Virtual reality training helps Jobcentre staff experience sight loss

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Jobcentre Plus has introduced a virtual reality training programme to help staff better understand and support the needs of jobseekers with sight loss.

The Department for Work and Pensions worked with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to develop interactive training modules to help staff understand sight loss and how it could affect people’s lives. The course also covers the causes of sight loss, barriers to employment for those with a visual impairment and how they can be supported by staff at Jobcentre Plus.

Employees at some Jobcentres will have access to virtual reality headsets designed by RNIB, which will allow them to experience what it is like to have a visual impairment.

Minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson said: “Sight loss affects two million people in the UK, so it’s vital that our staff understand the specific challenges visually impaired people can face when seeking work.

“That’s why we’ve collaborated with RNIB to create learning that will help our staff better support visually impaired people to move into and thrive in work.”

RNIB policy manager Dr Chrissie Pepper said the charity hoped the training “would lead to a better understanding from DWP and its staff about sight loss and the impact it has, leading to cases being resolved more quickly so that people can access their benefits”.

The training was announced during National Eye Health Week, which aims to educate people on the importance of eye health and regular sight tests. A study commissioned by charity Eye Health UK and Vision Express Opticians, also published this week, found fewer than half (49%) of employers were failing to offer regular sight tests as required the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) regulations.

Of the 250 employers polled by Opinion Matters, four in 10 said they had no eye care policy in place and only 49% encouraged staff to take breaks from carrying out screen work.

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