The Commission brings together young people with lived experience, parents and professionals working in frontline services to shape new ideas and thinking, setting out policy recommendations to help secure better outcomes and improved support for children and young people with vision impairment in the future.
The report to accompany the Commission launch outlines that there are roughly 34,000 children and young people living with vision impairment in the UK. Given that 80 per cent of a child’s learning takes place using vision, children and young people with vision impairment need to receive specialist support in order to fulfil their potential.
Some of the most significant findings of the report include:
- Experiences of diagnosis are highly variable, with too many parents and carers describing extended periods of uncertainty around the best next steps for their child. Signposting is offered inconsistently across the country.
- The Education, Health and Care Plan process continues to present families with huge challenges, typically applying a “deficit model” approach that only releases support when a child or young person has already fallen behind.
- The Commission heard that school staff who are not specialists in Special Educational Needs or Sensory Impairment lack sufficient training about sight loss and vision impairment in a general sense.
- There are geographic inconsistencies in accessing services and support which lead to perceptions of an unfair ‘postcode lottery’.
- The education and wider support system for children and young people with vision impairment is under-resourced, with a shortage of key professionals.
- The need for a more joined-up service and a single point of information for children and young people and their families has long been recognised as key to improving service delivery and outcomes. Better integration with wider service provision could transform outcomes.
The Commission has examined the current landscape and identified four major challenge areas:
- Navigating services, especially in the early stages of a family managing a child’s diagnosis
- Securing good quality education, including anticipating needs and preventing problems before they arise
- Consistent service quality, avoiding any “postcode lotteries” affecting outcomes for children and young people with a vision impairment
- Integrating support and services within the wider policy context, and ensuring learning from good practice elsewhere
They have produced a comprehensive package of recommendations that we believe would positively transform children and young people with a vision impairment’s experiences of accessing services and support. The Government’s SEND Review creates a unique opportunity for children and young people with vision impairments, and the parents, carers and professionals who work alongside them. We believe this could be the vehicle to deliver some of the recommendations of the Commission. Other areas would require targeted national and/or regional action to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people with a vision impairment.