27 May 2014
• 43% of parents report that delays in diagnosis affected their child’s development
• A 9% rise in the number of children registered blind or partially sighted
• Charity launches inspirational ‘Opening Up The World’ film
• Chris Holmes and Joanna Page join campaign to help parents spot the signs of early sight loss and raise awareness of the issue
Blind Children UK (www.blindchildrenuk.org), formerly National Blind Children Society, has launched the ‘Opening Up The World’ campaign to highlight the challenges faced by children with vision impairments and their families. The campaign also marks a change of name for the charity, which was formerly known as National Blind Children’s Society (NBCS).
Research released by Blind Children UK indicates that delays in diagnosing sight loss in children are leading to their development being unnecessarily impaired. The survey, which was conducted amongst the families of blind and partially sighted children, found that a quarter of parents had to wait longer than a year to have their child diagnosed with a vision impairment. Almost half (43%) of these felt that this delay had a ‘negative’ or ‘strongly negative’ effect on their child’s development as it meant that they did not get the support needed from their local authority or school.
“Every day a child with sight loss goes without support, it dramatically affects their development,” said Richard Leaman, CEO Blind Children UK. “As much as 80 per cent of a sighted child’s learning takes place using vision. Without this it’s impossible for a young boy or girl to develop fully and make sense of the world around them. We are trying to raise awareness of the issues faced by children with vision impairments and their families.”
Blind Children UK’s research also revealed that blind and partially sighted children are being prevented from enjoying and accessing basic education and recreational experiences that are taken for granted by other families. Some 40% of parents said that their child has had difficulty accessing events or playgrounds in their local area. There were also instances of children being rejected from schools and nurseries as well as swimming lessons because of their vision impairments.
The impact of these struggles on families cannot be underestimated, with 93% of parents reporting that they had felt depressed, isolated or upset because of their child’s vision impairment.
“Every day, four children in the UK are registered blind or partially sighted,” said Lord Chris Holmes, decorated Paralympian and ambassador for Blind Children UK. “Sight loss can leave children feeling isolated and afraid – I know this from personal experience. Blind Children UK helps gives children the skills, confidence and support to enable them to enjoy their childhood and reach their potential as adults.”
As part of the campaign, Blind Children UK also conducted analysis of data held by NHS England, the Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland HSCTs, the Scottish Government and the Office for National Statistics. This revealed that the number of children being registered blind or partially sighted has increased by 9% since 2006. The biggest rise has been seen among those under the age of five, where a 12% rise was reported.
Joanna Page, actress and ambassador for Blind Children UK, added: “As a new mother I have great empathy for parents of children with sight loss. Blind Children UK is trying to raise awareness of the problem and ensure that children who do have a vision impairment are diagnosed as early as possible so that they can receive the support they need.”
To help parents spot the signs of early sight loss the charity has released an ‘advice to parents’ leaflet which can be found on its website and in the Bounty packs given to expecting and new mothers. It has also created an inspiring short film, ‘Opening Up The World’, to help other families and children understand more about the challenges of living with sight