Advertorial from Specsavers

Specsavers partners with Big Issue to provide free eye care for vendors

Specsavers is tackling healthcare needs of Big Issue vendors and frontline team workers through a groundbreaking partnership, offering them free eye tests, glasses and earwax removal.

www.exposurephotoagency.com | ©Exposure Photo Agency

Advertorial from Specsavers

Supporting eye and ear health for Big Issue vendors and the frontline team in the UK – that’s the goal of a new partnership between Specsavers and Big Issue.

It couldn’t be simpler: all Big Issue vendors and our frontline team will be given vouchers, which will give them access to a free eye test – including an eye health scan using Optical Coherence Tomography equipment – free glasses, plus free ear wax removal, which can help people experiencing hearing difficulties and tinnitus. There are no clauses, no small print; it’s straightforward, providing help to everyone.

Providing accessible eye care for Big Issue vendors

“Many homeless and vulnerable people are not in receipt of financial benefits, so face difficulties getting an NHS eye examination and a voucher towards their glasses,” explains Jo Osborne, senior project manager for homelessness at Specsavers. “We want to collaborate with others to achieve long-term impact and that’s why we are working with key organisations, including the Big Issue Group, to help extend eye care to vendors and explore ways in which we can increase access to care to disadvantaged people. Specsavers is all about changing lives through better sight and hearing, and we want to make care accessible to all.”

The healthcare retailer has long-term partnerships with The Big Issue, Crisis and Vision Care for Homeless People, providing high-quality care to those unable to access NHS services.
“We know that the best outcomes happen when we work together to achieve the same goal,” says Jo. “By doing so we can better understand the needs of people experiencing homelessness and together try to achieve lasting change, including lobbying government to make access to care easier and more inclusive.”

Changing lives through better sight and hearing

Specsavers has a long history of making a positive difference to people’s lives by helping them to see and hear better.

“It’s part of our DNA and the principles of the founders Doug and Dame Mary Perkins,” says Jo. “They set up Specsavers with the sole purpose of making eye care, and now hearing care, available and affordable for all.

“This is especially important during a cost of living crisis when rents are going up, there is a shortage of social housing, food and energy are at an all-time high and people are struggling to make ends meet. This means more people are finding themselves needing additional support. We don’t want people to compromise on their eye health due to their circumstances.”

So far, dozens of people experiencing homelessness have been helped with eye care, including vendor Mark Morgan, whose pitch is by Poundland in Christchurch, Dorset. It was about four years since his last eye test and he was struggling with daily headaches.
“My eyesight was terrible, I could hardly see and I couldn’t afford to buy new glasses. The voucher really made a difference, I can actually see what I’m looking at now,” says Mark.
“It was so easy, everyone was really nice and friendly, they explained everything. The glasses I’ve got now are a lot stronger. Before when I had forms to fill in, I couldn’t read them without having to ask for help.”

Vendor Will Payne suffered from vision problems and headaches for years before getting new glasses. Will, whose pitch is in Bristol’s St Werburgh area, was delighted when he picked up his new glasses. “They’re incredible, a whole new world has just opened up,” he smiles.
Eye tests include an overall eye health check, vitally important as some health conditions, such as diabetes or glaucoma, can be sight-threatening or lead to vision loss without showing symptoms.

Importance of comprehensive eye care

A study by Vision Care for Homeless People found that, out of the 280 people who attended a Crisis at Christmas optician service, 80% needed glasses, 20% had some sort of eye disease and 10% needed a medical referral.

A further survey conducted by the charity of 168 people experiencing homelessness in London found that more than half of them had an immediate eye care need, reflecting the difficulties faced in getting an eye test and glasses.

Expanding outreach and improving eye care provision

Through community outreach, including clinics last Christmas at five Crisis centres, and by supporting Vision Care for Homeless People to expand its services, open new clinics and reopen those that were shut during the pandemic, Specsavers has been able to improve eye care provision for people affected by homelessness.

There are plans to increase that support this year in addition to The Big Issue partnership that already includes exclusive sponsorship of the Big Issue’s iconic red tabards worn by vendors throughout the UK.

“We hope that our work together will influence change at a wider policy level to make NHS services available to those currently unable to access them,” says Jo. “These collaborations directly increase access to care for those experiencing homelessness, as well as indirectly shining a light on the broader crisis of homelessness and its devastating, dangerous and isolating consequences.

“Seeing the great strides these three organisations are making is helping shape the way Specsavers uses its local connections to increase our reach to disadvantaged communities, to ensure everyone receives the eye and ear care they deserve.”
The commitment by Specsavers has been warmly welcomed by Chris Falchi-Stead, Big Issue frontline director.

“At a time when so many people are struggling with the cost of living crisis, it’s so important for The Big Issue to do as much as we can to support those in the most need,” he says.

“Our partnership with Specsavers is a fantastic illustration of this, as we are helping more vendors every day to access potentially life-changing eye tests and free eyewear.”

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

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