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LetterToPatriciaHewittMP

Page history last edited by starkfamily1@... 8 years, 8 months ago


 

Note:

 

We believe that if you fill in a HC1 form it is possible to get the eye test as before, if your child is in post 16 non advanced education, on the basis that your child had no or little income. (2011)  

 

Health benefits withheld

 

AHEd members reported that their children were placed in a no win situation when it comes to getting the health benefits they are entitled to at the opticians, simply because the department of health has overlooked home education in their definition of full time education. Members decided to write the the Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt and the following letter was posted, 24.04.07

 

Letter to Patricia Hewitt, one

 

Dear Ms Hewitt,

 

AHEd enquiry re free sight tests and vouchers for ophthalmology services for children aged 16, 17, 18 in full time education.

 

We are writing to seek urgent clarification of an issue that has arisen affecting home-educated young people.

 

AHEd (1) members have been alerted to an unsatisfactory situation regarding free ophthalmology for children and qualifying young people in full-time education.

 

As you know, children up to 18 in full-time education are entitled to free sight tests and vouchers toward other costs of ophthalmology on the NHS.(2)We are receiving reports, however, that home-educating parents are being told that this is not available to their children once they are sixteen unless the ophthalmologist can provide proof of full-time home education, which must be verified by the local authority providing a registration number.

 

As you are aware, home-educated children are certainly in full time education. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states that children should receive their education "either by regular attendance at school or otherwise", thus giving electively home-educated children and children educated at school equal status in law. HM Revenue and Customs recognise home education (3). The DfES and the child benefit agency also recognise home education as of equal status in law; child benefit can be claimed for a child in full time further education based at home until they are twenty in the same way as it can be claimed for children in full time further education based in an establishment such as a college. However, leaflet HC11 wrongly defines full time education as only that which takes place in an establishment (4). This is inconsistent with the primary legislation and results in discriminatory practice. No policy of a public service should result in discriminatory practices that deprive children and young people of the health care to which they are entitled. Furthermore, one of the outcomes of Every Child Matters is "Be healthy" yet this implicit discrimination hinders this outcome for home educated children. Home educators are not required to be registered with their local authority or the DfES.

 

We would appreciate your swift assurance that home-educated young people are entitled to free sight tests and vouchers for ophthalmology services in the same way as children whose full-time education takes place in a school or other establishment recognised by the DfES. The guidance issued to opticians and local authorities should be amended to include a definition of full time education in line with the education act to ensure that home educated children are not excluded from health benefits. Guidance should indicate that a parent's information that their child is home-educated should be accepted. A suitable category or generic number could be provided to cover home education.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd

www.ahed.org.uk The Action for Home Education Group.

 

(1) AHEd www.ahed.org.uk

 

(2) Leaflet HC11 states "you can get free sight tests if you are aged 16, 17, or 18 in full time education" (page 7,) and, (page 8) "you can get vouchers toward the cost of glasses or contact lenses if you are aged 16, 17 or 18 in full time education."

http://www.ppa.org.uk/pdfs/ppc/HC11_Sep_06.pdf

 

(3) Decision Makers Guide - DMG11094 "To decide whether education undertaken elsewhere is full-time, the decision maker should consider the guidance in DMG11093 This might include unsupervised study since the circumstances of home education could be quite different from those at a recognised educational establishment. If the decision maker is satisfied that the

number of hours studied each week exceeds 12 they should accept the education as full-time."

 

(4) Leaftlet HC11, page 9, wrongly states that full time education means "receiving full-time instruction from a recognised educational establishment, such as a school, college or university."

http://www.ppa.org.uk/pdfs/ppc/HC11_Sep_06.pdf

 

Ahed Press Release - one

 

MEDIA INFORMATION FROM ACTION FOR HOME EDUCATION: For immediate release, Tuesday 24th April 2007

 

For further information please contact ( ) tel: (xxxxx xxx xxx)

email:enquiries@ahed.org.uk

 

HOME EDUCATED YOUNG PEOPLE DENIED HEALTH BENEFITS, say AHEd.

