Charities challenge minister over funding threat to new special school eye test service

2 mins read

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Tags: eye tests, special school eye test service

Ministers are considering cutting back funding for the long-awaited roll of out NHS eye testing for pupils in all English special schools due to be launched this year.

According to the Association of Optometrists (AOP), reported in Optometry Today, the government wants to slash funding for the service by up to 30%.

The AOP described a proposal to cut the per pupil provider fee from £116 to £81 as “an act of sabotage” to a “lifesaving” scheme.

Contact’s Chief Executive Anna Bird, along with 12 other charities, last week signed a letter to public health minister Andrea Leadsom urging the minister to not water down the scheme.

The charities are seeking an urgent meeting with the minister to air their concerns before any funding decision is made.

Contact, with SeeAbility and Mencap, have long argued that the new service must be adequately funded and delivered by autism and learning disability trained optical practitioners to ensure our most vulnerable children are ability to access sight tests.

The letter states: “Concerns are increasing over the quality of what might be commissioned in the future and successful elements of the [existing] service being removed in a full national rollout…”

Ministers promised to extend NHS in-school eye tests to 165,000 special school pupils this year via a new service. Integrated care boards (ICBs) will get funding to commission services for schools in their local area.

Currently only 9% of special school pupils receive the eye testing service even though children with a learning disability are 28 times more likely to have a problem with their eyes and/or sight.

Contact’s information and advice about eye care

Find out more about how to care for you disabled child’s eyesight and read out Contact’s parent guide to eye care for children with autism and learning disabilities.