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Priority supermarket deliveries announced for blind shoppers amid social distancing concerns in the North West of England

BLIND and partially sighted people across the North West of England who have struggled to buy food since the lockdown are now able to access priority online shopping slots following campaigning by sight loss charities. Changes to supermarket layouts, social distancing and limitations on online delivery slots have made it nearly impossible for blind and partially sighted people to shop without support. As a result, just ½ of blind and partially sighted people who shopped independently before lockdown are still doing so, according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Because 21% are also being forced to ration food. Following months of campaigning by the:- Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary; including the submission of a petition with over 22,000 signatures; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have recognised the specific challenges faced by people with sight loss. As a result, Defra has secured online shopping slots aimed at people who cannot safely leave their home and have no social network to support them from a number of major supermarkets.

David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB, said:- "Blind and partially sighted people have been facing specific and unique challenges that have had an enormous impact on everyday independence. Our helpline has received thousands of calls from people worried about access to food and many are having to rely on the goodwill of strangers to get the essentials they needed. These new slots represent a 1st step in what, for many blind and partially sighted people, will be a long road to regaining their full independence, enabling them to buy what they want, when they want without support from others."

The priority shopping slots are now available through referral via RNIB's Helpline and are intended for blind and partial sighted people who are unable to access food and have no local family or friends who can help them shop.

Elizabeth Manuel, a former district judge from Portsmouth, was forced to ration a week's worth of food over several weeks after she was unable to get a supermarket slot online. Ms Manuel, who is partially sighted after suffering a brain haemorrhage when she was 47, self isolated for 12 weeks from the start of lockdown and is still forced to rely on her neighbour to shop for her. Ms Manuel said:- "I'm normally a very independent person, but for weeks after lockdown started, I couldn't get an online shopping slot despite trying every day. I wrote to the main supermarkets and also my MP to ask for help, but nothing I did resulted in any food or support. My anxiety levels were very high, particularly when I got home after being Hospitalised with Covid-19 and still had no way to buy food for myself. I've been forced to rely on my neighbour, who has been helping me throughout. But I've also been rationing the food I have because I don't want to keep asking them for things and put them at greater risk of catching the virus. The fact that I've been unable to get this most basic of necessities myself is shocking in 2020. It is a real relief for me, and others with sight loss, that the real difficulties faced by blind and partially sighted people have finally been recognised by the Government."

Blanche Shackleton, Head of Public Affairs, Campaigns and Influencing at Guide Dogs, said:- "People with sight loss faced a double whammy of being unable to observe social distancing in supermarkets, while also being excluded from priority online delivery slots. Many were telling us they were really worried about how they were going to buy food at all. This is why we worked alongside people with sight loss, our partner organisations and members of the public to achieve this vitally important result."

Charles Colquhoun, Chief Executive of Thomas Pocklington Trust, said:- "We have been working in partnership with organisations across the sight loss sector to lobby Government on this issue since the start of the pandemic. It is good news these shopping slots have been ring fenced for blind and partially sighted people who have found it difficult to get food. It will support people who have had to rely on strangers and volunteers to be able to shop independently again."

Fiona Sandford, CEO of Visionary, said:- "Visionary are delighted with the outcome of this campaign. Since the start of this pandemic, local sight loss organisations have every day been speaking to people struggling to get access to food and shopping. They have put considerable efforts into helping people access food, often providing practical support to make this happen. Knowing that there is now guaranteed access to priority shopping slots for blind and partially sighted people will make a huge difference to people who want to return to living independent lives and offer additional assistance to the organisations who support them."

As well as work with DEFRA, RNIB has been working closely with supermarkets across the country, providing guidance to help them support blind and partially sighted customers in the current environment. RNIB has also worked with wholesalers, Brakes, to set up an accessible ordering system of their goods in areas close to their delivery depots. The programme is currently trialling in Hertfordshire and Essex and is set to roll out across all Brakes' delivery areas in England, from 22 June 2020.

For more information about the support available, including the new priority online shopping slots for people with sight loss visit:- RNIB.Org.UK. People who are eligible can access this new support via RNIB's Helpline on:- 0303 123 9999, from 8am to 8pm, on weekdays and 9am to 5pm, on Saturdays.

Mersey Park Primary School, Birkenhead, to become a Centre of Excellence in financial education

MERSEY Park Primary School, Birkenhead, have been chosen to join the Centre of Excellence programme in financial education. The news comes as part of a ground breaking new partnership between the UK's leading financial education charity, Young Money, and HSBC UK. The announcement means that Mersey Park Primary School are working with an educational specialist to create a detailed programme of financial education for their children, integrating the subject into their curriculum. Teachers are being assisted in the delivery of effective personal finance lessons and learning activities, drawing on the charity's 55 years of experience of aiding educators in Schools, Centres and Colleges across the UK and Wales. HSBC UK is supporting the development of Mersey Park Primary School, Birkenhead, to achieve the Centre of Excellence status in the next year, turning it into a beacon of best practice in teaching young people about money. Once they receive their Centres of Excellence accreditation, Mersey Park Primary School will be supported in sharing its new expertise with other centres in the local area to benefit the wider educational community. They will also join a network of over 140 centres across England and Wales who have gone through the programme and have already been awarded or reaccredited in financial education.

Rebecca Tootell, Deputy HeadTeacher at Mersey Park Primary School, said:- "We know just how important it will be for our children to manage their money well throughout their lives. These skills don't come automatically; they need to be taught and it is our responsibility to prepare pupils for adult life. We believe embedding financial education into our School curriculum is a necessity. We are pleased to be working with Young Money and HSBC UK to become a Centre of Excellence in this crucial area, for the benefit of our children."