 

AHEd [www.ahed.org.uk] has written to the secretary of state for health, Patricia Hewitt MP, after members complained that their children are being denied health benefits to which they are entitled by virtue of their status as children in full time education.

 

The law states that children must be educated either by regular attendance at school, or otherwise. Thousands of children are educated at home, outside the school system, and numbers are increasing due to failures of the state system to meet the needs of children. Children in full time education are entitled to free sight tests and help toward the costs of spectacles until they reach 18 years. However, children who are in full time education that is based at home are being told that they cannot have this help once they are sixteen, because the department of health has produced a leaflet that defines education as only that which takes place in an establishment. Each establishment is issued with a registration number by the DfES.

 

“It is bad enough that some government officials are in the habit of responding to the growing home educating population by stating that the best and right place for children is in one of their schools,” said Barbara Stark, chair of AHEd, “but for this prejudice to be so ingrained that it affects policy to the extent that the department discards the health needs of children whose education is home based, quite legally and properly, is a scandal! These are children in full time education, and yet they are the only category of children in full time education who are denied access to health benefits when they visit the optician.”

 

Home based education has equal status in law with school education and is recognized by HM customs and excise, the DfES and the Child Benefit agency. AHEd, therefore, believes that the leaflet, HC11 which wrongly defines full time education as only that which is received in an establishment, is the result of oversight due to common prejudice, and not an attack on home education or refusal to recognize a legal alternative. However, this has resulted in blatant discrimination against some children that is at odds with the government's "Every Child Matters" agenda to ensure that children are healthy. Barbara Stark commented, “We don’t think this is a sinister move to prevent our children who need glasses from utilising an education provided outside the school system, but either our children matter as much as children educated at state schools or they do not and so we have asked the secretary of state to make sure that the advice is amended to include a definition of full time education in line with the Education Act to ensure that home educated young people are not excluded from health benefits as they currently are.”

 

Action for Home Education (AHEd)

www.ahed.org.uk

 

ENDS**

 

Further Concerns - Prescriptions

 

April 2007

 

Following a post from a parent, AHEd is looking into the possibility that the erroneous definition of full time education has also started to affect young people who need prescription medicine and are denied help on the NHS that they are qualified to receive as young people in full time education simply because the education takes place outside the school system. This seems particularly unfair on young people who are receiving their education outside the school system because of illness and who may need frequent or regular prescription medicines.

 

Reply - one

 

From: DHMail@dh.gsi.gov.uk

To: enquiries@ahed.org.uk

Sent: Wed Apr 25 14:52

Subject: Fwd: Response to your Query : - Ref:DE00000206186 - FW: Sight tests and health

vouchers, opthalmology, children in full time education.

 

DE00000206186 enquiries@ahed.org.uk

 

Dear

 

Thank you for your email of 25 April to the Department of Health about help with NHS optical costs.

 

Local Authorities can confirm if the home provided education is comparable with education provided in schools. Home education of 16, 17, and 18 year olds that is judged comparable to that provided in schools entitles such children to help with optical costs. Evidence to show entitlement (a home education having been judged comparable) would be a matter for local arrangement. This is the position of the Department of Health.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Stephen Atkinson

Customer Service Centre

Department of Health

 

MP Support (Norman Lamb, Lib-dem)

 

A letter of support from Norman Lamb.

 

----- Original Message -----

From: 'Norman Lamb MP'

To: enquiries@ahed.org.uk

Sent: Wed May 9 11:39

Subject: Fwd: Sight tests and health vouchers FAO:Barbara Stark (Chair)

 

 

Dear,

 

Thank you for your email and copy of that to Patricia Hewitt. I would share your concern that home educated children between the ages of 16 and 18 are being discriminated against unecessarily and unfairly.

 

I would hope that the Secretary of State will give a fair hearing to your clear and rational case and I wish you luck with it.

 

Please let me know if matters do not progress as you would hope.

