Proposed new service to provide SPECS to children in Wales’ special schools
New plans to establish an eye care service for pupils and students at special schools in Wales have been unveiled by Health and Social Services Minister, Mark Drakeford.
The plans for the service, which would be the first nationwide service of its kind, will be subject to a three-month consultation.
While visual impairment and blindness is relatively rare in children and young people, research by Cardiff University in 2012 showed a high proportion of pupils attending special schools have uncorrected refractive errors and some have previously unrecognised vision impairment.
There were 4,444 students in 39 special schools across Wales in 2014-15.
The proposed new service, which will be known as SPECS (School Pupil Eye Care Service), will provide eye care for each child and young person in a special school in Wales.
Special school ophthalmic teams will provide services to pupils and students in the school setting during the school day. It will form part of the existing primary care Wales Eye Care Services.
The service will:
Offer a comprehensive assessment when pupils first start special school;
Offer pupils and students a regular sight test which will be performed in the familiar surroundings of their special school;
Give pupils and students in special schools, their parents and carers the choice to have the spectacles fitted and dispensed at school;
Make referrals to agencies and professionals as appropriate;
Ensure test results are explained to pupils, their families and teachers, as well as their healthcare professionals, throughout their school life and in transition to adulthood.
When a student leaves special school they will receive a “vision passport”, which details their visual needs. This will help to ensure they remain in the care of eye care services into adulthood.
Professor Drakeford said:
“Preventing avoidable sight loss and the early identification of sight problems starts in childhood but for children and young people with learning disabilities there is evidence of barriers to accessing eye care and high unmet need.
“I very much look forward to hearing people’s views about our plans for the SPECS service.
“The service will ensure all pupils and students attending special schools in Wales have access to ophthalmic services, making the right support available at the right time and in the right place for our most vulnerable learners.”
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