RNIB spotlights public cuts to VI services
Author: Lucy Patchett
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has revealed that over three quarters of local authorities have cut or frozen support towards specialist education for young people with vision impairment (VI) in the UK.
The Still Left out of Learning report outlined how public spending cuts in the last four years have created a “postcode lottery system”, meaning funding is not equally distributed and has created significant rising pressures.
Due to low resources, almost two thirds of authorities have had to decrease or freeze employment of qualified specialist VI teachers. Similarly, one in eight children and young people in need of habilitation support to develop their mobility, orientation, and independent living skills have been unable to access it or are on a waiting list.
Using findings from annual Freedom of Information requests, RNIB found that the South West has the highest proportion of cuts recorded. Meanwhile, 25% of local authority VI specialist services in the East Midlands faced budget cuts or freezes between 2020-2021, as well as 47% in the North-west, resulting in a lack of supplies such as assistive technology.
The RNIB has called on the government to clarify support, ensuring there are enough specialists and funding to deliver the demand in VI services.
Caireen Sutherland, head of education at RNIB, said: ‘Young people with vision impairment require specialist support to access the curriculum, navigate their school and environment, take part in sports or games and learn on equal terms with sighted children. This enables them to develop the essential skills they need to succeed, not just at school, but as adults with full lives. Due to local authority budget cuts and a “postcode lottery” in provision this crucial support is not being provided to every child.
‘The Government’s recently released SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Review presents an important opportunity for the Government to address this dire situation and ensure every child with vision impairment is able to fulfil their potential.’
Along with the report, RNIB has launched an interactive map that displays budget data and the number of Qualified Teachers of Vision Impairment (QTVIs) in each region.