In 2012 Concept (the company umbrella for Tynedale Eye Clinic) became a ‘top supporter level’ member and a globally recognised ‘Associate Practice’ with the international charity, Optometry Giving Sight which it has continued to support since 2008 at the launch of the Concept flagship store. The company helps fund clinical expertise and resources to countries in the African and Asian diaspora. Vik Kumar was an optometrist volunteer in 2005 working in Sierra Leonne, Kenya and Russia. This experience inspired and paved the ground for Concept’s ‘Eye for an Eye’ charity launch event in 2010 supported by local business networks, The Eagles basketball team and North East based award winning designer, Kate Fearnley. ‘Eye for an Eye’ donates a pair of spectacles to vulnerable, socially excluded adults and children for each one sold in clinic.
Since 2008, the company has distributed over 9,800 free spectacles and administered over 14,000 free sight tests across the North East region of England. Underpinned by a social model of care providing free sight tests and spectacles to communities experiencing social and health inequalities and adults experiencing mental health and physical disabilities, the company is committed to helping vulnerable people receive an outreach service with the same in-house standards of service delivery. The Home Visits team models this ethos.
The company was the first independent optometrist practice in the North East of England to enlist the support of a key community development consortia ‘HAREF’ (Health and Race Equality Forum) to raise awareness with NHS commissioners regarding the importance of access to eye care and preventative measures to tackle eye pathology in ‘hard to reach’ communities experiencing serious health inequalities and social exclusion from mainstream social care. Vik Kumar developed the social model ethos of the company emanating from work with dementia sufferers in Nursing and Care homes to inner city projects with the premise that making a difference to a person’s vision inevitably impacts quality of life, place in society, dignity and emotional well being. The ‘user’ groups Concept has worked with include, mental health sufferers, people experiencing learning difficulties, drug and alcohol addiction, minority ethnic communities, asylum seekers and refugees, sex workers and the homeless.
In 2012, a training lead was recruited to provide basic eye pathology training to care staff across sectors. Significant eye pathology has been identified and conditions treated through the social care model, include macular degeneration and glaucoma and diabetes, making the Tynedale Eye Clinic site a central ‘training clinic’ for pre-registration optometrists seeking a placement with the company each year. Concept has funded translated eye care resources and it’s own health interpreters working in Cantonese, Urdu, Sylheti, Polish, Arabic and French to aid clinical outreach sessions. The work in this context was brought to the attention of Newcastle Healthy City Project, HAREF and Community Action on Health in 2010.
Between 2009 and 2014 Concept worked with 32 community and regeneration funded projects including The Millin Centre, The Chinese Healthy Living Project and Places for People. Service as an eye care provider with national charities has grown each year and includes – Freedom from Torture, The Salvation Army, The Cyrenians and The Richmond Fellowship.