United Kingdom - Article 26

(updated 01/01/2018)

Please Note that as Scotland has a devolved parliament, policies may differ. The answers for Scotland are available seperately as a word document.

Law and Policy

  1. Is there a legal right to habilitation and rehabilitation services in your country? Please describe relevant laws and give links to further information for:
    • a. Health (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    • b. Education (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    • c. Employment (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    • d. Social Services (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      In England, the Care Act 2014 (Department of Health) statutory guidance acknowledges vision rehabilitation services for blind and partially sighted people.
      Rehabilitation services must be provided to people based on their needs and shouldn’t be limited to six weeks.
      Everyone who has a need for rehabilitation support should receive it. Local authorities cannot restrict access to the service based on a person’s eligibility for care and support.
  2. Is there a legal right to assistive technology, aids and equipment? (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons

    Under the Care Act regulations (2014), local authorities must provide minor aids, adaptations and equipment up to the cost of £1000 free of charge for blind and partially sighted persons when it meets a need. The direct quote is:
     “Community equipment (aids and minor adaptations)” means an aid, or a minor adaptation to property, for the purpose of assisting with nursing at home or aiding daily living and, for the purposes of these Regulation,s an adaptation is minor if the cost of making the adaptation is £1,000 or less."
    This can include assistive technology. However, this regulation is implemented in different ways all over England.

  3. Do laws on rehabilitation recognise and support participation in all aspects of community life? (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    The Care Act regulations and guidance make reference to the types of support that blind and partially sighted people should receive including daily living skills and long cane training (mobility).
  4. Are there policies on habilitation and rehabilitation services for people who are blind or partially sighted?
    • a. For children who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    • b. For adults of working age who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    • c. For older people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      ADASS (Association for Directors of Adult Social Services) has produced a position statement which makes clear references to local authorities’ responsibilities to provide vision rehabilitation services under the Care Act. It puts blind and partially sighted people as the primary focus and identifies rehabilitation services as being there to support users to achieve the outcomes they want too.  The ADASS position statement relates to adults of all ages.
  5. Do policies recognise the importance of a personalised multidisciplinary assessment of each individual´s needs and circumstances? Please describe the policies and give web links to more information, for people who are: a. Blind persons b. Partially sighted persons
    The Care Act 2014 contains the duty for local authorities to assess and provide support for blind and partially sighted people with responsibilities to prevent, reduce and delay the need for future care support. The prevention duty also recognises the clear benefits of vision rehabilitation support.
    The Care Act, and statutory regulations and guidance, set a clear framework for the provision of vision rehabilitation services. The assessment process begins the moment that the local authority starts to collect information about the individual. The local authority should receive a copy of the CVI (certificate of vision impairment), they must then contact the person within two weeks to explain and offer registration. It is a statutory duty for local authorities to maintain registers of blind and partially sighted people.
  6. Are there policies on developing peer support for habilitation and rehabilitation?
    • a. For children (please also include policies on family support) who are (i) Blind (ii) Partially sighted
    • b. For people of working age who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    • c. For older people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
      There are no national policies on developing peer support networks in vision rehabilitation. However, many services will offer this type of support through ‘living with sight loss courses’’ which are delivered in conjunction with the RNIB or other local sight loss charities.
  7. Are there resources for peer support services? Please describe these and give web links where possible for people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    There are no national policies on developing peer support networks in vision rehabilitation. However, many services will offer this type of support through ‘living with sight loss courses’’ which are delivered in conjunction with the RNIB or other local sight loss charities.
  8. Do blind and visually impaired people and their organisations fully participate as equal partners in the development of policies and standards for habilitation and rehabilitation services? Please give details for people who are (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    The Care Act involved an extensive consultation process which RNIB engaged closely in. The position statement by ADASS was developed in conjunction with partners from across the sight loss sector.
    The RNIB has created 10 good practice principles of vision rehabilitation which are referenced by ADASS and are a resource, both for services and for blind and partially sighted people. The principles were developed in consultation with professionals and blind and partially sighted people.

