Plaid Cymru’s Dr Dai Lloyd MS has called on the Welsh Government to urgently provide people with sight loss priority access to online grocery shopping.

Priority shopping slots have only been made available for people in the shielding category meaning blind and partially sighted people in Wales no longer have access to vital food delivery services in Wales, placing them at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.

While Local Authorities in England have started a referral system so that when someone is not shielded but vulnerable for another reason, they can still obtain a priority delivery slot, Wales is yet to adopt this approach. This means that people with sight loss in Wales now have to rely on volunteers, or visit the shops themselves.

Plaid Cymru’s Dr Dai Lloyd MS pressed the unique circumstances that blind and partially sighted people find themselves in and urged the development of a self-registration scheme similar to that under way in England – or risk putting people in Wales at additional, unnecessary risk. 

Sight loss charity RNIB Cymru have consistently received over 100 additional calls per day to its UK-wide helpline from people worried about how to get hold of essential items.

The Chair of Senedd Cymru’s Cross Party Group for Vision and Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd Dr Dai Lloyd said,

“We are now well into the second month of lockdown measures and blind and partially sighted people are still struggling to get hold of basic essential items like groceries.

“It is unacceptable and disappointing that Welsh Government have allowed a group of vulnerable people to be at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to restrictions to a vital service previously available to them.

“Forcing previously independent people to put themselves at needless risk or to rely on volunteers cannot be considered an acceptable solution.

“I call on the Welsh Government to follow England’s example and allow those with sight loss access to vital food delivery services.”

RNIB Cymru Director, Ansley Workman said,

“Blind and partially sighted people are more likely to use touch to navigate and are often unable to tell how far away they are from others. This means they are more at risk from contracting the virus from surfaces and makes maintaining the 2 meter distance from others difficult, both on the journey to the supermarket and within the store itself.

“Many also rely on a guide too, linking arms with another person to find the way. If they live alone or their guide is not a member of their household, this means safety is compromised and the option of leaving the house has effectively been taken away.

“Online shopping is therefore often the best alternative.

“However, many blind and partially sighted people tell us that supermarket delivery slots that they relied on before the pandemic are booked up for weeks, resulting in them being unable to access essentials.”