The pilot scheme will offer specialist care to blind and partially sighted babies and toddlers at a local level.
A full community nursery service is planned to start in the area early next year.
It is hoped that the scheme will enable more children to access the expert learning and development support that RLSB currently offers to youngsters who attend Dorton House Nursery in Kent.
If it proves to be a success, RLSB will launch ten nurseries around London, each serving two or three boroughs, and ten more around the South East by 2017. This will vastly increase the organisation’s work with young children.
“We need to be ambitious,” says RLSB Innovation and Community Services Director Florence Orban, “because this care has a profound impact on young children.”
Helping blind and partially sighted toddlers
Eighty-five per cent of learning in babies is visual, so blind babies’ future development is at serious risk if they are not given specialist help. At Dorton House Nursery, RLSB gives blind and partially sighted babies the support they need to overcome the problems that sight loss causes. It allows them to develop communication skills and play with friends.
Not only does this make them happier, more confident children, but in the long run it can help to prevent a lifetime of loneliness, depression and unemployment that is faced by many of their adult counterparts.
“We know that it makes a significant difference for the children to attend a specialist nursery. It helps with many aspects of their development and it also helps them attend mainstream schools, which is important for the child and their parents and is very much the policy around disability,” Orban says.
Running community nurseries
RLSB’s community nurseries will be run in partnership with local authorities, schools, nurseries and other charities representing blind and partially sighted people.
“We will have an impact on the child’s development during the two days they attend the nursery, and we will help the parents and the families continue that outside of the nursery. We will also provide support if the child attends a mainstream nursery on the other days,” says Orban.
So what are the benefits of running nurseries on a local level?
“The first thing is access. We only know of two other nurseries for blind and partially sighted children and a few service providers for early years. At such a key stage of a child’s development, we know that it is just not enough.
“For many of the parents they will have other children that they have to take to school and pick up. You can’t have another child going to school two or three hours away, that is just not feasible. It has to accommodate the families,” Orban explains. “We will also be able to reach more children than we otherwise would.”
Have you heard about RLSB’s Little Heroes Appeal, which aims to raise £100,000 in 100 to help blind toddlers? Find out more about our Little Heroes Appeal.