We’re making good progress with the continued recovery and transformation of the guide dog service. We knew this wouldn't be easy and will take time, so we started with a well-planned programme of work to return our guide dog service back to where we were pre-pandemic and then grow - with the objective of reducing the time people are needing to wait for a service and increasing the number of partnerships we are able to support.
Three months on, we’re making positive progress. We’ve increased the number of puppies being placed with Puppy Raisers, our campaign to recruit more much-needed volunteer roles has led to a record number of Puppy Raiser applications, and our guide dog qualification success rates are on the up.
More puppies being born and raised is great news as it means more future guide dogs. It takes around two years for our puppies to create successful guide dog partnerships, so while we won’t see an immediate impact on our waiting times, things are moving in the right direction.
Let’s take a look at the numbers for 2023 so far:
Our success rate for guide dogs qualifying has climbed to around 60%, from a Covid low of 47% seen around the world. We’re on track to reach our pre-pandemic rate of around 70% (with the dogs currently being matched having grown up when we were still facing Covid restrictions and lockdowns).
Around 1,400 puppies are currently in Puppy Raisers’ homes, getting ready to be the next generation of guide dogs.
We’ve received record numbers of new Puppy Raiser applications which will help us support continued service growth.
Our focus now is on encouraging more volunteer Fosterers to apply. Fosterer numbers are steadily increasing and in March we received more than 300 applications, treble the number compared to the same period last year.
We have identified 30 dogs to join our breeding programme so that we can further support the number of dogs we will need in the years to come.
Our Vision Rehabilitation Specialists support people who are waiting for a guide dog with their independence and confidence. They’ve made nearly 1,000 face-to-face visits and called around 450 people to offer extra support (with 40% of people waiting for their guide dog now taking this up).
Specialist staff to support our services
Our Guide Dogs Academy was set up to recruit and train up more Guide Dog Trainers and Guide Dog Mobility Specialists. After successfully recruiting 64 learners for these iconic roles in 2022, who are already moving into community teams and helping to create new partnerships, we’re aiming to take on a further 24 in 2023.
We are also planning to recruit up to 14 new trainee Habilitation Specialists this year, supporting children and young people with a vision impairment, and 12 trainee Vision Rehabilitation Specialists.