Residents may recall that last year I visited Pentland Field School in Ickenham with representatives from the charity Seeability, who work to support adults with learning disabilities and sight problems, as well as provide sight tests for children with more profound disabilities.
The charity’s work highlights the value of regular eye tests in early childhood, particularly those with SEND. They are one of the highest risk groups, but often face additional challenges in accessing sight testing service via opticians, meaning that any sight issues may remain undiagnosed.
Following calls for a national scheme, at the time of the visit, Seeability were using an NHS contract to be able to carry out eye tests in special schools across London. However, concerns were raised about a possible reneging on the commitment for the contract to become long-term.
Together with colleagues, I raised these concerns in Westminster. I met with Neil O’Brien, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, and pressed the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, during Education Questions. I wanted to gain assurances that services that have already been established in day special schools were able to continue and not be taken away from those who need it most.
Following this work and Seeability’s campaign, I am delighted by the Department of Health’s announcement that free NHS sight tests will be made available within all special school settings. The Government has worked with NHS England to extend this important service and to ensure those who need it most still are able to access it. This is a huge win for those who benefit from this service in the constituency, and up and down the country.