WHEN Mary Lithgow lost her sight, she found she also lost her mobility and joy of life until she received a helping hand from social services.

Ms Lithgow, 61, from Bishop Auckland, spoke of her experiences at a session for clients and staff held by Durham County Council's social services department.

People are invited to the sessions to explain how they have benefited from the efforts of county council staff and offer suggestions for improvements.

Ms Lithgow's blindness disrupted her life until Leigh Nicholson, County Durham social services care manager for visual impairment, helped her.

Mary said: "After I lost my sight I would just sit at home, unable to go out or do anything. But Leigh has helped me get back to something like my normal self. I used to be upset a lot of the time, but now I am doing more and more things. She is helping me with mobility training, which means I am able to go out on my own on a route I know well.

"I think the other social services staff in the group were surprised when they heard the extent of work that Leigh does. She has worked wonders for me."

Other people who spoke during the sessions included local carers, the council's HIV social worker and representatives from the substance misuse team.

Deputy director of social services, Nigel Porter, said: "To hear first-hand how the clients rate what we do to help them is extremely useful."