asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) how many mobility officers for the blind were employed by local authorities during each of the last five years for which figures are available; how many blind or visually handicapped people were trained or supported in each of these years; and what is the ratio of mobility officers to blind or visually handicapped people registered with each local authority;(2) what information he has as to how many local authorities provide community-based rehabilitation services, including courses, for blind and visually handicapped people; and what percentage of visually handicapped people aged over 65 years use these services;(3) if, following the publication of the Royal National Institute for the Blind of the survey on local authority rehabilitation services to visually handicapped people, he will take steps to ensure
(a) greater consistency of high level provision of services to visually handicapped people between and within local authorities, (b) a higher visual handicap specialist to client ratio, (c) a greater range of community-based rehabilitation services and aids to visually handicapped people, including specialist counselling where appropriate, (d) an improved registration and assessment process for newly visually handicapped people and (e) a higher input on the needs of, and services for, visually handicapped people in social work training courses.
The Department does not collect information on the numbers of specialist staff employed by local authorities in the visual handicap field, nor on the content of rehabilitation provision made locally for various client groups.However, in order to increase our knowledge of provision made for visual handicap, the Department has undertaken a fact-finding exercise to gather information from health, social services and voluntary agencies in several areas around the country. Many of the problems highlighted in the valuable report published by the RNIB also emerged from this exercise. We are currently looking at the findings of the exercise, and will certainly take the RNIB report into account in considering how improvements in service provision for visually handicapped people could best be encouraged.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what advice and information his Department gives local authorities about ensuring that elderly, visually handicapped people are given the same access to services as younger people.
Local authorities are well aware of their statutory powers and responsibilities with regard to younger as well as older people with visual handicap. It is for them to decide how best to arrange provision locally to cater for the various needs of different age groups.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what information he has as to how many local authorities automatically register blind or visually handicapped people of whom they are aware without their specific consent; and what guidance his Department provides about obtaining consent prior to registration.
Information about registration practice in individual local authorities is not collected centrally. Guidance contained in local authority circular 17/74 clearly states that assistance provided under section 29 of the National Assistance Act 1948 as extended by section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 is not dependent upon registration; that a person's wish not to be formally registered must be respected; and that such assistance should not be withheld on that account.