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Charities set out plans to co-operate on services

Three leading national charities for blind and visually-impaired people are discussing how they could “combine forces” to improve the services they provide and offer a “more unified voice”.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Action for Blind People (ABP) – which is already part of the RNIB Group of charities – and SeeAbility said they had agreed to “formally explore working more closely together”.

But all three organisations made it clear that there had been no discussions about a possible future merger.

Instead, they said their aim was “to rationalise which charity does what and allow each to focus on their particular areas of specialisation”, while there “may also be some potential to share resources for common functions”.

They also said the decision was unrelated to the tough financial climate facing the voluntary sector.

An ABP spokesman said: “Discussing possible ways of closer working is not related to the recession, or financial situations.

“It is about the needs of blind and partially-sighted people; building on the strengths of the individual charities to increase the voice and influence of people with sight loss.”

Jayne McGann, SeeAbility’s fundraising and marketing director, said: “What we are saying is that we are going to start talking to one another. [The three chief executives] have not even established what areas of commonality they may have at this stage.”

She said the discussions had been about “how can we look to improve the frontline services? Is there duplication going on and does there need to be duplication?”

The announcement comes three months after RADAR, the National Centre for Independent Living and Disability Alliance announced they were hoping to merge, 18 months after they began “exploring the potential for closer collaboration”.

In a statement, Lesley-Anne Alexander, RNIB’s chief executive, said the three charities “firmly believe that joining together in this way will provide improved services and a more unified voice for blind and partially-sighted people”.

The three charities said discussions were “at a very early stage” and details of how the “proposed new alignment of services might operate” were “being developed”, although they hoped to be “working in this new way” by 2012.