The RLSB (the Royal London Society for Blind People) and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have launched a report, written in collaboration with NatCen Social Research which highlights the increased risk of being bullied faced by hundreds of blind and partially sighted children.
Our analysis in ‘Sight Impairment at Age 11’ reveals that children with sight loss have more of a tough time growing up compared to their sighted peers. Children most at risk are those with vision impairment and additional disabilities. Blind and partially sighted children are less confident, find it harder to make friends, do less physical activity and are more likely to live in financial hardship. According to their parents and teachers, children with vision impairment are twice as likely to be bullied or picked on by other children.
Tom Pey Chief Executive of RLSB said:
‘As a parent myself I find it distressing that youngsters with sight problems are still being bullied at school just because they can’t see. We must do more to stop this kind of victimisation. RLSB provides workshops that teach blind and partially sighted young people to how to confront bullies, make friends and build resilience. We are also committing more resources to providing advice and support for families and schools.’
RNIB’s CEO, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE said:
“This research reveals some of the vulnerabilities of blind and partially sighted children and highlights the importance of providing consistent and effective support for these young people.
“It is vital that specialist education advisory services for children with a vision impairment, currently under threat from local authority budget cuts, are protected and RNIB will continue to campaign on this.
“Many young people benefit from talking to an experienced counsellor, which is why we offer support through our Emotional Support service, while others thrive when taking part in the social activities provided through Action for Blind People’s Actionnaires clubs.”
Evidence from Sight loss at 11 also underlines that sight loss can have a major impact on every aspect of a child’s development and wellbeing. Without the right support many young people are at risk of missing out on the very things that make childhood so important – security, friendship and a sense of self confidence. However, the results show that with the right kinds of early intervention blind and partially sighted children can flourish. For example, vision impaired children benefit from workshops that build confidence and teach social skills for making friends.
It’s a timely reminder that good all round educational provision is vital for children’s future health and wellbeing.
The report comes at a time when many local authorities are reviewing how best to meet the special needs of children with vision impairment, with some seeking to cut services and specialist staffing levels. Both charities say that they are committed to working with local authorities to support the work they are doing with vision impaired young people and their families.
Key facts to emerge from the report are:
- Responses from parents and teachers indicate that children with sight loss are twice as likely as fully sighted children to be bullied or picked on by other children
- Children with sight impairment and an additional disability are particularly at risk of emotional difficulties, being socially isolated and doing poorly at school
- Children with sight impairment are less likely to be physically active
- Over one in four live below the poverty line
RLSB and RNIB are working together to improve the experiences and development of children living with sight loss.