The RNIB Visits LSBM and Reveals New Internship Programme

01 Mar 2017

Written by Stuart Brown

This week LSBM was visited by Lorenzo Collinassi and Maria Dimouli, two representatives from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) (they used to be known as the 'Royal National Institute for the Blind' from 1953 until 2007). The RNIB is a charity that has been supporting the blind and partially sighted since 1868, when it was first known as the 'British and Foreign Society for Improving Embossed Literature for the Blind'.

You can find their website here: www.rnib.org.uk

The RNIB has consistently been one of the largest and most popular charities supporting people with sight loss in the UK, with income in the last financial year of some £41.5 million, and over 1000 employees.



They offer a number of very practical benefits and assistance to people with sight loss, including:

1/ A Helpline which is available from 8.45am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday to help to answer questions and point people in the right direction for available services (the number to call is 0303 123 9999).

These services can range from practical help, with devices such as the 'Penfriend' (to help to provide 'audio labels' to everyday items) and software such as 'ZoomText' (to magnify computer text) available for purchase, as well as informing people about the financial support that is available, helping people to understand eye health, offering emotional support and counselling for people who are dealing with sight loss, as well as leading on various campaigns.

In 2016 the helpline answered 213,000 calls and helped 96,000 people with sight loss (including 36,500 new people) through the direct services that the RNIB offers.


2/ One of the key ways they have been able to help is with a 'Benefits Advice Service' which helps people with sight loss with navigating the sometimes complicated processes involved in claiming benefits they are entitled to. They have helped 15,300 people this year with this and the charity claims to have identified £19.5 million in unclaimed benefits for those people.


3/ Another great way that the RNIB helps practically is with its free 'Talking Books Subscription' service. This gives access to over 23,000 unabridged audiobooks that can be downloaded to your smartphone, or which can be sent out to you directly on CD or USB stick, so that the joy of learning and enjoying books remains freely accessible to those with sight loss.

(In addition, there is also an accessible music library)

The joining criteria for the Talking Books Subscription is:

"To be eligible to join the service you have to be a UK resident who is blind, partially sighted, or have an impairment that prevents or limits you from reading standard print."

(I did phone up the RNIB for clarification on what they felt constituted being 'partially sighted' in order to access the service (with glasses? A certain prescription? With corrective lenses? Without?) as their website isn't clear. But they didn't have a definition that they universally applied, so it remains a little confusing. If in doubt, you can call them on 0303 123 9999 and ask about your particular sight loss situation to see if you qualify.)

 

In addition, it is worth noting that LSBM has a dedicated Disability and Student Welfare Advisor, Dr Nadia Michail. So if you are a LSBM student who has a sight loss issue (or other medical condition that may affect your studies), then Nadia can discuss that with you and suggest ways that we may be able to help. She can also provide a knowledgeable and supportive first port of call at LSBM if you do need someone to talk to about your situation.

You can read more about the LSBM Disability Office, along with contact details for Nadia, here: http://www.lsbm.ac.uk/disability-office


The RNIB services above are just a few among many support initiatives the charity offers across the country to help to support people with sight loss.

(You can find their latest annual report here, which has 128 pages of details about all the good work that they do).

But obviously, services like these are both expensive to maintain and manpower intensive. So, they are always looking for volunteers...

 

Volunteering and the RNIB Internship Programme


You can find the 'normal' RNIB volunteering page here: http://www.rnib.org.uk/volunteering

One of the things that Lorenzo and Maria were here to talk about however was their unpaid internship programme, which they will shortly be starting up recruitment for, and which may be of more specific interest to LSBM students who are looking for their first step into the workforce.

The basics of the RNIB internship are:

  • Unpaid
  • 12 weeks long (3 or 4 full days a week is typically what they expect)
  • Applications commence in March 2017 for an April 2017 start

You will shortly be able to read details here:

http://www.rnib.org.uk/volunteering/our-internship-programme

 

(At the moment scrolling down and clicking on 'Find an internship opportunity' on that page will produce no results. This is because they expect to commence promotion for the Internships (of which they expect there to be around 10 in total), on the 6 March 2017, and applications will be opening up on 3 April 2017. So details won't be released until those dates. Put a note in your diary to check back on that page AFTER 6 March 2017 to see the internship opportunities that are available).

The details on the internships have yet to be released. But Maria suggested that they are likely to be in a variety of departments within the charity, including fundraising and campaigning, and they may also have a project management internship. Many will be in London, but there may also be opportunities in other parts of the country.


Here is how the RNIB themselves describe the programme:

"Our internship programme offers you a unique opportunity to learn more about sight loss, and the issues affecting blind and partially sighted people. You will be working on a specific project and will gain insight into working in a large charity, as well as valuable skills and work experience to help your career."


The internships themselves are unpaid. But they do offer a valuable 'foot-in-the door' to the charity sector, which is notoriously challenging to find permanent employment in without first volunteering, or becoming otherwise 'known' to the charity in question.

RNIB is by no means alone in having 'unpaid' internships. In the charity sector it would be true to say that this is pretty normal.

It is heartening however that Lorenzo himself started out as an unpaid intern at the RNIB, and is now a full-time paid employee of the charity, working as a 'Volunteering Management Support Officer'.

This was a job that he successfully applied for following on from his internship. So, while financially it may be a little 'challenging' during the initial internship, there are possibilities for it to develop into something that has longer term potential.

Of his experience as an intern at the RNIB, he commented:

"I became more aware of what working for a big charity means and gained a whole range of transferable skills."


In addition, Maria commented that internships at RNIB have previously frequently led to paid employment with the charity, so Lorenzo's experience is by no means an isolated case (though clearly there are no guarantees). But at the very least you will gain valuable experience, have a proper work reference, and get some good insights as to whether working for a charity could be a good career path for you. So, even if you don't walk out with a job at the end, you will be in a significantly better position.

Also, it is worth noting that while the internship positions are unpaid, there is still likely to be considerable competition for the places. This is a great stepping stone into a job in the charity sector, so you will have to fill out a formal application form and attend an interview. If you do apply, give careful thought to your application and approach the process with the same care and attention that you would any other paid job.


Be sure to take a look at what is on offer after the 6 March 2017, when full-details of the upcoming internships are released.

http://www.rnib.org.uk/volunteering/our-internship-programme


Thanks to Lorenzo and Maria for coming along to LSBM to have a chat with our staff and students about the great work that RNIB is doing, and best of luck to any LSBM students who decide to apply.


Featured in the picture above (from left to right) are:
Usha Mistry, Head of Programme Development, LSBM
Aharon Cohen, LSBM Accounting and Financial Management student
Maria Dimouli, Volunteering Recruitment Officer, RNIB
Lorenzo Collinassi, Volunteering Management Support Officer, RNIB
Adunola Dahunsi, LSBM Business Management student

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