Yet another discriminatory anomaly has been brought to the attention of Schoolhouse by home educating parent whose child has been denied an NHS optical voucher which would be freely available to a schooled child of the same age, despite his meeting the relevant criterion of being in full time education.

The NHS rules state in Leaflet HCS1, page 12, Are you entitled to help with health costs?


Full-time education means you must be receiving full-time instruction from a recognised educational establishment such as a school, college or university. To be a recognised establishment the place where you are studying must be registered with the Scottish Government Education Directorates, Information and Analytical Services Division, ScotXed Unit. If it is not registered with them you still may be able to get help with health costs under the NHS Low Income Scheme  – read here.

You get free:

NHS dental treatment for any course of treatment that starts before your 19th birthday;

You also get

vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses:

If you have lost or damaged your glasses or contact lenses – read here;

If you need help with travel costs to and from hospital for NHS treatment – read here.

We take issue with the above mis-definition of full time education which, in general usage, does not mean the receipt of “full-time instruction from a recognised educational establishment such as a school, college or university”.  However, it appears that the NHS Scotland wants to apply that defnition rigidly, thereby excluding young people in full time education who do not use a school or other establishment.

A useful comparison might be made with the similarly worded child benefit regulations, under which home educated young people are deemed to meet the eligibility requirements, provided that they continue in non advanced, full time home education after their 16th birthday. In other words, full time education need not be school or institution based for the purposes of claiming child benefit post-16.

Admittedly, obstacles are frequently placed in the way of such continuing child benefit claims, the frustrations around which we have previously documented, but once the paperwork makes it through to the Full Time Education Section (often after several run-ins with the call centre), the most perseverant parents will eventually receive their statutory entitlement, even if it means involving their local MP.

By contrast, the NHS Scotland rules are apparently set in stone and deliberately designed to discriminate against home educated young people who do not otherwise qualify by means testing.

When the Scottish Government was approached directly by a home educating parent who had met with intransigence on the part of the grandly titled, taxpayer funded ‘Optometric advisor practice services NHS Scotland’, she was simply signposted back to Schoolhouse in a buck passing exercise.  It seems the so-called universal services only want to Get It Right for Every Schooled Child, while home educated young people are excluded by arbitrary definitions and discriminatory rules.

AHEd dealt with this same issue in England some time ago and met with similar brick walls, although we believe it was eventually resolved by a more flexible interpretation of the eligibility criteria.

It’s high time the Scottish Government took action to bring the NHS regulations into line with those for other universal services in order to level the playing field. Until they ensure that every home educated child can enjoy the same NHS entitlements as every schooled child, fair and equitable treatment will remain just an optical illusion.

UPDATE, 23 September 2013:

Having scrutinised the pertinent primary legislation and regulations, Schoolhouse has written to the Scottish Government pointing out that education by other means is deemed comparable to attending an institution. We will report further when we receive a response.

Latest update here