Not-for-profit low vision service provider Vision Australia has been awarded the contract to deliver the NSW Spectacles Program for a further five years.
NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Mr Gareth Ward announced the five-year contract, valued at $5.2 million per annum, on 3 September.
“For almost three decades the Spectacles Program has provided access to free optical aids for vulnerable people, helping them reach their full potential and avoid preventable health problems,” Ward, who is legally blind and the first minister to hold the portfolio with lived experience, said.
“This program breaks down barriers and creates opportunities, helping students to continue their education and assisting adults to participate in the community and live independently.”
Last year the program provided more than 55,000 pairs of glasses to more than 39,000 people across NSW.
There are several eligibility criteria to ensure those with the greatest needs have access to vision aids through the program, including seniors, children, people experiencing homelessness, residents in rural and remote areas, people with disability and Aboriginal and multicultural communities.
Reaching under-privileged patients
Optometrist Mr Kein Kwok is owner of independent practice Blue Star Eyecare (formerly Optical Superstore), with stores in Albury and Wodonga.
He provides government-funded glasses and vision aids to eligible patients under the program, particularly as part of the outreach optometry service to communities between Wodonga and Mildura, and north to Narrandera.
“Patients come in-store, particularly at the Albury practice as it is in New South Wales, who are eligible for glasses under the program, but I also see a lot of patients in Narrandera, which has a high indigenous population per capita, who qualify,” Kwok said.
Visiting 11 outreach sites situated near the Murray River throughout the year, including as far south as Echuca and east as Mildura, Kwok said he sees several patients from surrounding NSW communities when he visits regional Victorian towns who are eligible for glasses under the program.
“The NSW Spectacles Program allows under-privileged patients to access glasses. Through the program, we can supply glasses for as little as $50. We’re making a difference in terms of eye health. We’re trying to help reduce waiting lists upwards of 50 people through providing glasses as part of the Spectacles Program,” Kwok said.
Vision Australia CEO Mr Ron Hooton said the not-for-profit organisation was proud to continue delivering the initiative.
“Vision Australia’s mission is to support people who are blind or have low vision to live the life they choose,” Hooton said.
“The Spectacles Program means that thousands of people each year across NSW can access optical aids they may otherwise not be able to and Vision Australia is proud to play a part in that.”
Vision Australia was initially awarded the contract in July 2014, taking over from VisionCare NSW.
It aimed to streamline the application process and improve delivery times of glasses and vision aids to patients and received more than 4,500 applications with a few months of re-launching the program.