Animated VISEN logo
Visual Impairment :
Special Educational Needs
The logo of Blatchington Court Trust

ABOUT US

VI:SEN is a division of Blatchington Court Trust. Blatchington Court Trust, established in 1995, is an independent, impartial, financially secure charity working to promote the educational needs of young vision impaired individuals, under the age of 30, living in East and West Sussex and Brighton & Hove, and helps by trying to ensure that the educational provision made for visually impaired and blind pupils is sufficient to remove barriers to their learning.

We work with parents and carers to obtain Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), to ensure that the EHCPs are specific so that provision is clear and sufficient, resolve disputes with the local authority and lodge appeals to the first tier HESC (SEND) tribunal where necessary. The Trust has supported over 700 visually impaired pupils over the last 20 years. In addition the Trust provides equipment, software and resources, such as computers, to support visually impaired children at home and has a specialist counselling service for visually impaired young people.

The aim of the Trust is to complement rather than duplicate services provided by Local Authorities. On a local level we have good links with the teams of Qualified Teachers of the Visually Impaired (QTVI’s) and Rehabilitation Officers of the Visually Impaired (ROVI’s) in East and West Sussex and Brighton & Hove. On a National level we have a good relationship with many of the other agencies working in the field of visual impairment.

VI:SEN extends our information service and support nationally, though, due to limited resources, we are not able to offer advocacy outside Sussex.

The VI:SEN web site has been designed, created, written and illustrated by Dr. Clive Phelps. He was a teacher of science and ICT for 34 years, working in 5 comprehensive schools in London, Surrey and Sussex. He was deputy head of a large 12-18 school in Sussex for 16 years before moving to Blatchington Court Trust where he was advocacy officer from 2007 until 2016.

Click here to read about the origins of Blatchington Court Trust


SERVICES PROVIDED BY BLATCHINGTON COURT TRUST



INFORMATION, SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY

The Trust’s advocacy officers provide information, support and/or advocacy to parents and carers of visually impaired (VI) children and young people in Sussex, i.e. in 3 local authorities (Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex). The Trust has produced an information web-site about visual impairment and special educational needs, www.visen.org.uk

The service is specifically about the educational provision that is necessary to remove barriers to learning resulting from visual impairment and to ensure that the VI child is able to access the curriculum. The information, support and advocacy service operates in conjunction with the Trust’s technical service, grant provision and counselling service. All of the Trust’s services are reactive, i.e. it is the parents who contact the Trust to request one of our services, or we respond to referrals from other agencies or organisations, e.g. Local Authority VI staff. All requests for support and advocacy are discussed, and, as a result of our discussions and analysis of the issues, the Trust can offer to provide relevant information and guidance, support or advocacy.

The Trust provides information about educational provision and education law, the Code of Practice, and other related topics, or can direct parents/carers towards other sources of information.

In many cases parents need support in ensuring that their child receives appropriate educational provision. The advocacy officer can provide support in a variety of ways, helping parents/carers :

  • to interpret and understand assessment reports, EHC plans etc. to ensure that they have a clear description of their child’s condition and needs.
  • to prepare their submission for an annual review and to interpret and analyse the paperwork provided by the school
  • to review proposed, amended and final EHC plans when they are issued by the local authority, and draft the parents’/carers’ response to them.
  • to draft letters to the LA on their behalf

In addition the advocacy officers attend meetings with the school or local authority such as annual review and transition meetings.

There are occasions when parents are in dispute with the LA about provision or the EHCP. In these cases the advocacy officers act as an advocate.

In education, advocacy may involve helping the parents at meetings, drafting letters, with the processes involved in dispute resolution and mediation, and with lodging an appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND) following mediation, or making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Before agreeing to support an appeal the Trust will evaluate the case and the supporting evidence. There have been cases in the past where we have not been able to support an appeal as our analysis indicated thatthe child’s needs were being met, even though the parents were dissatisfied with the provision. Not liking a local authority school or preferring an alternative school is insufficient grounds for an appeal.

If the Trust agrees to support an appeal to mediation and SEND, the advocacy officer will provide parents’/carers with information about the legal process of the appeal and ways of presenting the case. The advocacy officer can manage the appeal and can act as their representative at the appeal hearing, and can help with the following :

  • Preparing for dispute resolution or mediation.
  • Processing the application (i.e. completing the necessary forms).
  • Helping parents/carers write an explanation of the reasons for the appeal.
  • Reviewing the evidence supporting the case.
  • Arranging for additional assessments and reports from experts (if they will help with the case).
  • Negotiating with local authorities.
  • Managing the appeal process.
  • Helping to re-write sections of the EHC plan with the amendments needed.
  • Negotiating with LA to produce a working document for an appeal hearing.
  • Helping to write a detailed statement of the case
  • Submitting additional information to the Tribunal Service, including the case statement.
  • Managing the witnesses.
  • Copying and sending case documents (the bundle) to the witnesses.
  • Representing the parents/carers at mediation or tribunal hearings.

BENEFITS ADVICE

The Trust is able to provide advice on benefits and assist parents and young people to complete applications for DLA, PIP and ESA. 

EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT

The Trust is able to provide support for young people with transition from school to college, college to higher education and assist young people with job search and CV writing and interview practice.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

In addition to looking after our computer system sour IT team delivers IT training and support to our clients and are certified trainers in Supernova. The Trust provides computer equipment by way of a grant on a permanent loan basis. All equipment is set up or checked and the software is installed before the system is sent out to our clients.  We work closely with the individual’s school, teachers and parents to ensure that the equipment we are providing is compatible with that which they are using in school.

Our Access Technology Advisor/tutor is able to provide training in JAWS, and on Voice Over which is Apple's access software. 

COUNSELLING

Our Counsellors offer a professional and confidential service and, in addition to providing counselling for our VI clients, are able to offer support to parents and on some occasions to the family as a whole.  There is no limit to the number of counselling sessions provided, it depends on the needs of the individual. 

LIFE COACHING

Our Access Technology Advisor is also a qualified Life Coach.  A life coach can help individuals with any aspects of life, from stress and anxiety, to low self-esteem, phobias, relationships, career changes or education transitions.

OUTREACH SUPPORT

Our Outreach Support Co-ordinator is building a group of Blatchington Friends who are able to provide 1:1 support to some of our clients who are socially isolated. 

THE REFERRAL PROCESS

The Trust receives referrals from a variety of agencies throughout Sussex, usually from the East and West Sussex and Brighton & Hove teams of Qualified Teachers of the Visually Impaired (QTVI); Rehabilitation Officers for the Visually Impaired (ROVI); Look Sussex; the Sussex Eye Hospital; whilst other parents contact us on the recommendation of families we have supported.

New referrals should be made to the Trust’s Executive Manager whether the request is for advocacy support, counselling, financial assistance, benefits advice etc., who will arrange an appointment to meet with the vision impaired individual or their parents in their own home to discuss the support required and how the Trust can help.  Here at the Trust we pride ourselves in that almost all of our clients are known to us personally and are not just a name and address on our database. 

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES/EVENTS

The Trust provides a range of age related social activities and events both for individuals and their families, providing opportunities for vision impaired individuals and their families to get together, make friends and share experiences.  The Trust hosts informal coffee mornings for parents at our office in Hove.

CONTACT

We are here to help and support visually impaired young people and their parents and carers.

You can contact us by emailing info@VISEN.org.uk

or through the Blatchington Court Trust web-site

www.blatchingtoncourt.org.uk