Access to Habilitation and Rehabilitation

Support Services

  1. Are there dedicated services for both partially sighted and blind people that meet their distinct needs? Are these habilitation and rehabilitation services focussed on supporting independent living in the community living for people who are: (i) Partially sighted persons (ii) Blind persons
    All local authorities across England have to make provision for vision rehabilitation in line with the Care Act which aims to prevent, reduce and delay the need for further social care support. It is also there to promote independence through daily living skills and mobility training.
  2. What is the full range of services in your country, for (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    Vision rehabilitation services vary depending on which local authority you live in. The good practice principles articulate the types of services available for blind and partially sighted people.
    There are numerous national and local voluntary sector organisations providing services for example, RNIB, Guide Dogs and local societies for blind and partially sighted people. Services include employment support, welfare rights support, social events, advice on sight loss related issues, daily living aids and assistive technology support.
  3. How is eligibility determined to access habilitation and rehabilitation services for (i) Blind persons (ii) Partially sighted persons
    There is no eligibility criteria applied for rehabilitation services for blind and partially sighted people.
  4. Who provides habilitation and rehabilitation services (for example, dedicated blindness and low vision rehabilitation and support centres, hospitals (private and public), NGOs)? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    It is the responsibility of local authorities to provide vision rehabilitation services. However, they may provide them through an in-house team or commission an external provider, for example, a sight loss charity, the NHS or a private sector provider.
  5. Are services available locally in all parts of the country? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    Yes all local authority areas offer vision rehabilitation services although they vary from one local authority to another.
  6. How are services funded (for example, free, paid for by the user, means tested)? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    All vision rehabilitation services should be provided free of charge for both blind and partially sighted people and this is stated in the Care Act.
  7. If services are not free have any problems of affordability been reported? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    n/a
  8. Are services available for all age groups: children, adults and older people? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    Rehabilitation services are available for all adults including working age and older people. They can access services for as long as they need them and in the future if necessary.

Access to Equipment and Technologies

  1. The CRPD states that governments should make sure disabled people know about aids, technology and assistive devices and how to use them. How is this done in your country? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    The Care Act states the need for community equipment to be made available up to the cost of £1000 where it is meeting a need. This can include aids, adaptations and assistive technology.
    When a local authority provides equipment, they should also provide training alongside it. There are low vision services, commissioned by the NHS, which offer training on magnification equipment.
  2. What training is provided in the use of equipment and technology? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    Training is provided by rehabilitation workers, low vision clinics and voluntary organisations such as the RNIB and local blind and partially sighted societies.
  3. How is eligibility for equipment, technology and training determined? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    There is no eligibility criteria applied. If there is a need identified for a blind or partially sighted person, they will be provided equipment to meet that need and maintain their independence.
  4. How are aids, equipment and technology funded (for example, free, paid for by the user, means tested)? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    Each local authority has a different approach to how equipment is funded. Some may provide all equipment free of charge. However, some local authorities may offer only certain pieces of equipment. If the individual would like a different model of the product they may have to self-fund. Many pieces of assistive technology will have to be self-funded.
  5. If services are not free have any problems of affordability been reported? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    Due to the Care Act guidance around equipment being open to interpretation and different approaches being applied, there have been some issues across the country raised as blind and partially sighted people are unclear if they are entitled to pieces of equipment for free.
  6. Are there any limitations on the choice of equipment? What are these? (i) For blind persons (ii) For partially sighted persons
    The vision rehabilitation service will issue certain pieces of equipment that will meet the needs of blind or partially sighted people. However, if they would like a different version of the product they may have to self-fund.

Development of the Competence of Professionals

  1. Are there training programmes for rehabilitation professionals? Please describe these (If there is accredited training, the qualifications recognised, where people are trained, to what level etc.)
    There is a foundation degree qualification entitled Rehabilitation Work for the Visually Impaired. This is the most recognised qualification which rehabilitation workers need. All job adverts will require this level of qualification from all applicants.
    Following this, the professional body (Rehabilitation Workers Professional Network) requires all members to undertake 30 hours of continuous professional development (CPD) every year.
  2. Please describe how rehabilitation professionals are trained. Does training emphasise meeting needs on an individual basis?
    The foundation degree is a blend of theory and practical training and has a number of placements incorporated into the degree. Core skills include assessment, daily living skills, communication (assistive technology) and orientation and mobility training. Having a person-centred approach is a fundamental part of the training.
  3. Does professional training incorporate human rights perspectives?
    As part of the theory, human rights and social care legislation are taught.
  4. Additional comments on professional training
    There is currently an Apprenticeship being developed for vision rehabilitation workers which should encourage more people to enter the profession.

