Jewish Blind and Disabled
by Hazel Kaye
Thank you so much for inviting me here today and giving me the opportunity to tell you, in the next 5 minutes or so, a little about Jewish Blind & Disabled. I have been Chief Executive for the last 10 years and am immensely proud of the work we do within the Jewish community.
Our mission at Jewish Blind & Disabled – the reason why we exist – is very simple - to support people with physical disabilities or vision impairment in living independent lives, with dignity, security and hope for the future. It’s a really inspiring vision and we’re absolutely passionate about constantly bringing it to life. So what does this actually mean?
Independence. Independence means choice, so we offer our tenants as much or as little support as they need. Our house managers live on site, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year and are available to support our tenants whenever they need them.
Independence also means enabling – living in good quality, well maintained appropriate accommodation can mean the difference between having an active social and family life or none at all.
Dignity. Dignity means being treated as a human being rather than just an example of disability. Our tenants traverse a huge range of ages, from early twenties to nearly a hundred. And a huge range of disabilities, including Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, parkinsons, cerebral palsy, blindness and partial sight – and other disabilities that come with age such as arthritis or osteoporosis. Whatever the level of their disability we work with our tenants as unique people with different needs, challenges and feelings.
Security means peace of mind, not having to worry if you need help – if you fall over for instance – not needing to think about being burgled when you’re out, feeling safe at night. Disability can create enough additional stress in your life without having to think about these things.
I would also like to make it clear that Jewish Blind & Disabled is a completely independent charity and not affiliated to any other Organisation although we do have a close working relationship with many organisations.
And whilst I’m talking about the things we’re not, we’re also not a provider of ‘homes’ or ‘residential care’. I’ve even heard of us being described as ‘old people’s homes’. This could not be further from the reality; many of our tenants are young and all are independent people living in flats, not ‘homes’. There’s a world of difference, between the two.
Jewish Blind & Disabled works right across North London. In our seven complexes we have around 360 tenants living in 297 flats. Most are individual mobility flats, but we also have 2 bedroom mobility flats and wheelchair flats.
All of our buildings are designed with unparalleled attention to detail; emergency pull cords throughout, wet floor shower rooms, wheelchair accessible kitchens, colour coded corridors, scooter charging room, level access to the accessible gardens to name but a few.
Whilst the bricks and mortar are vital they are just the starting point. In addition, as briefly mentioned, we provide a fantastic support network at the heart of which sit our resident house managers who are on call 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, giving each of our 360 tenants and their families the peace of mind that should help be needed it will be on hand immediately at the touch of a button.
We also have a tenancy support team who provide another level of support to our tenants. They provide emotional support where they can respond quickly and effectively at times of stress and anxiety and the team is able to refer on to appropriate professionals as necessary. In addition the Tenancy Support team helps incoming and established tenants to complete forms and claim for any benefits to which they are entitled. Our advisers visit our buildings regularly and liaise closely with our House Managers, who update them on the changing needs of our tenants so they can provide appropriate support.
Due to the uniqueness of what we do, there’s a long waiting list, and we can only expect this to get longer as people live longer and the diagnosis and treatment of disability improves. This is why we were so delighted to have opened our latest development in Bushey Heath, named Cecil Rosen Court two years ago and hope to break ground on our next project, also in Bushey Heath, later this year. This latest project of 19 mobility apartments will cost around £7m.
One of the main benefits of what we do is that we are able to offer our tenants the best of both worlds – the privacy of their own apartment when this is what they desire and the opportunity to socialise in the communal lounge or well-maintained gardens whenever they feel like company. Indeed our programme of social activities, some run by staff or tenants, others by volunteers plays a vital role in creating the warm and welcoming communities that exist within each building and we are so grateful to our wonderful volunteers without whom we could not provide such an amazing array of activities ensuring that there is something for everyone.
Asides from the cost of building new projects, we have ongoing costs of customising flats to meet the ever changing needs of our tenants. Whether it’s lowering a kitchen’s access for someone in a wheelchair, providing additional lighting for someone who is vision impaired or installing hoists for tenants with more severe disabilities, our costs are forever-growing.
We do not receive any direct government funding and so are extremely grateful for voluntary donations we receive which is why support for Jewish Blind & Disabled is so vital, now and in the future.
To further support our ambition of ensuring that neither physical disability nor impaired vision is allowed to become a barrier to someone being able to lead an independent life we have created an online resource designed to enable anyone, wherever they are in the Jewish community, to benefit from Jewish Blind & Disabled’s ever growing knowledge and expertise.
This online guide, called Empowering Ability, can be accessed via our website. It has been designed to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ of advice and information to help people with impaired vision or physical disabilities live independently, whether this is in their current home, with us or in some other option. Advice and information ranges from communications to enjoying Jewish life to Clothes, Shoes & Dressing to Benefits & Grants to Driving & Transport amongst many other topics.