Title: What integrated working practices support or hinder effective referral pathways from Health to Education services for blind and partially sighted babies and young children?

Author: Julie Jennings, Publisher: Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC), Year of publication: 2009.


Despite Government commitment to integrated working practices and early intervention for babies and young children with disabilities, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that referral arrangements from Health to Education services for blind and partially sighted babies and young children vary considerably across the country. Where established referral procedures are not in place, this may lead to delays in provision of specialist services' support for babies and young children and their families where sight loss exists, and this risks developmental delay. The first stage of the study was desk research to review relevant literature and to identify the pathways for referring blind and partially sighted babies and children from Health to Education. The second part of the study sought to identify models of good practice in three local authorities and - where there were delays in referring from Health to Education - to understand the reasons for these delays.

Key findings    

  • While NHS guidance outlines good practice in referral procedures for children with hearing difficulties and their families, currently there is no equivalent guidance for visual impairment which would form the basis of a referral pathways approach for health and education.    
  • Protocols that are based on generic rather than specialist areas were considered to be unfit for purpose for visual impairment.    
  • Education was thought to be more proactive in promoting partnership working. Although the referral form was seen as the responsibility of Health, they did not take the lead in establishing protocols for joint working.
  • There were issues around information sharing which were seen to work against partnership working: for instance, different databases.
  • Sensory services incorporating hearing impairment and visual impairment were seen to be better placed to implement effective referral pathways.