Your Organisation

  1. Does your organisation represent both blind and partially sighted people in your country?
    Yes
  2. What are the conditions for someone with visual impairment to become a member of your organisation or use its services? Please be as specific as possible both for blind and partially sighted people.
    Anyone who is affected by sight loss can access our services or become part of the RNIB Connect community, regardless of whether they are certified as severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted).
  3. Is this strictly applied, or is there more flexibility in practice?
    see above
  4. Is there another organisation that a person with visual impairment can turn to if they cannot affiliate to your organisation or if you cannot meet their needs? Please give as many details as possible.
    Anyone affected by sight loss can access our services. There are a number of other organisations that also support blind and partially sighted people including Guide Dogs for the Blind, and local sight loss charities all over the country. There are also condition-specific organisations which can help, including the Macular Society. People who have served in the Armed Forces can also access support from Blind Veterans.
  5. How is your organisation involved in the implementation of the right to habilitation and rehabilitation support services and programmes for both blind people and people with partial sight? Please give as much detail as possible, especially regarding:
    • a. policies and standards
      RNIB were a fundamental part of the Department of Health consultation regarding the Care Act and RNIB ensured vision rehabilitation was part of the regulation and guidance.
      RNIB also supported ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) to produce a position statement on vision rehabilitation.
      RNIB also created the 10 good practice principles of vision rehabilitation which is a resource for both professionals and blind and partially sighted people.
    • b. monitoring of implementation
      RNIB have launched the See, Plan and Provide campaign to ensure that vision rehabilitation services are provided in a consistent way and meet the requirements of the Care Act around the country. This has included gathering data on what services are provided, waiting times, numbers of rehabilitations workers etc. through a Freedom of Information request.
    • c. actions to ensure that dedicated services are in place that meet the distinct needs of blind and partially sighted people.
      RNIB has been working with local authorities to improve services across the country to ensure their services meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people. RNIB has commissioned cost benefit evidence to strengthen the case for vision rehabilitation and created good practice guidance through a set of principles and case studies.
    • d. actual provision of services to blind and partially sighted people and the rights that people with visual impairment have to services.
      RNIB has ensured that professionals who come into contact with blind and partially sighted people at the start of their sight loss journey such as eye clinic liaison officers share information regarding vision rehabilitation services.
      RNIB has also promoted vision rehabilitation on its website and through our networks to ensure blind and partially sighted people, and their families and carers, know about their rights to access vision rehabilitation.
  6. Is there an officer or expert appointed in your organisation to work on partial sight matters? Please describe.
    All our work at RNIB is aimed at helping both blind and partially sighted people.
  7. What actions is your organisation taking to implement the right to rehabilitation services with dedicated, distinct services for blind people and people who have low vision, and to ensure that these services are/will be available in practice? Please give details (examples: lobbying, cooperation with rehabilitation centres, setting up support services, cooperation with universities to develop specific training for rehabilitation experts etc.)
    RNIB has supported in the development of policies, good practice guidance and lobbied local authorities to ensure vision rehabilitation provision is accessible all over the country. We have upskilled staff to ensure blind and partially sighted people know about their rights to vision rehabilitation services.
    We train all eye clinic liaison officers to understand vision rehabilitation and share their knowledge with their patients.
    We have also worked with the sector to create a new apprenticeship standard for vision rehabilitation workers which will be launched in 2018.
  8. How does your organisation inform people with visual impairments and the general public about living with blindness and partial sight? (Examples: a website, a national helpline, information stands in hospitals, campaigns, etc.)
    We have a national website, a national sight loss advice service, eye clinic liaison officers based in hospitals all over the country, a membership community (RNIB Connect) a radio station and social media presence where we engage and promote services available to blind and partially sighted people. We also attend various events providing information on different sight loss conditions and what support is available.
  9. How does your organisation inform others about the available habilitation and rehabilitation and support services for blind and partially sighted people?
    RNIB promotes vision rehabilitation services to professionals and blind and partially sighted people, raising awareness of good practice and what they should expect from their local services.
  10. In what way is your organisation working with specialised ophthalmologists, optometrists, rehabilitation centres, and teachers, residential homes for older people etc. to prevent, inform and support people with visual impairment?
    see above
  11. Is your organisation involved in the Vision 2020 initiative in your country?
    Yes, we are represented on all committees within Vision 2020.
  12. Are you familiar with the EBU standards for low vision services in Europe toolkit for implementing the right of partially sighted people to the services they need? How helpful is this resource document?
    no reply
  13. What, if any, type of support would you like to have to implement UNCRPD article 26 for blind and partially sighted people? Be as specific as possible.
    no reply
  14. If you compare the current situation with five years ago, regarding the implementation of the right to rehabilitation services for blind people and for people with partial sight, would you say that in your country:
    • a. nothing has changed (explain )
    • b. The situation has worsened (explain why and how)
      The situation has got worse due to local authority funding cuts, a decrease in the workforce and an increase in demand for services. The introduction of the Care Act has been a big help in enshrining the right to vision rehabilitation services in law.
    • c. The situation has improved (explain why and how)
  15. Is further action needed in your country? If yes, please explain what needs to be done.
    Yes, further awareness raising across all professionals regarding Vision rehabilitation is required to ensure blind and partially sighted people are being referred into services when support is required. It is also important that blind and partially sighted people are aware of what they should receive from vision rehabilitation and how to access services. We also need to continue to lobby local authorities to ensure they provide good quality vision rehabilitation services to blind and partially sighted people.
  16. Please send any articles, material, training, standards, protocols, or links that you feel could perhaps serve your colleagues in other EBU countries aiming at high standards services for everyone with sight loss.
    RNIB information on Rehabilitation workers
    RNIB document Demonstrating the impact and value of vision rehabilitation
    RNIB document See, Plan and Provide