Blind charity at risk after contract loss

THE FUTURE of a Batley-based charity for blind people is at risk after bosses lost a Kirklees Council contract.

Volunteer Martin Eatherley claims all 19 staff at the Society for the Blind of Dewsbury, Batley and District could face redundancy.

Fears have arisen after the Soothill group lost a council rehabilitation contract to the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf.

The contract is for sight aids and mobility training that allow blind or partially-sighted people to live in their own homes for longer.

Martin said helpers are now stepping up their fundraising efforts in a bid to keep the Whitfield Centre-based group going.

One of the events is a ‘fire walk’ across hot coals due to be held there on Saturday September 7.

Martin, 49, of Clough Lane, Liversedge, said the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf will take over the contract on August 19.

He became blind 10 years ago and is both a service user and a volunteer who helps on the Whitfield Centre’s reception.

Martin added: “What does a deaf group know about sight loss? They don’t even have an office in Kirklees yet.

“The Whitfield Centre is a place where all visually impaired people can come and be treated like ‘normal’ people.

“It’s been going for 95 years and I want it to be here in another five years so we can celebrate its centenary.”

A Kirklees Council spokeswoman said: “A tender exercise was undertaken by the council during the spring of this year.

“The Birmingham Institute for the Deaf demonstrated their ability to deliver high-quality services to people with a visual impairment.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the Whitfield Centre can do so by text. Send EYES18 £2/£5/£10 to 70070.

Members attack council officials following loss of rehab contract

TRUSTEES of a charity for blind people attacked Kirklees Council after they lost a rehabilitation contract.

In a statement the Society for the Blind of Dewsbury, Batley and District admitted they now face a bleak future.

It read: “The society had delivered the previous contract on time, in full, on budget and with 100 per cent user satisfaction.”

Chief executive Hilary Schreiner added in her statement that “this evidently wasn’t enough” for Kirklees.

She said: “We were told the contract will be awarded to the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf, who are not yet located in Kirklees.

“We believe the accepted tender was not significantly cheaper than that from the society, so it is not a question of the council saving money.

“The consequences of losing the contract are severe. There is no doubt our charitable services will now have to be cut back substantially.

“There are also serious implications for the staff.”

An update on progress is to be given to members at a meeting at the Whitfield Centre on Tuesday.

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