New peer support groups for people with sight loss

The Royal National Institute of Blind People in Northern Ireland (RNIB NI) is delighted to have established its first two peer support groups to offer counselling support to people living with sight loss.

Looking Forward launch peer support service for older people living with sight loss in Northern Ireland


The Royal National Institute of Blind People in Northern Ireland (RNIB NI) is delighted to have established its first two peer support groups to offer counselling support to people living with sight loss.  The support groups have been established through the Looking Forward project which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and provides free practical and emotional support to blind or partially sighted people (aged 60 plus) at greatest risk of isolation or exclusion.


To date over 100 people from across Northern Ireland have availed of this confidential counselling service.  The programme is free to access and offers a programme of a minimum of six face to face counselling sessions and ongoing peer support to help a person come to terms with sight loss.  The team of six professionally trained volunteer counsellors have worked under the direction and support of the Looking Forward, Project Manager, Ursula Ferguson


Speaking in Belfast today, Ursula said: “The programme has been well received in the sight loss community but we are still trying to get our message out to those who need this support most. There are over 20,370 blind or partially sighted individuals living in Northern Ireland between the ages of 60-90 yrs. These figures indicate the size of population who may access and benefit from this type of emotional support.  Through people’s engagement with the project we can help prevent a lot of the isolation, loneliness and depression which often comes as a result of deteriorating sight.”


The Looking Forward project has recently recruited Kevin Greene, a Peer Support Co-ordinator to drive the formation of other groups across Northern Ireland forward.  Kevin said: “We have plans this year to set up five peer support groups and recruit twenty four volunteers across Northern Ireland, we have already established two groups with people that meet regularly in Finaghy Library and the City Hotel (Derry/L’Derry); these groups enable people with sight loss to come together to share their personal experiences and support each other in dealing with difficult feelings relating to sight loss.”


This service is available throughout Northern Ireland with trained volunteer counsellors based in Belfast, Lisburn, Newry, Armagh, Fermanagh, Omagh and Derry/Londonderry. The Looking Forward Project will work in partnership with the following key organisations: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Western Health and Social Care Trust and Good Morning Northern Ireland Network.


Mary, (75) who lives with Macular Degeneration (MD) is one of the people who have used the Looking Forward counselling service and said:  "Once I realised the sessions were confidential it was easier for me to relax, I find it quite difficult to chat to friends about the real problems with MD and would certainly not have spoken to family. But I poured out everything to my counsellor who explored the different points with me. I felt I had been really listened to. My counsellor had a good sense of humour which helped me very much.  I felt renewed after each visit and often planned what I could discuss at my next session.  I would strongly recommend it to people in a similar situation."


We’re RNIB and we’re here for everyone affected by sight loss. Whether you’re losing your sight or you’re blind or partially sighted, our practical and emotional support can help you face the future with confidence and without fear.


To find out more about RNIB NI’s Looking Forward project, contact the team on 028 9032 9373 or email [email protected] .

Last updated 4 years 8 months ago