 

With best wishes,

 

Norman Lamb


Office of Norman Lamb

MP for North Norfolk

 

 

Further Concerns - Child Benefit

 

May 2007

 

We have now had a report from a parent whose child, a registered pupil of a school, is educated off site by the LA (due to not being able to attend the school,) and is preparing to take his 'A' levels soon. He will be 17 and in full time education as a registered pupil. This child has had his entitlement to child benefit refused and the family have been made to repay benefits received on the basis that he was not *attending* a recognised establishment such as a school or college!

 

This false definition of full time further education must be corrected! Benefits that may be affected by this definition of entitlement appear, so far, to include NHS health benefits such as help with opticians and prescription costs, and child benefit. It is not only electively home educated children who suffer this consequence, but children who are not able to be in attendance at a "recognised establishment" due, for example, to health issues. Perhaps our government is pursuing a policy of using benefits to bribe the population on the entirely unrelated issue of attendance at a recognised establishment?

 

As far as we are aware, the only benefit actually dependent on attendance at a recognised establishment for further education is Education Maintenance Allowance. (In Scotland this allowance is payable to all children in full time further education including electively home educated children. In England, however, it is a clear bribe to ensure attendance in state institutions and excludes electively home educated children from entitlement. Elective Home Education is not recognised in England as legitimate full time further education for the purposes of EMA. Will our Electively Home Educated Children, along with others who are not able to attend an institution, now find that their education is not recognised as legitimate for the purpose of NHS and other benefits? Every Child Matters - if they will/can attend government institutions?)

 

Letter to Patricia Hewitt, two

 

 

(to Stephen Atkinson who replied to our previous mail and cc'd to Patricia Hewitt. Posted 15.05.07)

 

Dear Mr Atkinson,

 

Thank you for your response of 25th April (Ref:DE00000206186) to our mail about the withdrawal of health benefits from children aged 16, 17 and 18 who are in full time further education based at home.

 

These children are entitled to the same health benefits as other children in full time further education. They are however being unfairly discriminated against as they are denied these benefits because of your department's definition of full time further education as "education in a recognised educational establishment, such as a school, college or university," (leaflet HC11). This definition overlooks children who are in further education which is, entirely legally and properly, based at home. The problem therefore is not, as you suggest, one of local arrangement but of national policy emanating from your department.

 

Your suggested solution is not workable. Local Authorities have a duty to act where there is an appearance that a suitable education is not being provided, but they do not have a right or duty to approve education provided by a parent and it is most certainly not required to be comparable to that provided by the state. The only state imposed criterion is that the education should be full-time for the parent to continue to receive child benefit payments. Full-time in this instance is defined as being in excess of 12 hours per week.

 

Special Needs, including health needs such as sight issues, as well as individual educational philosophy and practice at variance to that in schools and colleges, may well be the determining reason families continue to home educate through these years. It is ridiculous, discriminatory and contrary to the Every Child Matters agenda, to suggest that health entitlements for children should be provided only on condition that the local authority first equates their education to that in a particular type of educational establishment. This is not the case before a child achieves the age of 16 and should not be the case thereafter. In fact, at least one home educated child, still of compulsory education age and known to their local authority, (who approve of the education provision,) has actually been refused help with optical health care provision to which they are entitled on the basis of your rules.

 

Children are currently being turned away from their health care entitlements because of your discriminatory and incorrect definition of further education. This situation requires urgent action to prevent further injustice.

 

In this instance the department is discriminating against children by removing access to a health entitlement on the basis of their educational provision being outside of a school setting, despite the fact that entitlement is for all children who are in full time further education and educational provision from home has equal legal standing to that in an establishment such as a school or college. Entitlement to child benefit is a suitable indicator of the educational status of a child. We would like you to amend your guidance to indicate that a parent's information that their child is home-educated should be accepted. If the department must have a number, a suitable category or generic number should be provided to cover home education.

 

Please address this issue urgently, as children are suffering as a result of your poor policy.

 

yours sincerely,

 

(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd

www.ahed.org.uk The Action for Home Education Group.

 

Reply - two

 

DE00000210134 enquiries@ahed.org.uk

Dear,

 

Thank you for your further email of 15 May to the Department of Health.

 

The position remains as set out in my previous email; home educated children are entitled to help with NHS optical costs as long as the home education has been confirmed as being comparable to that provided in schools.

