With the number of people sleeping rough at an all-time high, one caring optometrist has given up his time to help a charity which provides free eye tests and glasses for the homeless.
Ben Richardson, aged 28, who lives in Maidenhead and works at the Vision Express store in Reading, travelled to the London Crisis Centre recently to spend the day volunteering for 'Vision Care for Homeless People', a charity supplying much-needed eye care services to homeless and other vulnerable people.
In 2016, Government statistics showed that 4,134 people slept rough on any one night across England - over double the number counted in 2010. And, as only a reported 15% of homeless people receive state benefits, most do not qualify for NHS sight tests.
"They can feel very vulnerable and self-conscious." Ben says. "Although many know the importance of having their vision checked, they feel very uncomfortable going into an opticians. We know that 37% of people put off an eye test because of a cost concern, so it’s unsurprising that people in the homeless community are also reluctant. Many couldn’t afford to pay for glasses if they do need them. However, it’s vital they receive support - research shows homeless people have more vision issues than the general population and, therefore, are in greater need of regular eye tests and glasses."
Research shows the homeless are also more exposed to risk factors such as poor nutrition, trauma, smoking, drug abuse and infections. There is a higher incidence of macular degeneration due to smoking rates being three times higher in the homeless population, plus general health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, if left untreated and uncontrolled, can lead to sight loss.
"More than two million people are living with sight loss, despite over 50% of sight loss being preventable." added Ben. "These clinics are valuable because they make people aware of the charity and the fact that it provides eye tests and glasses totally free of charge. Two of the people I tested were referred for further medical assessment which really demonstrated the clinic’s worth.”
This is the second time Ben has volunteered and he vows to help out in the future too. "The patients are of all ages and from different backgrounds but everyone was so appreciative and it was very fulfilling. It's important to me to offer my skills, not just donate money." he said. "If I can give up my free time to give homeless people access to eye care services that could stop them losing their sight, it makes all the hard work getting my degree well and truly worthwhile."
About Vision Express
Vision Express is the third largest optical retailer in the UK and part of GrandVision, the global leader in optical retail, operating across 44 countries and spanning 6,100 stores and online. GrandVision is committed to delivering superior, high quality and affordable eye care to more and more people around the world.
With almost 390 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best personalised optical care, style and quality. Customers can select from a wide range of frames and lenses for glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses, allowing everybody to reflect their individual personalities and lifestyles.
With prices starting from £39, the Exclusive Brands in-house collection of eyewear makes the choice at Vision Express both unique and affordable. For frames and sunglasses the styles range from iconic, retro designs to the latest in ultra-modern chic. High-quality brands to suit every style and every budget.
With over 4,000 employees, Vision Express makes a difference to the communities it operates within, and as part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, it is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charitable Partnerships and include: