AOP has launched Sight for SEN campaign
The Association’s campaign aims to raise awareness of access to eye care for children with special needs
26 July 2023
The AOP has introduced Sight for SEN, a campaign promoting the importance of access to eye care for children with special education needs (SEN).
The campaign is focused around ensuring the continuation of the Special Schools Eye Care Service in England, which sees sight tests performed and spectacles dispensed by eye care professionals within the school setting.
Last month the Government confirmed the roll out of the NHS England Special Schools Eye Care Service to all children in special schools. However, the specification for delivering the service going forward is yet to be determined.
The service, which was developed with the involvement of a stakeholder group, including eye care practitioners, parents and carers, patients, and third-sector organisations including the AOP, is currently being offered in more than 80 special schools to close to 11,000 children. The expansion of the service following an evaluation will see 165,000 children able to access eye care within special schools from 2024–2025.
Benefits of the service
The AOP has highlighted the three key benefits of the service in a nutshell:
- Every child attending a special school receives high quality care, quickly — addressing health inequalities and improving health outcomes
- Hospital eye departments can focus on patients who need to be seen by an ophthalmologist
- Early diagnosis of eye health issues will prevent additional secondary care referrals, reducing the NHS backlog.
While the news was welcomed by the AOP, as well as other organisations such as SeeAbility, through Sight for SEN, the Association aims to raise awareness of the importance of this service and to help secure its future.
Through the campaign, the AOP is calling for the Government to:
- Work with the AOP, and the sector, to ensure a long-term commitment to the delivery of the Special Schools Eye Care Service
- Provide consistent commissioning of the Special Schools Eye Care Service nationally in day and residential schools
- Guarantee proper investment that covers the true cost of delivering the Special Schools Eye Care Service and funding secured for the future.
AOP PR manager, Serena Box, told OT: “The Government’s announcement to extend the service has been a welcome relief to the sector and a pivotal moment in ensuring children with SEN have a fair opportunity to receive sight care. This campaign is designed to celebrate this service and ensure it is protected in the future. With support, we can help make sure it succeeds for those who otherwise find it incredibly difficult to access eye care.”
The AOP has created an online toolkit that can be used by eye care practitioners who wish to support the campaign. The resources include social media GIFs and graphics that are designed to be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. It is also encouraging eye care practitioners to follow the #SightForSEN hashtag and interact with posts from the campaign.
In addition, the AOP has created a template briefing designed to educate MPs in understanding what the Special Schools Eye Care Service is and why it is vital. The AOP encourages practitioners to write to their local MP and share the briefing using a template letter that is also provided.
The AOP has already contacted over 30 MPs directly regarding the service, and will continue to reach out to many more over the coming months.