PRESS RELEASE from Action for Home Education.
MEDIA INFORMATION FROM ACTION FOR HOME EDUCATION: For immediate release, Tuesday 24th April 2007
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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)