HC Deb 28 January 1999 vol 324 c399W
Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what initiatives have been taken by him and his Department to help identify young children who may suffer from visual impairment or potential visual impairment; and what guidelines he has issued to education, health and social services departments in Wales to ensure proper co-ordination of assistance for such children. [67450]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones

All babies are offered routine physical examinations at birth, 6 to 8 weeks, and at about 18 months, which will include vision screening. Mothers are encouraged to ask for advice if they have concerns at any time. Vision is also screened at school entry.

Local authorities and schools are responsible for identifying a child's special educational needs (SEN) and for ensuring that appropriate provision is made to meet those needs. The Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of SEN [ISBN 0 85522 444 4] includes guidance on the assessment of children with sensory impairment and on the duties of local authorities and health authorities to co-operate on service provision.

In 'Shaping the Future for Special Education—An Action Programme for Wales', published on 26 January we recognise the need for strong regional collaboration between statutory agencies in planning SEN provision, particularly in relation to low-incidence disabilities including visual impairment. We will be making additional resources available under the Grants for Education Support and Training (GEST) Programme from 1999–2000 to fund regional SEN planning pilot projects in Wales aimed at establishing best practice in this particular field.

The 1997 'Health of Children in Wales' report also provides guidance on child health including visual impairment and the importance of effective multi-agency co-operation.

In future this will become the responsibility of the National Assembly.

Forward to