6 out of 10 (62%) carers of vision impaired veterans have felt depressed due to the demands of their caring role, but 80% of these say this has improved with the support of a national military charity, according to new research published ahead of Carers Week (8-14 June 2015).
TV favourites Barbara Windsor and Phillip Schofield are speaking out in support of Blind Veterans UK as it publishes new research, Blind Veterans UK’s Veterans and Carers Survey. While the research revealed that many carers can struggle with the demands of their caring role, encouragingly it found that the majority of carers who had previously felt depressed were better able to cope after receiving support from Blind Veterans UK.
Blind Veterans UK has supported ex-Service men and women with severe sight loss for 100 years and celebrates its centenary this year. It also provides vital support for carers and family members, including help and advice from qualified welfare staff, dedicated sessions for carers at the charity’s centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno and social opportunities for carers and veterans to meet and share experiences.
Eastenders’ actress Barbara Windsor MBE and This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield are calling on carers of ex-Service men or women who are now battling severe sight loss to come forward for Blind Veterans UK’s life-changing support this Carers Week.
Phillip Schofield said: “Caring for a loved one can be extremely difficult and the support of organisations like Blind Veterans UK can make such a huge difference for families. I’m pleased to be supporting Blind Veterans UK to help make sure that everyone caring for a blind or vision impaired veteran in the UK knows about the support available to them and the person they care for.”
Barbara Windsor MBE said: “I am proud to be supporting Blind Veterans UK and the amazing work they do for carers and families of blind and vision impaired veterans. Many of those who care for veterans may not see themselves as carers but they selflessly give up their time to look after a loved one. Blind Veterans UK is there for any veteran now battling severe sight loss and their family to ensure they do not have to battle blindness alone.”
The importance of Blind Veterans UK’s support for the whole family was highlighted by the research, with 91% of carers stating they were related to the veteran they care for and typically these are wives and children.
Karen Winstanley, from Halewood near Liverpool, and carer to her blind veteran father, Bill, said: “The last three years have been really tough for both of us. We’d had such a shock with my mum dying so suddenly and I felt that as an only child I had to move back to Halewood to look after dad, but I wasn’t really ready to do it and I have struggled with depression.
“The support I have had from Blind Veterans UK made all the difference at a time when I could have really gone right down. After I spoke to our welfare officer about the way I was feeling they immediately arranged sessions for me with a counsellor in the local area.”
Bill Winstanley has also visited the charity’s centre in Llandudno for training and respite breaks, giving Karen a vital chance to rest and relax. “When we first got in touch with Blind Veterans UK my Dad thought it could just mean the odd day out but it has been so much more than that. I would urge anyone who has served in the forces and has sight loss to get in touch – Blind Veterans UK makes such a difference.”
Blind Veterans UK’s Chief Executive, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “Blind Veterans UK knows that when someone loses their sight, it can have a devastating effect on them and their loved ones, and that’s why we’re here to support the whole family. Carers Week is a brilliant opportunity to say a huge thank you to those who care for blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women as they do such a fantastic job.
“We are delighted that the Blind Veterans UK’s Veterans and Carers Survey shows that our support has made a difference to so many carers but we know that there are many more veterans and their carers out there who still need our support. Through Carers Week, we are reaching out to all vision impaired ex-Service men or women and their carers who could be eligible for Blind Veterans UK’s free services and lifelong support.”
During Carers Week, Blind Veterans UK will be attending events around the country, as well hosting two afternoon tea events at its centres to celebrate those who care for blind veterans in the area, and to raise awareness of the support available to vision impaired veterans and those who care for them.
 January 2015 survey of 1,506 Blind Veterans UK beneficiaries and 1,032 carers by Clarient Research