Minister Visit to Perseid
SeeAbility press release, February 2022
Minister Maria Caulfield MP visits London special school to witness SeeAbility eyecare team deliver new NHS eye care service to children with learning disabilities
SeeAbility’s work has highlighted that children with learning disabilities are even more likely to have a sight problem than other children – in fact 28 times more likely - and the charity’s eyecare work has revealed half of children in special schools will have a problem with their vision. Yet over 4 in 10 have never had a sight test before.
As a result of SeeAbility’s groundbreaking work and peer reviewed research, Public Health England recommended that special school students should have their eye care and glasses provided in the familiar, convenient setting of their school – and NHS England has begun work on a proof of concept in over 90 special schools across London, the North West and North East & Yorkshire to establish its own NHS Special Schools Eye Care Service.
The Minister heard from teachers and met with children who have benefitted from the project and eye care professionals who have been delivering sight tests and glasses to the pupils and advising parents and teachers on how to support children to make the best use of their vision.
“Visiting Perseid primary school in London I saw first-hand how SeeAbility is helping young people with learning disabilities identify and address visual problems.
The new NHS Special Schools Eye Care Service is making a real difference to these children’s lives. Together with SeeAbility, the NHS is reducing unnecessary hospital trips and improving the lives and outcomes of tens of thousands of children with learning disabilities.
My thanks to all those involved, including primary care staff and eye care professionals who play a vital role in our NHS.” Minister Caulfield
“Perseid was the very first school to partner with SeeAbility back in 2013. It was ground-breaking at the time to bring full sight tests and glasses dispensing into special schools, now it is multi award winning and being taken forward by the NHS. The difference eye care has made to our children is profound - especially for the children who had never had a sight test and were found to need glasses. Many were living their lives in a total blur before.”
Tina Harvey, Executive Headteacher at Perseid
Lisa Donaldson, SeeAbility’s Head of Eye Care, who is an optometrist said:
“It was such a pleasure to host the Minister as crucially it was her Department’s initial innovation funding which enabled us to get the project off the ground and demonstrate to NHS England that this multidisciplinary service is needed in special schools. Thinking creatively about the way eye care services are delivered can mean everyone gets a more equal right to sight – this is so important for children with learning disabilities who are much more at risk of having a sight problem.”
SeeAbility provides specialist support to enable people with learning disabilities, autism, and sight loss to achieve their ambitions and participate fully in society.
SeeAbility is the only organisation leading on making eye care more accessible for people with learning disabilities. We continue to provide life-changing specialist sight tests and support with glasses to hundreds of children. More on SeeAbility’s work: https://www.seeability.org/eye-care
In June 2021 SeeAbility was awarded the Overall Award for Excellence at the Charity Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious awards scheme in the charity sector for our work in special schools.
More information on the NHS Special Schools Eye Care Service, which is currently in proof of concept phase can be found at https://www.networks.nhs.uk/editors-blog/special-school-eye-care-service along with a film. SeeAbility is amongst a number of NHS contractors testing the new service in special schools.