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SeeAbility wins at Charity Awards

The charity was recognised in the Health and Medical Research category, as well as being named the overall winner at the awards

Gurvinder Singh Grover

SeeAbility was named overall winner at the Charity Awards earlier this month, recognised for its work in persuading the NHS to provide sight tests for children with learning disabilities in all special schools across England.

The charity was named the recipient of accolade in the Health and Medical Research category at the awards, before being revealed the overall winner also.

SeeAbility led on a six-year pilot programme that involved 1500 children in 11 special schools in England, during which it provided more than 3500 eye tests and dispensed over 1700 pairs of spectacles. During the pilot, the charity found that more than half of the children it tested had a vision problem, with a third requiring glasses, yet 44% had never had a sight test.

The findings from the pilot resulted in NHS England pledging to commission a model of eye care in special schools based on the programme.

SeeAbility anticipates that over the next few years, 120,000 children will benefit from the programme, while it has been asked advice on the adoption of similar models in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the programme, chair of the Charity Awards judges, Su Sayer, said: “SeeAbility created a brilliantly thought through programme which has already transformed the lives of many children with both a learning disability and sight loss.”

Sayer labelled SeeAbility’s attention to detail training almost 800 staff “exemplary.”

“They understood how important it was for eye testing for children to take place in familiar surroundings at school, rather than in hospital. As a result, many more children were tested and were able to have glasses where necessary,” she added.

Chief executive of SeeAbility, Lisa Hopkins, said she was “humbled” that the charity scooped two awards.

“It’s also recognition of the schools, parents and children who we have partnered with – and who have supported us so much over the past few years to evidence the huge injustice of avoidable sight loss in so many children with learning disabilities,” she said.

Hopkins explained that to bring the programme to fruition, the charity had taken a “huge leap of faith” in expanding into direct clinical services and thanked its trustees and colleagues across the organisation for their commitment.

“We sometimes have to pinch ourselves when we think of the difference this will make with the NHS now taking this model of care forward – delivering an equal right to sight to tens of thousands of children,” she added.

The Charity Awards, which is the longest-running awards scheme in the charity sector, took place on 10 June.