Title: Local authority VI education service provision for children and young people with vision impairment in 2020

Authors: Jaspreet Bhangoo and Emma Edwards with contributions from Caireen Sutherland and Sarah Holton. Publisher: RNIB. Date of publication: January 2021


Children and young people with vision impairment (VI) require a high level of specialist provision to learn on equal terms with sighted children. Having the right support in place can remove the barriers to learning and enable them to develop the specialist skills they need to succeed, not just at school but as adults with full lives.

In order to better understand and monitor the provision of specialist education services for children with VI, RNIB runs an annual survey of local authorities across England. This report summarises findings from the most recent Freedom of Information (FOI) survey in 2020.

Whilst this research has identified pockets of good practice, overall, the findings show a system of specialist provision under significant pressure:

Key findings

Service provision

  • Over the last three years, over a third (35 per cent) of local authorities reported a decrease in their funding for VI services. There are 5,683 children and young people supported by the local authorities that underwent budget cuts.
  • Half of the local authorities (54 per cent) reported an increase in budgets and 11 per cent reported a freeze.
  • Of the local authorities that saw budgets cut in 2019, 29 per cent saw an increase in budget in 2020. However 35 per cent saw budgets cut further.
  • Thirteen per cent of local authorities have identified changes in the past 12 months that have affected the way provisions for children and young people with vision impairment are funded or organised.
  • Nineteen per cent of local authorities have acknowledged current or proposed reviews of the VI service within the coming year that may affect the way said services are organised, managed or funded.

CYP supported by the service

  • The total number of children and young people on active VI caseloads, or known to VI services, was 27,464 for 2020. This represents a one per cent increase from 2019 and an eight per cent increase from 2017.
  • However, the real caseload figures are likely to be higher as 19 local authorities didn't respond to this year's FOI.
  • The total number of braillists supported across 110 local authorities was 683. This figure would likely be much higher if figures were available for the remaining 23 authorities who did not supply figures.

Caseload and capacity

  • Out of 133 local authorities, 11 per cent have a QTVI caseload ratio of over 100. This is a three per cent decrease from 2019.
  • In comparison to 2019, 36 per cent of local authorities have reported an increase in full time QTVIs.
  • A similar proportion (35 per cent) reported their QTVI numbers remained the same, and 29 per cent reported a decrease.
  • Of the total number of FTE QTVIs, including those in training or due to begin training, there was a one per cent decrease in 2020 compared to 2019.