Local authority Vision Impairment (VI) education service provision for blind and partially sighted children and young people Report on findings from RNIB Freedom of Information (FOI) requests 2013
Evidence and Service Impact
Local authority Vision Impairment (VI) education service provision for blind and partially sighted children and young people 1
This report is the result of a joint project between RNIB Campaigns and Children, Young People and Families Teams. Thanks to Michael Wilson for organising RNIB's Freedom of Information (FOI) request to local authorities and to Kat Clarke for her efforts in ensuring that all local authorities responded and for recording all the replies. Thanks also to Julie Jennings, Rory Cobb and Helen Dearman for their comments on the draft copies of the report.
In May 2013 RNIB sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all 152 local authorities (LAs) in England asking a range of questions about current and future education provision for children and young people with vision impairment.
The key service in co-ordinating and providing specialist support is the vision impairment (VI) education advisory service. Many VI services have been adversely affected by public sector cuts and a key aim of the FOI request was to benchmark existing provision in each LA against future policy decisions.
All of the 152 local authorities in England responded to the FOI request. As one local authority has no children or young people with vision impairment recorded, the findings are based on returns from 151 LAs in England.
The two groups most affected are pupils with complex needs in special schools, and children whose level of vision impairment is no longer considered to be of sufficient severity to meet the criteria for VI service support
89% of LAs use the National Sensory Impairment Partnership (NatSIP) criteria - or a modified version - to determine eligibility for VI service support
In a small number of LAs, a pupil's level of visual acuity (VA) appears to be the only criterion for eligibility for specialist VI support
Having the level of VA as the criterion for support - particularly where the threshold is set high at 6/18 as in some LAs - risks excluding children with good VA but with other types of visual difficulty, or children with 'mild' vision impairment combined with other 'mild' types of SEN
Support levels should be based on a professional assessment of a child's functional vision
This is under-represents the true number as several LAs were unable to provide information about the number of TAs employed directly by schools
This raises the questions - who recruits, trains and supervises TAs in these schools and what is the nature and quality of support they are providing to pupils with VI?
113 mobility officers were employed by VI services in 96 LAs
In a further 13 LAs a children's mobility officer was externally commissioned or employed and/or funded by social care
It is unclear what mobility provision was made in the remaining 42 LAs
27% of LAs had seen changes to the organisation and funding of the VI service since April 2011
31% of LAs had proposals in place for future changes in VI service organisation, management and/or funding, or were reviewing the service within the next year.
In May 2013 RNIB Campaigns department sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all 152 local authorities (LAs) in England asking a range of questions about current and future education provision for children and young people with vision impairment.
The key service in co-ordinating and providing specialist support is the vision impairment (VI) education advisory service. Surveys of VI services carried out in 2010, 2011 and 2012 (Keil and Cobb, 2010; Keil and Cobb, 2011; Keil, 2012) had provided evidence that in many LAs education services to children and young people with vision impairment had already been affected by local authority cuts, implemented in response to the coalition government's 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review. This saw a 7% reduction in central government funding to local councils annually, until 2014. A further spending review in 2013 will see a further 2% cut in 2014/15 and a 10% cut for 2015/16 (Hastings et al, 2013; LGA, 2013). Anecdotal reports to RNIB in late 2012 and early 2013 indicated that many more VI services were under increasing threat of cuts. A key aim of the FOI request therefore, was to benchmark existing provision in each LA against future policy decisions about service provision.
The findings from this FOI request will be used to support RNIB local and national campaigning to protect specialist education services and provision for children and young people with vision impairment.