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Making childhood equal: the need to increase habilitation support for children and young people with vision impairment
Our joint report with Guide Dogs into the provision of habilitation shows that children with a vision impairment are being denied access to the support they need to develop independent lives.
The report, published in September 2020, shows this lack of access to habilitation support comes from decreasing levels of funding available. Covid-19 also led to even more children missing out on vital habilitation, with social distancing, shielding and reduced capacity limiting access to services.
What is habilitation
Habilitation is specialist training and support for children and young people with a vision impairment. A child who can see will typically learn through watching and imitating, but a child with a vision impairment instead needs to learn strategies to acquire everyday skills. Habilitation teaches these strategies and includes mobility, auditory, navigation and independent living skills. It is crucial children and young people with a vision impairment gain the skills they need to move around independently. The importance of habilitation is recognised in the SEND Code of Practice.
A postcode lottery of support
There are more than 22,000 vision impaired children between the ages of 0-16 living in England that need habilitation support. Yet the number of children and young people getting habilitation in many local authorities is limited, with almost a third (33 per cent) supporting less than 10 children or young people over a 12-month period, and over half (53 per cent) supported 20 or less.
What we are doing
- We are calling on the Government to strengthen the SEND Code of Practice so there is a clear duty for all local authorities to assess and provide ongoing habilitation support for all children and young people with vision impairment when they need it.
- We are also asking that the quality standards for Delivery of Habilitation Training (Mobility and Independent Living Skills) for children and young people with vision impairment are reviewed and endorsed.
- We would like funding for low incidence high need services available through the Higher Needs Funding allocation.
Along with Guide Dogs, and with backing from Habilitation VI UK, Visionary and NatSIP, we have written to the Secretary of State for Education to raise our concerns, read the letter.