So much for the E in GIRFEC! Some young people are still being deliberately excluded from allegedly universal services on the basis of their educational setting.
Since we have received no response to our direct query (and follow up reminder) to the Scottish Government about NHS optical vouchers being denied to home educated young people aged 16, 17 and 18, we have now submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to elicit an undertaking that they will issue clarification to NHS Scotland and revise the misleading (by omission) defintion of “qualifying full time education” to accurately reflect the primary legislation.
Dear Scottish Government,
This FOI request specifically relates to the eligibility criteria for NHS optical vouchers for young people aged 16, 17 and 18 who are in “qualifying full time education”, as defined in primary NHS legislation.
Having failed to elicit a response from the Scottish Government by ordinary email, I would appreciate responses to the following questions within the statutory timescale:
1. Can the Scottish Government confirm that the definition of “qualifying full time education” in relation to eligibility for NHS vouchers includes home educated young people aged 16, 17 and 18 who are receiving full time education comparable with that provided by a “recognised educational establishment such as a school, college or university”?
2. Given that some young people in qualifying full time home education aged 16, 17 and 18 have been denied access to NHS vouchers, will the Scottish Government undertake to issue clarification to NHS Scotland and ensure appropriate revision of Leaflet HCS1 to accurately refect the primary legislation and regulations, so that home educated young people are not denied a universal service which is routinely accessible to their school and college attending peers?
By way of background:
Leaflet HCS 1: Are you entitled to help with health costs? misleadingly (by omission) states the following:
CHILDREN UNDER 16 AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN FULL-TIME EDUCATION AGED 16, 17 AND 18
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.
However, the pertinent legislation and regulations explicitly allow for comparable educational provision to count as “qualifying” full time education, and education “by other means” is held as being equal to (and therefore comparable with) school education under section 30 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. Leaflet HCS1 makes no provision for the recognition of other comparable means of education which are set out in the NHS Act and supporting Regulations reproduced below:
National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978, Schedule 11 Miscellaneous Provisions
7. References in this Schedule to qualifying full-time education mean full-time instruction at a recognised educational establishment or by other means accepted as comparable by the Secretary of State, and for the purposes of such references—
(a)“recognised educational establishment” means an establishment recognised by the Secretary of State as being, or as comparable to, a school, college or university; and (b)regulations may prescribe the circumstances in which a person is or is not to be treated as receiving full-time instruction
(Para. 7 inserted by Health Services Act 1980 (c. 53), s. 26(2), Sch. 5 Pt. II para. 8 )
National Health Service (Optical Charges and Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 1998
Eligibility – supply of optical appliances
8(2). An eligible person is a person who at the time of the supply of the optical appliance is any of the following:–
(b)a person under the age of 19 years and receiving qualifying full-time education within the meaning of paragraph 7 of Schedule 11 to the Act (1);
(c)a person whose resources are treated, in accordance with paragraph (3), as being less than his requirements;
(d)a person whose income resources, as calculated in accordance with regulation 6 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Remission Regulations for the purposes of remission of charges under the Act, are equal to or exceed his requirements as so calculated but whose patient’s contribution is nil or is less than the face value of a voucher issued to him under this Part of these Regulations and whose capital resources do not exceed the capital limit;
(e)a person to whom a prescription is issued for a complex appliance.
The Scottish Government may wish to note that the English NHS information on eligibility was changed last year to more accurately reflect primary legislation and now includes home education as an example. See page 10 of Leaflet HC11, April 2012: “Full-time education means you must be receiving full-time instruction at a recognised educational establishment or in another setting similar to school, college or university (for example home education).”
It is a bit like child benefit denial déjà vu. However, we must not abandon hope as AHEd succeeded in having the English guidance suitably amended last year. We’ll keep you posted.