating the globe with her partner Bernard Smith on Bernard's motorbike. Bernard's the one with the eyesight, you'll be relieved to know. There hasn't been an update on their website since October 12th and we started to get a little concerned. Our reporter Mani Djazmi tracked Cath down earlier today to a rather noisy Istanbul Airport and he began by asking her why they've ditched the bike for a plane.

Birchall
We've air freighted the bike, that's gone to Dubai today, with a view to going to Karachi in Pakistan tomorrow. We're flying out to Karachi tomorrow and hopefully join up with the bike in Pakistan to continue the journey through to India.

Djazmi
What's your journey been like from Manchester to Istanbul, what have been the highs and the lows?

Birchall
We've been to the Paris Guide Dogs and I cuddled a little white German Shepherd puppy that was going to be a guide dog. And we've been to one of the organisations in Greece, Lighthouse Organisation for Visually Impaired. So it's sort of seeing how the different visually impaired organisations help their own people and the differences and the similarities to England and it's all very interesting. I think the main role was that we'd had trouble getting the Iranian visa and that's why now we're flying over Iran unfortunately to go into Pakistan. The snows came in the mountains and we've had to travel a thousand miles back to Istanbul because we had problems.

Djazmi
So you got to the border but had to turn back?

Birchall
We did, we did. We got to a place called Izaru [phon], which is about 200 miles from the Iranian border. The snows have come in the Turkish mountains and the Iranian mountains and we can't go across on the bike in that sort of condition.

Djazmi
What do you talk about while you're on the bike for those hundreds of thousands of miles?

Birchall
Bernard does a lot of explaining about the surroundings but there are limits as to what he can explain about the mountains. Sometimes obviously with the road conditions Bernard's had to concentrate very much, so he goes quiet but I just want to take everything in - with all the noises and all the smells and I just go along, I can hear people talking as we're going through little villages, I love the sound of the mosque when we go past the mosques and they call to prayer - that's a beautiful sound, heard that quite a lot in Turkey. I can be silent for hours but the time passes when I'm on the bike. It's a wonderful experience.

Djazmi
And after all those hours on the bike any soreness, any stiffness anywhere?

Birchall
No, previous trips I have, it's a bit painful on the bottom. We've purchased some, what they call, air hawk seats and they're like bubble wrap, is the best way of explaining it, and you fill them with air and they make all the difference, it's really comfortable now, I don't have a problem at all.

White
Cath Birchall at Istanbul airport, no doubt hoping for a comfortable seat on the plane to Pakistan. We'll await her next audio postcard with baited breath.

And that's it for today but as ever do let us know your views and any suggestions you may have about stories we should be following. You can call us at 0800 044 044, that's our action line, or email us here at In Touch. And you can also download a podcast of the programme from tomorrow.

From me Peter White, my producer Chery Gabriel and the rest of the team goodbye.


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