Many people in need of services to cope with sight loss are denied access to an assessment because registration criteria for visual impairment are overly restrictive, new research reveals.
Researchers at Cardiff University found that out of 5,817 people visiting open access low vision services in Wales only 30% met the required standard to register as having a visual impairment.
This is having a visual acuity of 6/60 – meaning that you can see at six metres what someone with standard vision can see at 60 metres. Of those surveyed, 85% had less than half the sight of someone with standard vision.
In England inclusion on the register ensures that people receive an assessment of need by social services. Without an assessment they cannot access disability living allowance or attendance allowance.
Dr Barbara Ryan, lead researcher on the project, said: “The whole process of getting support is quite complex but a lot of people are losing independence and people who need support are not getting these services.”
Ryan added that the registration system also helped to flag up possible issues arising from sight loss in existing clients of social services.
Sight loss charity the Thomas Pocklington Trust, which commissioned the research, backed researchers’ call to lower the threshold for eligibility for registration.
It recommended bringing it into line with the World Health Organisation’s criteria for a moderate visual impairment. This is met when a person’s visual acuity drops below a third of normal functioning.
Ryan said such a change might bring help the government save money as early support could stop loss of independence from sight loss and thereby prevent people entering residential care.