 

The HC11 booklet will be amended at the earliest convenience to ensure it fully reflects this.

 

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Atkinson

Customer Service Centre

Department of Health

 

 

 

Home Educated children in full time further education will have their health benefits with-held if their education has not been approved as comparable to that provided in schools? What about alternative educational methods? This is a new job for the LAs with no additional budget no doubt; wonder what they think of that? Is this even legal?

 

 

MP Support - (John Baron, Cons.)

 

----- Original Message -----

From: 'THOMAS, Gareth D'

To:

Sent: Mon May 21 15:50

Subject: Fwd: Your email to Andrew Lansley

 

Dear,

 

Thank you for your email to Andrew Lansley on the subject of entitlements to ophthalmic services among children in full-time education at home. Your correspondence has been passed on John Baron, the Shadow Health Minister with responsibility for ophthalmic services. We intend to ask Parliamentary questions on this subject and hope to reply soon. However, it is my understanding that Conservatives would not discriminate against children in full-time education at home for the purpose of entitlements to the NHS. The question of having proof of being in full-time education is another matter, and we hope to clarify this through Parliamentary questions (e.g. below).

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Gareth Thomas

 

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether children in full time education being educated at home have the same rights to (a) free NHS sight tests and (b) vouchers to cover other costs of ophthalmology as children in full-time education being educated in institutions; what guidance she has issued to (i) opticians and (ii) local authorities to reflect these entitlements; and what evidence should be accepted as proof of a child being in full-time education at home.

 

 

Researcher to John Baron MP

Shadow Health Minister

 

House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA

 

Letter to a Constituent, one.

(Rosie Winterton.)

 

 

An AHEd member with two home educated daughters who have visual difficulties wrote to her MP, Julie Kirkbride and got this reply from Rosie Winterton, Health Minister, casting some light on why our children have started to be denied health benefits when they are in full time further education based at home. No number has been provided to cover home education (as there has to cover institutions.) There is no means in place for LAs to approve home provided further education as "comparable" to state provided and approved further education. Whatever "comparable" means appears to be at the whim of whoever is the Secretary of the State at the time.

 

Dear,

 

Thank you for your letter of 30th April to Patricia Hewitt enclosing correspondence from your constituent Ms JB of... about optical charges for home educated children. I am replying as the Minister responsible for this policy area.

 

Sight tests are free to children under 16 and children aged 16, 17 or 18 in full-time education.

 

Education is defined in the NHS Act 2006 as full-time instruction at a recognised educational establishment or by other means accepted as comparable by the Secretary of State.

 

The HC11 leaflet will be amended at the earliest convenience to make sure it fully reflects this.

 

Provided that Ms B can provide evidence that her daughter HA is receiving full-time instruction and that it is comparable to instruction from a recognised educational establishment, she should be able to receive free sight tests and optical vouchers on the grounds of education up to the age of 18.

 

Ms B's other daughter HL, who is under 16, is entitled to free sight tests regardless of her educational status. However, after her 16th birthday Ms B will also need to provide the same evidence for HL as she is having to provide for her older daughter to secure HL's entitlement to free sight tests and optical vouchers.

 

I hope this reply is helpful

 

Rosie Winterton

 

Approved by the Minister's Private Office and signed electronically in her absence.

 

Letter to Patricia Hewitt, three

 

 

(to Stephen Atkinson who replied to our previous mail. forward to Patricia Hewitt and Rosie Winterton. Posted 01.06.07)

 

Dear Mr Atkinson,

 

Further to our earlier correspondence, ref DE00000210134, and following an enquiry from one of our members to Rosie Winterton MP, it now appears that the confusing definition of full time further education in the NHS Act 2006, is at the root of reports we have received this year of the withdrawal of health benefits to children of 16, 17 and 18 in full time further education based at home. Guidance clarifying this issue is urgently required.

 

The Education Act 1996 (7), recognises education otherwise than at school, by the parents, as having equal legal status to a school education. Therefore the Secretary of State for Health must recognise that "elective home education" is compliant with the NHS Act 2006, 180 (7b) and 180 (8) and no further comparison to an institutional education should be required of a home educating parent in order to obtain free ophthalmic services for a child."

