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Protecting local vision services for children and young people

Children and young people (CYP) with vision impairment require a high level of specialist provision to learn on equal terms with sighted children. These services are a vital lifeline, but as councils review their budgets they can come under risk.

A young girl with pink glasses, sitting in a chair, feeling beads

Right now, your local council could be deciding how they will support children and young people with vision impairment and making difficult decisions about which services they want to change or stop providing.

Many underfunded local authorities have been freezing or cutting funding for vision impairment services for years. Because of this specialist education service provision varies significantly across local authorities – creating a “postcode lottery” that must be addressed.

Having the right support in place is essential to ensure your child doesn't feel left out or fall behind their peers socially and/or academically. It can remove the barriers to learning children with vision impairment face and give them they confidence to develop the specialist skills to succeed in education and beyond.

Provision under pressure: Gaps in Educational Support for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment in England (2023)

RNIB runs an annual survey of local authorities across England which examines the current state of services for children and young people. This report summarises findings from the most recent Freedom of Information (FOI) survey in 2023.

Key findings

  1. Despite more children and young people requiring and accessing specialist support, 57 per cent of local authorities in England reported a decrease or freeze in the number of specialist VI teachers between 2022 and 2023. This is likely to affect support for almost half of all children and young people accessing VI specialist support.
  2. On top of this, nearly a quarter of services have seen their budgets frozen or cut in the last year.
  3. The impact of freezes has also been compounded by high inflation. Our data showed over half of local authorities did not receive a budget increase in line with average inflation in 2023/24, instead facing a real term decrease to their budget.

Freedom of Information series publications

You can find a series of reports based on the annual RNIB Freedom of Information survey into education service provision for children and young people with vision impairment. Reports date back to 2008 although survey content each year may vary. From 2013 to 2021, the FOI was only conducted in England.

What we’re doing to protect local vision services

As councils review their budgets, we’re monitoring any potential risks to current services, and will be putting on pressure to ensure that vital support for children and young people with vision impairment is protected.

What you can do

The best way to protect local vision services is by making sure that councils hear from the children, young people and parents who use their services. If this is you, we’ve put together some handy resources to help you work with your council to ensure that any changes support you or your child to achieve the best possible outcomes. You can also take a look at the briefing we’ve put together for councils in the next section.