Opticians across the country have today launched a campaign calling for improved eyecare services for 12-16 year olds – who are falling into a gap in current services.
EyeZone which represents almost 100 independent opticians across the country has called the situation unacceptable and is writing to the Minister for Health and HSE to address the issue.
EyeZone Chairman Diarmuid Keane said that approximately 10% of children up to the age of 12 require glasses or contact lenses, while more than 20% do by the age of 16.
“The fact that the number wearing glass or contact lenses more than doubles between the ages of 12 and 16 highlights the critical importance of a well planned and dedicated public eyecare scheme for this age group.
“At present there is no specific scheme for 12-16 year olds. The majority of these children receive no eyecare at all,” he said.
Under current services children up to the age of 12 receive two publicly funded eye tests through the School Medical Scheme. After 12 some may receive care if their parents have a medical card, but this varies significantly across the country. At 16 those with medical cards become eligible for adult services.
“We need a specific scheme to target this age group which is reliable and consistent countrywide,” Mr. Keane said.
To help address the issue in the immediate term, EyeZone members are offering a free full eye exam to all children between 12 and 16 for the month of March.
Local Opticians will also be raising the issue with their TDs and providing information for the public under the slogan “Mind the Vision Gap”.
EyeZone Manager Ray Bissett said, “EyeZone Opticians are putting their words into action by offering free eye tests for the month of March. We are hopeful that this will help to highlight the issue and also provide much needed eye health support in the community for children.”
Details of all participating Opticians which include most counties across the country are at www.eyezone.ie