 

Yours sincerely,

 

( )

(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd

www.ahed.org.uk The Action for Home Education Group.

 

Ahed Press Release - two

 

MEDIA INFORMATION FROM ACTION FOR HOME EDUCATION: For immediate release, Tuesday 5th June 2007

 

For further information please contact tel: (xxx) email:enquiries@ahed.org.uk

 

YOUNG PEOPLE IN EDUCATION DENIED NHS BENEFITS.

 

Young people in full time education are still being denied National Health Service benefits because of the NHS Act 2006 and the consequent failure of bureaucrats drafting guidance to take into account young people whose further education is based at home. Home based education has equal status in law with that provided by institutions such as schools or colleges and thousands of children are electively home educated with excellent results.

 

“Our members are reporting a situation” commented Barbara Stark, AHEd spokesperson, “where families are in receipt of child benefit because their children are continuing with full time further education based at home, but help with health services to which they are entitled has been withdrawn this year. It is our understanding that schools and colleges are issued with a registration number for this purpose, but there is no number provided for home education, with the result that our children are denied the right of all children in full time further education. It appears that local authorities have no means to recognize the educational status of these young people. AHEd has been in correspondence with ministers at the department of health about the consequences of this bureaucratic incompetence. We have suggested two efficient solutions that would cost the taxpayer nothing and quickly restore rights to our children, but the government appears to be playing for time and dragging their feet in correcting this anomaly. In the meantime our children are being disadvantaged and discriminated against by the NHS.”

 

END

 

Notes to Editors

 

1. AHEd is an Internet based charitable group supporting home education rights. www.ahed.org.uk

 

2. Dept of Health have responded to AHEd saying the guidance in HC11 booklet "will be amended at the earliest convenience" but the suggested solution would be costly and there is currently no mechanism in place for it. See full details:

http://ahed.pbwiki.com/Letter-to-Patricia-Hewitt%2C-MP-

 

3. AHEd have written to the department of Health today:

 

"Further to our earlier correspondence, ref DE00000210134, and following an enquiry from one of our members to Rosie Winterton MP, it now appears that the confusing definition of full time further education in the NHS Act 2006, is at the root of reports we have received this year of the withdrawal of health benefits to children of 16, 17 and 18 in full time further education based at home. Guidance clarifying this issue is urgently required.

 

The Education Act 1996 (7), recognises education otherwise than at school, by the parents, as having equal legal status to a school education. Therefore the Secretary of State for Health must recognise that "elective home education" is compliant with the NHS Act 2006, 180 (7b) and 180 (8) and no further comparison to an institutional education should be required of a home educating parent in order to obtain free ophthalmic services for a child."

 

Parliamentary Question (John Baron.)

 

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2007-06-06a.140435.h&s=speaker%3A10715#g140435.q0

 

John Baron (Billericay, Conservative)

 

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether children in full time education being educated at home have the same rights to (a)free NHS sight tests and (b) vouchers to cover other costs of ophthalmology as children in full-time education being educated in institutions; what guidance she has issued to (i) opticians and (ii)local authorities to reflect these entitlements; and what evidence must be accepted as proof of a child being in full-time education at home.

 

Rosie Winterton (Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health)

 

holding answer 4 June 2007

 

All children under the age of 16 are entitled to national health service sight tests and vouchers for optical appliances, as are

children aged 16, 17 and 18 who are being educated full-time in a recognised educational establishment. The Department has not previously issued specific guidance on this subject. Where children aged 16 to 18 are being educated at home, the local primary care trust would need to seek advice from the local education authority to assess whether these arrangements are comparable to fulltime education in such an establishment.

 

Reply - three

 

Sent: Thu Jun 7 14:07

Subject: Fwd: Response to your Query : - Ref:DE00000212738 - Fwd: Sight tests and health vouchers, opthalmology, children in full time education.

