For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sharon Billingham, the Chief Operating Officer at Thomas Pocklington Trust. My role is to oversee a number of our internal operations. This is my first monthly blog where I’ll be sharing some of our achievements and giving you an insight into our work.

We’re pleased to welcome some of our new starters to Pocklington this month. We welcome Mark Anscombe, Claire Jennings and Tara Chattaway, who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge and I look forward to working with them all over the next few months.

I’d also like to welcome our newest intern Wayne Chapman, I look forward to seeing how he progresses. Over the past 12 months we have been running a very successful intern programme for blind and partially sighted people. It’s a paid intern programme where our interns spend 6-9 months working in one of our teams, while receiving support in a range of areas from IT training, to CV writing, job searching, job applications and interview preparation, helping to build their confidence. We are extremely pleased with the success of the intern programme, with almost 100 per cent of our interns going on to paid employment. We are committed to supporting blind and partially sighted people into work. Currently, 33% of our own workforce are blind or partially sighted.

Photo shows Allia Hamilton speaking at the Working Age Forum

Allie Hamilton speaking at the Working Age Forum in Birmingham.

I recently attended the first Working Age Forum (WAF) in Birmingham, set up by the Birmingham Sight Loss Council and RNIB. It was a really successful event with over 40 attendees. There were two inspirational speakers: Steph Cutler, our Head of Employment, and Allie Hamilton, who specialises in developing people through coaching. Both have sight loss and spoke very openly about their own journeys and employment. I spoke to a number of people at the event. It was clear they got a lot out of attending and were keen for more events to be set up.

I’m really pleased with the work of the Birmingham Sight Loss Council. The council is a group of blind and partially sighted people who work to make sure the views and needs of people with sight loss are listened to and met. It has been running for just over 2 years and has had significant impact in the local area, including working with the local authority’s Rehabilitation Team to improve rehabilitation services. This is a great result and all involved should be really pleased with their success.

We opened the Pocklington Hub in London almost two years ago. It’s fantastic to see how well other sight loss charities are utilising the space, and how the hub’s use continues to grow. Moving forward we’re continuing to develop how the hub can become an even better resource for the blind and partially sighted community. Watch this space!

As the Chair of Birmingham Vision, and a season ticket holder at Aston Villa, I was delighted to see two of their staff members, Luke and Denise, delivered sight loss training to 17 members of Aston Villa Football Club staff last month! This will enable the club to better support blind and partially sighted fans. It would be great if other clubs around the country would follow suit.

Lastly, I want to congratulate Keith Valentine, our former Deputy CEO, on his new role at RNIB. Keith is leaving his post as CEO of Vision UK to be the Director of Development at RNIB. I wish Keith all the very best in his new role and look forward to continuing to work with him in the sector


Sharon Billingham