RNIB and Action for Blind People join forces

But partnership between blindness charities stops short of merger

The RNIB and Action for Blind People have entered into a formal partnership to improve services for blind people, but have stopped short of merging.

The two charities have already worked together on several lobbying campaigns and fundraising events, and announced last year that they were considering an associate-type arrangement (Third Sector Online, 27 October).

The new set-up will see Action take on responsibility for all regional service provision, with the RNIB's regional teams moving to Action's head offices. The RNIB will administrate national activity.

Both organisations insist the agreement is not a precursor to a full-blown merger, and they will retain separate brands, trustee boards and management teams.

The pair believe they can deliver more efficient and targeted services by officially joining forces and sharing a growth strategy, resources and expertise. They hope the partnership will also reduce competition between the two. Funding streams will be kept separate.

Kevin Geeson, chief operating officer at the RNIB, said the arrangement was not a response to the tough economic climate. "We were not aiming to cut back," he said. "Our prime driver was to re-channel money by shifting regional service provision into the hands of one organisation, so we are not stepping on each others' toes. This is an expansion strategy, not a cost-cutting measure."

The move will, however, require structural changes, the charities said. Stuart Clayton, acting director of services at Action, said it was unclear whether any redundancies would be made, but a review would take place to assess how each charity operates and whether any changes should take place.

"The current organisational structure may not be the best way of implementing our shared action plan," he said.

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