 

Our Ref: DE00000212738

 

Dear,

 

Thank you for your email of 30 May to Patricia Hewitt about NHS sight tests and vouchers for children in full-time education. As you will appreciate, due to her pressing schedule, it is not always possible for Ms Hewitt to answer all the correspondence she receives personally. I have been asked to reply.

 

Sight tests are free to children under 16 and children aged 16, 17 or 18 in full-time education. Education is defined in the NHS Act 2006 as full-time instruction at a recognised educational establishment or by other means accepted as comparable by the Secretary of State. I should like to assure you that the HC11 leaflet will be amended at the earliest opportunity to make sure it fully reflects this.

 

In the meantime, providing parents or carers can provide evidence from their local authority that children are receiving full-time instruction and that it is comparable to instruction from a recognised educational establishment, they should be able to receive their free sight test and optical voucher on the grounds of education.

 

Any children under 16 are entitled to free sight tests regardless of their educational status. However, after their 16th birthday they will also need to provide the same evidence for as for an older child to secure their entitlement to free sight tests and optical vouchers.

 

I hope this reply is helpful.

 

Yours sincerely,

Jane Spencer

Customer Service Centre

 

Letter to Patricia Hewitt - four

 

 

(posted to Jane Spencer who replied to our previous mail. forward to Patricia Hewitt and Rosie Winterton. Posted 16.06.07)

 

Dear Patricia Hewitt,

 

Further to your letter of 07.06.07 (ref. DE00000212738), your reply is not helpful and perpetuates unfair and discriminatory treatment of children in full-time further education based at home.

 

Because of your actions, health benefits have this year been arbitrarily withdrawn from children who are in full-time further education based at home. Your responses to our urgent correspondence on this matter have resulted in the entitlement being withheld further, subject to a home education approval system that is neither established nor supported in law and is, in our opinion, seeking to set up an unfair and unequal system based on institutionalised discrimination and prejudice about educational methods and provision. Your repeated solution (that "parents or carers can provide evidence from their local authority") will not work and further exacerbates the problem. AHEd is aware that the suggested solution puts Local authorities in a difficult position as it requires them to act outside of their remit. Local Authorities have no right or duty to approve the education of a young person over the compulsory education age.

 

Has the department made any instruction or guidance to local authorities or health trusts regarding this, as indicated in the written answer to a parliamentary question from John Baron on 04.06.07 and answered by Rosie Winterton (1)? What was this guidance or instruction?

 

Local authorities should simply write to health trusts saying elective home-based education has equal status in law to education in a recognised establishment (Education Act 1996, section 7) and that elective home-based education is, therefore, comparable. This is the basis on which child benefit entitlement is decided. No complicating and discriminatory additional requirements should be imposed upon families with a child in full-time further education based at home. Local authorities should provide a generic code or registered number for the purpose of filling in a claim form, if necessary.

 

Yours sincerely,

( )

(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd

www.ahed.org.uk The Action for Home Education Group.

 

(1) [www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070606/text/70606w0016

.htm#0706073000052|written answer.]

 

 

AHEd fears another stuck needle response to this, our fourth letter. In the meantime, we are not aware that any steps have actually been taken beyond vague assurances to resolve the problem for families of children in full time further education based at home, who are still being denied access to health service benefits to which they are entitled as children in full time further education. AHEd is considering legal advice re the human rights of children whose access to health benefits is arbitrarily withdrawn in this manner.(UNCRC)

 

Reply - four

 

Mon Jul 2 15:50,

Response to your Query : - Ref:DE00000213912 - Sight tests and health vouchers for young people in full time education based at home

DHMail@dh.gsi.gov.uk sent:

 

Dear

 

 

Thank you for your further email to Stephen Atkinson about sight tests and vouchers for children being educated at home. I have passed your comments to policy officials who are looking into the matter. I note that you have also written to John Baron MP on this subject.

 

 

I am afraid I am unable to say anything further at this time.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Malcolm Jones

Customer Service Centre

Department of Health

 

 

Letter to a Constituent, two.

 

(mid August, 2007.)

 

correspondence sent by Ann Keen MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, (Health,) to Julie Kirkbride, MP on behalf of an AHEd member:

 

 

Dear

 

Thank you for your letter of 16th July to Alan Johnson enclosing

further correspondence from your constituent ( )of ............. about optical charges for home educated children.

