• Cassettes for Blind People service to be handed over to RNIB

Library services for people in Hertfordshire with a visual impairment could be about to take a new direction with councillors due to vote on a plan to hand over provision to a charity.

Cassettes for Blind People (CfBP), an in-house postal service which currently supplies talking books on cassette to 378 people at a cost of around £50,000 per year, is set to be wound up and its budget used to fund subscriptions to a RNIB service under a three-year agreement.

This would ensure that users had access to a much more up-to-date service including a wider range of formats and a specially-designed player. However, it will only be funded in future for those people who meet stricter sight criteria than are currently applied, and who are on low incomes.

The council says: “Individuals who meet the eligibility on both need and financial grounds would receive the HCC funded subscription providing that there is capacity within the capped subscription budget.” When all funded places were full, a waiting list would be operated and users monitored to ensure they were making use of the service.

People who do not meet these criteria and still wish to use the service will be able to subscribe individually at the rate of £82 a year, payable in 10 instalments.

The existing CfTB service is currently running at full capacity and is unable to take on any new members. The council says all existing customers would be automatically transferred to funded RNIB subscriptions regardless of level of visual impairment or whether they already have a personal subscription.

CfBP is one of a range of library services for people with different levels of visual impairment. Others include large-print book stock, audio books on cassette, CD and available for download, access to the Home Library Service and magnifiers in branches.

Members of the Hertfordshire Local and Libraries Panel are due to vote on this proposal on Tuesday May 8. For more information on the plan, and for other items due to be discussed this month, click here.

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