Sharon Davies, Chief Executive of Young Money, said:- "We are delighted that Mersey Park Primary School has joined our Centre of Excellence programme through our new partnership with HSBC UK. The work that staff will be doing with our educational specialists over the coming months will be of enormous benefit to the children, with financial education set to be firmly embedded into the curriculum. Our aim is to ensure that all children and young people enter adult life with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to manage money well."

Michaela Wright, Head of Corporate Sustainability for HSBC UK:- "Financial capability means having the skills, attitudes and tools needed to manage money effectively. We are delighted to further establish the Centre of Excellence and to support Mersey Park Primary School in giving young people a great start to achieving financial wellbeing in later life."

NSPCC and O2 provide free virtual online safety webinars in the North West as the 'perfect storm' continues

AS the Coronavirus pandemic continues to fuel a perfect storm in digital risk to children in the North West, the NSPCC and O2 are now delivering virtual online safety talks for parents. The important online safety workshops have moved online; the latest resource from the organisations' ongoing partnership. They are free to join and are presented by experienced NSPCC staff, who provide advice, tips, and signposting to free resources and extra support. Social media and gaming sites have proven to be a lifeline for parents, carers and their children as they have adapted to being at home during lockdown, but more time online has brought with it heightened risk for young people and increased opportunity for offenders.

Recent NSPCC research revealed children who are lonely, like attention and rely on social media are more than twice as likely to be groomed online. And recently the National Crime Agency warned of a spike in child sex offending during the Coronavirus crisis, with new information leading it to conclude that there a minimum of 300,000 individuals in the UK who pose a sexual threat to children. Regular family discussion about children's digital lives has never been more important. Parents can also get further support via the NSPCC and O2's co-created resource Net Aware, designed to help parents and children information on the latest social media sites, apps and games and be a helpful part of coping with self isolation.

Now, the charity and the telecommunications giant are working together to provide free 30 minute webinars for parents, grandparents and carers. Topics include:-

► Why children enjoy using the internet and how it can help them, as well as the risks.

► Concerns that families might have about their child's use of the internet.

► Exploring how families can navigate the digital landscape together, safely.

NSPCC Head of Campaigns, Helen Westerman, said:- "The internet is an amazing place for children where they can play, create, learn and connect; the possibilities are endless. But there are also risks. The Coronavirus pandemic has, unfortunately, generated the conditions for a perfect storm in online abuse. And we want to help mitigate that danger. Our webinars are free and are designed to give parents and carers a virtual opportunity to collate advice, tips and support. Along with signposting to other free and useful resources. Talking to your child about their digital lives is really important and these webinars are here to make that discussion much easier."

If you'd like to organise a webinar for yourself or on behalf of a group (community group, staff team or School), please contact:-

Universities team up to help guide teens

UNIVERSITIES from across the North West have teamed up to help teenagers prepare for higher education in a range of online events. Next week's events have been set up by Future U, Lancashire's Uni Connect programme, along with its counterparts, Greater Manchester Higher, Shaping Futures in Merseyside and HELOA, an independent association of HE professionals  The 'Uni Connect @ Home' programme allows students from North West Schools to find out more about individual Universities, living away from home and student finance, through a series of online sessions, videos and live chats. The sessions run from Tuesday, 23 June 2020 to Friday, 26 June 2020, and students and parents can book on the sessions through the Shaping Futures website.

The University of Liverpool and Edge Hill University, along with other Universities in:- Salford, Cumbria, Preston, Manchester, Chester and Bolton are all taking part in the four day event. The events are designed to help more young people in the Region attend higher education and encourage teenagers to think about inspirational careers to pursue after completing their A-Levels. The events taking place as part of  'Uni Connect @ Home'  included opportunities for students to question individual Universities on:- applications, student finance, living arrangements, courses and post degree job prospects.

Over the 4 day event, younger students will learn about how to choose a University and a course, while current University applicants will be briefed on how to prepare for going to University, moving away from home and living independently. The series of events have been arranged in partnership with HELOA, the professional association for staff who provide guidance to prospective higher education students, their families and advisers.

Jonny Atkinson, UK Chair at HELOA, said:- "Collaboration is at the heart of most frontline IAG professionals. The greater our awareness of provision, the better we are at advising and supporting students. In an increasingly competitive market, our members continue to place students 1st, supporting them to make informed choices, ensuring they find the right options even if that's not with our own institution. The Higher Education sector works closely and collaboratively. We understand there is no 1 size fits all and by supporting each other we are able to continuously develop and improve regardless of the challenges we face."

Theo Blackburn, Programme Manager at Future U, said:- "We are excited to be part of this event that allows students around the county to easily access advice and guidance from different Universities all in one place. We recognise that it is difficult for students to know who to turn to for information, but by adopting a collaborative approach we hope to ease this challenge by providing an engaging and informative event."

Future U is part of the national Uni Connect Programme, funded by the Office for Students, and continues to support School pupils across Lancashire to encourage more young people to think about higher education and future careers. The project involves institutions and organisations across the county including the University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, Edge Hill University and the University of Cumbria.

Lancashire's Future U works with a network of Schools, in addition to Colleges, higher education providers and local agencies to create tailored activities to meet the needs of students for now and the future. Its list of partners includes:- Blackburn College, Blackpool 6th Form College, Blackpool and the Fylde College, Burnley College, Edge Hill University, Inspira, Kendal College, Lancaster University, Myerscough College, Nelson and Colne College, Preston's College, STEMFirst, Runshaw College, The Lancashire Colleges, University of Central Lancashire, University of Cumbria, West Lancashire College.

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