 

The NHS Act 1977 is clear that for children aged 16-18 entitlement to NHS funded sight tests is based on their being in full time education and that the education is comparable to that received at a recognised educational establishment.

 

Section 38(2) of the NHS Act 1977 contains the relevant definitions of 'qualifying full-time education' and of recognised educational establishment'. This legal basis for sight test entitlement for persons in this category was inserted into the NHS Act 1977 in 1988 and has remained the same since then.

 

That section states that qualifying full time education' means full time instruction at a recognised establishment or by other means accepted as comparable by the Secretary of State, and for the purpose of this definition 'recognised educational establishment' means an establishment recognised by the Secretary of State as being or as comparable to, a school, college or university.

 

Therefore, where a claim is made for a NHS funded sight test, there is a need for an assurance that the young person meets these requirements. The question as to how such assurance is provided has recently become a matter of contention that Departmental officials are looking into. They are in contact with officials at the DCSF to find a way to resolve the situation.

 

Clearly we want to ensure that children between 16 and 18 being

educated at home full time in a way that is comparable to that which would be received at a recognised educational establishment receive their proper entitlement.

I hope this reply is helpful

 

Ann Keen.

 

Further correspondence

(ministers change but the problem remains)

 

From: [mailto:ahed@ahed.org.uk]

Sent: 20 September 2007 12:07

To: anne@annemilton.com

Subject: Fwd: Entitlement to NHS Benefits for children in full time further education

 

Dear Ann Milton,

 

I am forwarding the mail below as I have been advised by John Baron's researcher that you are the person now dealing with this area.

 

I hope that you can help us.

 

yours sincerely,

(Chair, AHEd.)The Action for Home Education Group.

wiki, (now has 90+ pages,) here: http://ahed.pbwiki.com/

----- Original Message -----

From: ''

 

To:

 

Sent: Thu Sep 20 01:25

 

Subject: Fwd: Entitlement to NHS Benefits for children in full time further education

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr Lansley,

 

I am writing to you in your capacity as shadow Secretary of State for Health about the entitlement to NHS benefits such as optical vouchers and free sight tests for children in full time further education who are aged 16 - 18, which is being denied to some qualifying young people. 

 

AHEd has previously been in correspondence with John Baron who asked a parliamentary question about this issue. We have a wiki page documenting the history here

http://ahed.pbwiki.com/Letter%20to%20Patricia%20Hewitt%2C%20MP%20

 

We have received reports from parents of electively home educated children in this group that as soon as the children are 16, sometimes still of compulsory education age, they are denied help with NHS costs such as sight tests and optical vouchers.

 

We have enquired about this and are now being given the same answer continually; that the education of home educated children in further education from 16 - 18 years must be comparable to that in a recognised education establishment, such as a college or school, for health benefits to be applicable. This would seem, on first sight, fair and reasonable. The Education Act 1996, section seven, gives equal legal status to education either in a school or otherwise and thousands of parents do indeed choose to educate their children quite legally and properly, outside of the school system. We think this section of the education law equates to education outside the school system and by other means being comparable legally to education in a school. So do the DCSF and the Child Benefit Agency, who recognise the elective home education of our children as of equal legal status to education provided in schools.  We are afraid that the government may be trying to say that they will not recognise any education unless it is *exactly the same* as a state college or school course and plan to with-hold benefits from our children on these grounds.

 

In any case, the benefits are being denied to all of our children and the situation cannot currently be remedied without action by the department of health. We are told by Ann Keen, MP, that if parents can give assurance that the education provided is "comparable" this will prove entitlement to health benefits. But there is no facility for this to happen. Educational establishments have been given a number in recognition of their status as education providers and the claim forms require this number or the benefit cannot be granted. There is no number for elective home education. It simply has not been recognised or included when drawing up this system to verify claims. This is typical of the institutionalised discrimination and prejudice that home educators meet from government departments. As a result, we have a situation in which our children, in full time further education based at home, are qualified to receive health benefits but the government  forms which require a number, exclude all of them from receiving these benefits and the minister is making up new requirements as she goes along, including for local authority involvement of which local authorities are unaware and for which they have no powers. We have asked the minister to simply provide a number that LAs can supply to identify elective home education in the same way that an establishment is identified by number, but answers seem complicated and evasive.

