Sight-impaired ‘hindered by health and social care divide’

Poor links between health and social care, lack of specialist training for professionals and insufficient support services are damaging the ability of visually-impaired people to live independently, according to a report this week.

The draft UK Vision Strategy, which is designed to set a national framework for improving eye health and supporting those with sight loss, said deficiencies in support systems are to blame for many visually-impaired people with sight loss not being able to play a full part in society. It said two-thirds of blind or visually impaired adults were unable to work, while a lack of educational equipment means many children could not participate in school leisure activities.

The strategy, co-ordinated by the RNIB and informed by representatives from government, charities, councils and the NHS, proposed a raft of measures for tackling the current obstacles to independent living. It recommended the creation of a “routing system” from hospital to social care that would overcome delays in needs assessments caused by a lack of co-operation between health and social care.

It said: “It can take weeks or months before notification of a person being certified as sight impaired or severely sight impaired is received by social services from the health sector. This delay can trigger depression and may result in people never receiving the services they need.”

The lack of staff specialising in sight loss hindered clients’ ability to access appropriate information about services. The report called for an appointed key worker to advise on the options for self-directed support using personalised budgets and to help navigate the benefits system. All health and social care staff should receive vision awareness training, it added.

Improved emotional support and access to equipment was also needed, it said, while the government must do more to prepare visually-impaired people for work and to change employers’ attitudes.

The draft strategy will be open to consultation until 17 January 2008 with the full strategy due to launch next April.



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