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Thousands of children’s sight to be saved in national roll-out of eye tests at special schools

THE sight of up to 165,000 children with learning disabilities will be saved, thanks to a £10m roll-out of free eye tests at special schools.

The Government’s go-ahead for the roll-out next year, follows research from sight loss charity SeeAbility, that found that children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have serious sight issues.

The charity has also operated a successful pilot scheme across London special schools, which showed the benefits of receiving eye tests and personalised advice in their familiar learning environments.

Pupils at special schools can also face additional challenges in accessing sight testing services via opticians.

SeeAbility’s CEO, Lisa Hopkins, said: “Thousands of children who would have no other way of getting sight tests and glasses will now get a service in their school, and many thousands more will not have to attend hospital eye clinic appointments.

“It is no exaggeration to say sight will be saved and lives will be transformed. This is such a significant and wonderful step forward in improving eye care for people with learning disabilities.

“We look forward to working with the government, NHS and all who have made this work possible over many years to make this newly planned roll-out successful.”

Parent Alyson Farrell added: “My daughter, Ellie, benefitted from the pilot service, but she moved to a school where it hadn’t rolled out to and had to go back to hospital for tests, which made her so anxious and was a real challenge.

“This announcement means everything to us, and I’m sure to thousands more parents, to definitively know the scheme will roll out to all special schools at last.”

Primary Care and Public Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “We have worked closely with NHS England, stakeholders and charities to extend this important service and thousands of pupils will benefit.

“It’s vital for all children to have access to NHS sight tests and I’m grateful to all those who helped make this possible.”

Dan Scorer, Head of Policy at learning disability charity Mencap, said: “Undiagnosed sight issues among children with a learning disability form major barriers to learning and development.

“The extension of the service is a further important step towards improving access to eye care services for everyone with a learning disability.”



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