Back in the loop

Joe Ethell, who is deafblind and lives alone, was becoming isolated before social services intervened

I have had hearing difficulties since childhood, but over the years my hearing has deteriorated and since 1970 I have been profoundly deaf. I was registered partially-sighted due to macular degeneration in 2001, but my eyes continued to deteriorate and in 2003 I was registered blind.

I live in sheltered accommodation and when you live alone you have a lot of time to think. My thoughts have turned to the care I have had from social services over the years. I first met Jen Oliver from Northumberland County Blind Association in Morpeth. She sent me a letter stating that, as I was now registered blind, she would like to visit me.

She gave me a great deal of help. Several months later she phoned to say that Northumberland social services had appointed a social worker for deafblind people and could she come to see me. Of course, I said yes. The new social worker was Joan Verity, a real professional, who ascertained my considerable needs. I have neighbours above me, below me, to my left and to my right. I could not listen to any music, television or anything without annoying neighbours so I had to keep it at a level that was no good to me.

Joan fitted me up with a loop system, which is splendid – except you cannot hear the doorbell or the telephone. So Joan provided me with a pager which alerted me to them ringing, and I also had a vibrating alarm under my pillow to wake me in the morning.

Nobody can really understand how much this means to me: it changed every thing. I can now listen to television or music at a level I want, without disturbing the neighbours.

A few months later I became an inaugural member of the newly-formed Northumberland Hearing and Sight Impaired group. We have a lively meeting once a month in Morpeth and I enjoy going there. We have been meeting regularly for nearly two years now, and have started to have outings as well.

Joan has also arranged a communicator- guide to help me when I want to go shopping. I haven’t used this yet, but I am looking forward to doing so. At no time have I ever contacted social services. All these events and people were brought to me so surely it must prove there is great co-operation between social services and the blind association.

Because of the treatment I have had, I cannot understand the poor coverage social services receive from the media. It would appear the media are interested only in social services when mistakes are made.

I would like to thank my social worker and associated staff for the help I have been given over this period, and also Lorraine Brewis of Deafblind UK for the kindness she has shown me over the past year. I also want to express gratitude to the support groups and voluntary workers who give their time freely to look after people less fortunate than them. Thank you very much.

Joe Ethell is deaf and registered blind

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