Mark Whitehead 27 January 2015

Councils 'failing' to provide information to help blind and partially sighted children

Almost half of English local authorities are failing to provide adequate information about services for blind and partially sighted children and young people, according to the charity Blind Children UK.

It says almost half of 'local offers' - required to provide information on services available to people with disabilities - do not include reference to habilitation services which provide skills for increasing independent living.

Around four children lose their sight each day in the UK, Blind UK says. Life-skills and mobility training are vital to ensure that all children growing up with sight loss are able to reach their potential, yet over half - 57% - of children living with a vision impairment have not been able to access it.

Blind Children UK says good quality information about local services for children and young people with a SEN or disability on local authority websites is essential for those seeking support.

This prompted the charity to analyse the quality of information provided within local offers.

Its initial findings were positive, with nearly all local authorities (150 out of 152) having published their local offer on their website by the deadline last October.

However, further analysis revealed that 72 local authorities did not include a reference to habilitation, mobility training or rehabilitation.

Further analysis also revealed that even when information was included, it often lacked necessary detail.

Of the councils that did make reference to habilitation, only 65 included some reference to the services eligibility criteria and 36% (28 local offers) provided no further explanation of what was actually provided.

This week, Blind Children UK delivered a petition signed by 7,084 people to the Department of Education calling for all children with sight loss to receive the support they need to learn vital habilitation skills.

James White, campaigns manager at Blind Children UK, said: 'If a local offer is difficult to find on a local authority's website or if it is difficult to search for services offered, then this undermines the important role that the local offer plays in informing families about the services that may be available to them.'

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