For World Sight Day 2021, our colleague at Reside Housing Association, Niki Duffy, writes about her work as a Tenant Support Officer at one of Reside's specialised supported living schemes in Durham. There are 13 tenants who are blind or deaf and Niki provides support to them all in their everyday lives.

“A lot of time in my role is spent providing emotional support. Often tenants just want to chat to someone and air any issues or concerns, and for someone, they trust to reassure them. It takes up a lot of time.

As well as helping our tenants with sight loss to do everyday things like shopping and get to appointments, I also encourage them to take up training and employment opportunities. I’ve helped write CVs and carried out mock interviews. Some of our tenants have partial sight loss but a couple have no sight at all and they are quite young - I try to encourage them to be more independent.

One of the blind tenants recently was making his way to the hospital on public transport and had his wallet stolen. Luckily he had his mobile phone and he called me. I told him to stay where he was and I would go straight away to collect him. Whatever time of the day, or day of the week, I’ll do my best to help. Last week one of the blind tenants had a flood. He had nobody to help him clear up and I went to his flat at 3 am to help him because I was so worried he would fall.

Some challenges crop up where we have a mix of tenants at the scheme who have sight loss and hearing loss. Those who have hearing loss have the volume on their TV very loud, which of course impacts the tenants who have sight loss as their hearing is especially sensitive.

We have a great relationship with the Sunderland and County Durham Royal Society for the Blind - they put WiFi into the scheme for the tenants to make their lives easier in connecting digitally to the outside world. Their dedicated support worker comes in on a Tuesday and anyone with sight loss can go to her for advice and technological help. I work in partnership with the local authority Durham sensory support team, too.

I must say that working with Reside at this scheme has opened my eyes greatly to the challenges that people with sensory impairment face. Even though my role can be hard and often challenging, making a positive difference and helping the tenants in the way I do is extremely rewarding.”


To find out more about the Reside Tenant Support Team, please click here.

Tenant story - Kelly Ann is one of the deaf tenants that Niki supports, you can read her story here.