Blind Children UK has
revealed inadequacies within Local Offers– which provide information on what services children, young people and their families can expect from a range of local agencies, including education, health and social care.
The charity found that almost half of councils in England failed to include key information about the services they provide for children and young people with sight loss within their Local Offers.
They also allege that many Local Offers were difficult to find and even when information was provided, it was often vague or incomplete.
Initial research on the issue revealed positive results, with nearly all local authorities (150 out of 152) having published their Local Offer on their website by 31st October 2014, which is within the required deadline.
However, further exploration revealed that 72 Local Authorities did not include a reference to ‘habilitation’, ‘mobility training’ or ‘rehabilitation’.
Further analysis also showed that even when information was included, it often lacked necessary detail.
Of the councils that did make reference to habilitation (a term describing life-skills and mobility training), only 65 included some reference to the services eligibility criteria and 36% (28 Local Offers) provided no further explanation of what was actually provided.
Campaigns Manager at Blind Children UK, James White 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.”
“Every day a child with sight loss goes without support can dramatically affect their development – these services are therefore invaluable. Many local authorities are doing great work supporting children and young people with vision impairments in their area, but it can sometimes be difficult to find information on what is on offer.”
“With this research, we are hoping to highlight the importance of providing detailed, easily accessible, information about the services available. The requirement for local authorities to keep their Local Offer under review provides an opportunity for this to be built on.”
The charity was also keen to stress that it found pockets of good practice and highlighted Birmingham’s Local Offer, which provides an explanation of a wide range of skills covered during habilitation training, such as the teaching of early movement skills, sensory, spatial and body concepts as well as cane training, route learning and independent living skills.
A Blind Children UK petition, signed by 7,084 people was delivered to the Department of Education yesterday and calls for all children with sight loss to receive the support they need to learn vital habilitation skills.