Wirral Society of the Blind and Partially Sighted (WSBPS) was established in October 1989 by a group of visually impaired people. Their aim was to create an organisation to offer help, support and advice to those with serious sight problems in Wirral. The group set up a steering committee to plan how the Society would be organised, a constitution was written and an application for registration was submitted to the Charity Commission on 24th October 1989 and WSBPS became a registered charity.
The group met in a variety of places, including a Council for Voluntary Services building, church halls and even member’s front rooms. It was decided that permanent premises would be needed in order to offer a full range of services and support for blind and partially sighted people. The search began!
The local authority was approached and eventually a disused single story building on the corner of Birkenhead Park was offered on a short term lease, so in 1991 Ashville Lodge became the home of WSBPS. The building had been many things in its time and for the previous two years had been used to store old furniture. It had a hole in the roof and was generally in a poor state of repair. But, many hands make light work and in time Ashville Lodge was repaired, redecorated and fitted out as a Resource Centre. A development officer was recruited and brought in volunteers to staff the Centre and visit people in the community.
WSBPS has come a long way since 1989. In 1999, the centre was refurbished and extended to accommodate the increase in service use. Ashville Lodge was then reopened in 2000 by the Duchess of Gloucester, who was impressed by the work and achievements of the Society. In 2010, WSBPS saw the completion of a second building development programme and opened a purpose built facility for learning and training.
Over the years we have established links with other local and national organisations including Blind Veterans UK, RNIB and the Macular Society, and can offer a comprehensive referral service for clients. Additionally we built a positive working relationship with the NHS, which led to us providing an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer based within the Eye department of Arrowe Park Hospital. At Ashville Lodge we have a small team of permanent staff who are supported by session tutors and volunteers, and are the only organisation based in Wirral offering support for blind and partially sighted people with the mission of promoting wellbeing and independent living.
We have met some remarkable people over the years, people who have influenced the Society and have contributed enormously to its growth and development making us what we are today. The late Mr Bill Dowling, our first Chairperson and founder member, Mr Derek Beauchamp, founder member and Chairperson for many years, the late Vera Steer, founder member, to name but a few. It is through the hard work, commitment and determination of these people that WSBPS was established and now continues to thrive and grow.