The number of visually impaired people receiving support from their local authority has plunged by 43% in the past eight years, according to a study by the RNIB.
The sight loss charity’s Facing Blindness Alone report found that while 55,875 blind and partially sighted people received some care or support in 2005, the number had slumped to 31,740 in 2013 – a drop of more than 24,000 people.
The report also reveals declines in the proportion of newly-registered blind or partially sighted people who receive needs assessments. In 2009-10 about 60% of newly registered blind or partially sighted people had a full community care needs assessment but this had dropped to just 51% in 2012-13.
On top of this, tighter eligibility thresholds meant fewer of those who do get assessed qualify for support such as rehabilitation services. In 2009-10 37% of those who were assessed met the eligibility criteria, but in 2012-13 this percentage had dropped to 25%.
The report warns that if this trend continues no visually impaired people will receive care or support from their local authority in 10 years’ time.
Lesley-Anne Alexander, chief executive of the RNIB, said the government must act to ensure adults with sight loss do not go without the help they need. “Every year 23,000 people in England lose their sight,” she said. “Invariably this has a devastating impact on their lives. Not only does sight loss have a massive emotional impact, but it also means having to re-learn almost every aspect of your life.”
“Shockingly people living with sight loss are increasingly losing out whether it is specialist support, rehabilitation or even help with basic activities, such as learning how to cook a meal or going outdoors safely.”
The RNIB said the government should amend the Care Bill to ensure all newly registered blind and partially sighted people are offered rehabilitation after their diagnosis.
The bill should also ensure that rehabilitation is no longer limited to six weeks and that care assessments recognise the challenges people with sight loss face and ensure they get the support they need.