One in three children with vision impairment failed by local authority specialist services

Olivia Rook
Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Children and young people face ‘a postcode lottery’ in trying to access specialist support.

The funding freeze has impacted an estimated 11,000 children across England.
The funding freeze has impacted an estimated 11,000 children across England.

Nearly half of all local authorities (LAs) have cut or frozen funding that supports children with vision impairment since 2017, according to the results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The funding freeze has impacted an estimated 11,000 children across England, which equates to one in every three children across the country. A further 7,539 children and young people are accessing services that have failed to keep their budgets in line with inflation, which means real term cuts to funding.

The findings have been documented in the Left Out of Learning report, published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Of the 152 LAs contacted, 147 responded with information about current specialist services for children with vision impairment.

These funding cuts and freezes have taken place in spite of a seven per cent rise in the number of children and young people accessing specialist support. More than a third of LAs have also reported a decrease in the number of Qualified Teachers of Visual Impairment (QTVI).

RNIB has said that children and young people face ‘a postcode lottery’ in trying to access specialist support and is calling on the Government to fully fund LAs so they are able to deliver vital services.

During the spending round in September, the Government pledged a further £700m for special educational needs and disabilities. It has also recently promised a review of the Education and Health Care Plans introduced in 2014 to help those with SEND better plan for their futures.

A quarter of LAs admitted they are currently, or are planning to, review their vision impairment services.

Keith Valentine, director of development at RNIB, said: ‘Children and young people with vision impairment require specialist support to access the curriculum, navigate their school, take part in sports or games and learn on equal terms with sighted children. This vital support enables them to develop the essential skills they need to succeed, not just at school, but as adults with full lives.

‘Our research has revealed a shocking lack of resource for local authorities to deliver this crucial provision. Despite an increasing number of children and young people requiring and accessing specialist support in the last few years, funding has been cut, QTVI roles have been lost and caseloads have increased - putting remaining services under enormous strain.

‘With more than £14 billion being promised for primary and secondary education between now and 2023, we are urging the Government to act now and correct this funding gap to ensure every child with vision impairment is able to fulfil their potential.’

Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘This report provides further evidence of the immense pressures councils continue to face in supporting children who are blind or visually impaired as well as other pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

‘While it was good the Government announced extra money to support children and young people with SEND for next year, it must provide long-term funding certainty in the upcoming Spending Review and Budget.’

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