A Joint Statement from Guide Dogs Victoria and Guide Dogs Australia
Guide Dogs Victoria is aware of recent reports that the Victorian Government is proposing changes to the Visiting Teacher program. This could potentially have negative impacts on the education of children with low vision and blindness.
Visiting Teachers enable students who have low vision or blindness to receive equitable access to education by addressing essential learning areas, concepts and experiences.
Visiting Teachers possess highly specialised skills, including learning braille and accessing assistive technology and cannot be replaced by generalised support. The program also plays a vital role in fostering independence, self-confidence and social integration.
Guide Dogs has worked side by side with Visiting Teachers over many years and recognises the essential support they deliver towards educational outcomes for students with low vision and blindness.
The decision could have wide reaching effects for students and their families and was made without consultation with Guide Dogs and other service providers.
This shift away from the current model isn’t supported by the Australian Disability Strategy, which recommends these supports be maintained at a State level.
Without state support, the education of students with low vision and blindness will be largely reliant on the service providers and charitable organisations such as Guide Dogs under the federally funded NDIS.
Guide Dogs provides support to more than 200 children across Victoria, and we have been inundated with calls from parents and Visiting Teachers who are all concerned about what the future now holds for their children. We are committed to ensuring children have access to the best supports and services.
Guide Dogs has approached the Minister’s office and Department to seek consultation and assurances that this program is maintained and we will work in collaboration with the sector, to reverse this proposed change.