Charity poised to shut its doors

Talking Newsaers, Heathfield SUS-160217-224903008
Talking Newsaers, Heathfield SUS-160217-224903008

Heathfield volunteers who record newspapers for the blind say their organisation has been deliberately run down by a national charity.

National Talking Newspapers and Magazines, which operates from Browning Road, Heathfield was taken over by the RNIB just under two years ago.

They said the aim was to raise enough money to run it.

But local volunteers are furious that publications have been taken away and now the organisation is set to close at the end of next month.

People who called the Sussex Express said they felt it was necessary to speak out. One said: “If you are a small sight-related charity, do not call in the RNIB to solve your financial problems.

“ They dislike dealing with volunteers who, although they cost nothing, cannot be controlled.

“When they took the organisation over, a large number of staff were immediately told to go.”

The charity is 40 years old and was supported by a system of legacies, donations and grants. It used the services of about 300 readers and copy checkers from the local area who gave their time and expertise for nothing.

Another caller, a volunteer for almost ten years, added: “We used to record 250 publications. The RNIB has taken away 100, allegedly to record elsewhere, leaving the rest to flounder. My queries are never answered regarding advertising for new subscribers who don’t know about us. I am sure this is a charity that could be run differently for less than the extraordinary sum that the RNIB quotes, which is £430,000 a year.”

An internet check on the title ‘Talking Newspapers and Books’ yields the RNIB heading ‘RNIB Newsagent’ and a telephone call reveals the operation to be based in Glasgow although the community site, still gives the Browning Road address.

Ross Macfadyen, head of content services for the new operation, attended a two-hour meeting At King’s Church Hall, Station Road, Heathfield last Wednesday, attended by about 45 volunteers. They were told closure has been planned for March 31.

A volunteer continued: “RNIB is now relying on the publications themselves to organise the recordings, probably using electronic voices or professional actors.

“We do not believe this will prove workable as publications aim to make a profit and would not wish to participate for free.

“We think the entire output will eventually go online but many subscribers to the service do not possess or use computers.”

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