Going beyond disability to help those in need

Going beyond disability to help those in need

A blind nursing student has shown there is no limit to helping others during a time of crisis.

When the lockdown began, Sarah Strutt began searching for ways she could assist her local community despite having additional needs herself.

Sarah became partially sighted in 1999 then registered blind in 2006 with a condition known as retinal dystrophy. She moves around with a cane and uses braille as well as apps and voice-over output on her phone and laptop.

However, with the Access to Nursing and Midwifery course at Stockport College to support her application, the 30-year-old found a voluntary role phoning people in need with Covid-19 response unit, the Stay in Touch service, run by Salford’s Clinical Commissioning Group and part of the Spirit of Salford partnership.

The 30-year-old from Whalley Range said: “I constantly saw the chaos caused by coronavirus and was desperate to do what I could to help. At first people thought it was limited what I could do as I am registered blind, however I kept searching and came across this opportunity.

“Clients have different reasons for seeking telephone contact many are isolated due to the virus and experiencing loneliness and some are in the older age bracket.”

The work involves phoning people referred to the service to provide support with benefits, council tax, debt, digital skills, emergency supplies, food, housing, pets, citizen’s advice, all of which Sarah shares with her wider team over the phone to follow up any welfare and safeguarding concerns.

Amanda Rafferty, Service Lead, Stay in Touch added: “It’s great to have Sarah volunteering on our service – she has a natural connection with people and a clear empathy which will be of great benefit to her in her future career as a nurse. She has a brilliant understanding of the needs of vulnerable citizens who face many barriers in life similar to her own experience.

“Sarah contacts us with updates using a mobile phone as it works better for her and this ensures we are kept informed of any issues, and more importantly the difference she has made to the lady she is supporting.”

Sarah completes college work by email using audio of classes from home with constant engagement from tutors whom have been “absolutely amazing”, and creates poetry in her spare time. After College, she plans to study a mental health nursing BSC at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Councillor Gina Reynolds, Lead Member for Adult Services, Health and Wellbeing, Salford City Council, which set up Spirit of Salford network in just 72 hours when isolation was announced, said: “Sarah’s determination to help others at a time of crisis is fantastic and we have been very grateful for her support. Her compassion, caring and community spirit will stand her in good stead in her future career and I wish her every success.”