 

The department has supposedly been 'looking into' this for some time while our children continue to be denied their right to equality in health care provision. And while the department delays

our members are asking why the health rights of their children are withdrawn, and continue to be withheld subject to extra requirements, when it is clearly already acknowledged that the children are, in fact, in full time further education based at home. For example, they have satisfied the child benefits agency that this is the case and have therefore qualified for continued child benefit based on the educational status of their children. This educational status is what qualifies them for health benefits, without newly invented extra requirements. Home based education is an important human right, equal in English law to institutionalised education, but the extra demands of new claim forms and made up on the spot policy are disadvantaging and unfairly discriminating against electively home-educated young people.

 

We have focussed on optical vouchers because this is where we have had most comments from parents, but we think it covers all the health benefits under the category such as prescription charges etc.

 

I hope that you can help us to resolve this situation?

 

yours sincerely,

(Chair, AHEd.)The Action for Home Education Group.

 

Questions being asked - again

 

Many thanks for your email.  Anne has written to Ann Keen asking her to explain ‘comparable’ education and how parents whom home educate children can make a claim.

 

 

 

I hope this helps. 

 

 

 

Best wishes,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Office of Anne Milton

Member of Parliament for Guildford

Shadow Minister for Health

 

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

 

Shadow Minister Fobbed Off?

 

(More of the same.)

 

On Thu Nov 15 10:39 , 'HILL, Simon' sent:
 
Dear (AHEd Chair,)

 

 

 

thought you might be interested in the letter Anne received from Ann Keen about entitlement to NHS Benefits for children in full time further education.  It seems that officials are looking into the matter to resolve the situation.

 

Best wishes,

 

Simon

 

Office of Anne Milton

Member of Parliament for Guildford

Shadow Minister for Health

 

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

 

Reply to Office of Anne Milton re Official's "looking into the matter."

 

Hi Simon,

 

 

Thank you  for your email. Would you send a copy of the letter? Thank you for telling me that the reply is that officials are looking into it. I think Anne is being fobbed off and should be annoyed about this. We have already been receiving this response for so long and children are being denied their entitlement in the meantime.

 

 

A member has recently told us that in 2006 her son's optician was able to accept entitlement to Child Benefit for a child aged 16+ as proof of entitlement for NHS benefits to young people continuing in full time education. After all, extended CB is granted on the basis of continuing education which has to be shown in order to qualify.

 

 

In 2007 we have had reports that this is not now the case. If children in this age group continuing in full time education are entitled to NHS benefits, it is scandalous to remove the means of receiving them from one group of young people and then to simply say we are "looking into it" while the children continue to lose their entitlement.

 

 

At least the department could issue a notice that in the meantime the fact that a family are receiving Child Benefit on the basis that their child is continuing their full time education is sufficient to show their entitlement to other benefits based on participation in full time education.

 

 

Is Anne planning any further action? Would Anne be prepared to ask a parliamentary question about why this benefit has been effectively removed from a group of young people and how long the government intends to "look into it" before resolving the mess they have made of it while our children are denied NHS benefits to which they are entitled? Why can parents not simply show that their child is in continued further education by giving the CB number thus proving entitlement to NHS help?

 

 

Please contact us if we can be of any assistance in providing information or support to any action Anne might take. We would be most interested if you can give us further advice on what we can do to take this issue further.

 

 

Our web page documenting this issue is here:

 

 

(link)

 

Yours, etc.

 

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 9:06 am on Jun 3, 2007

The Education Act 1996 (7), recognises education otherwise than at school, by the parents, as having equal legal status to a school education. Therefore the Secretary of State for Health must recognise that “elective home education” is compliant with the NHS Act 2006, 180 (7b) and 180 (8) and no further comparison to an institutional education should be required of a home educating parent in order to obtain free ophthalmic services for their child.

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