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Advocacy pays off with free or low-cost specs for more South Australians

South Australian optometrists have been part of a successful campaign to expand the state government’s GlassesSA program to provide more disadvantaged people access to free or low-cost glasses and contact lenses.

South Australian Premier Mr Steven Marshall announced that, in response to feedback from customers and optometrists, the government has introduced free standard glasses for eligible Aboriginal customers, as well as optional upgrades to standard glasses for those who meet the criteria.

As part of the expanded program, the government is also introducing a $50 contribution for eligible children who choose to upgrade their frames, and $50 for customers who want thinner lenses.

Optometry Victoria South Australia CEO Pete Haydon.

Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) CEO Mr Pete Haydon said it is now imperative that many optometrists across metro, regional and remote SA sign up for the scheme to provide vulnerable people access to affordable spectacles and contact lenses.

“It therefore has to be affordable for both large corporate and small independent business models. This has not been the case up until now, but the latest improvements that OV/SA has successfully negotiated for members, go some way to offsetting this,” he said.

Since the program was introduced in 2016, GlassesSA has helped deliver more than 19,000 spectacles to disadvantaged and vulnerable South Australians.

Previously, customers did not have the option to upgrade frames or lenses from the standard GlassesSA offering at their own cost. Aboriginal customers also had to pay a gap and all eligible children couldn’t upgrade their frames.

Haydon acknowledged the role of his predecessor, Ms Libby Boschen, the former CEO of Optometry South Australia and now Special Advisor to OV/SA, in advocating for the changes.

“It’s a much happier purchasing experience for both the patient and the dispenser when more choice is available, Haydon said.

“No-one likes to stand in a practice full of sensational frames whilst being pointed towards a limited cheaper range that they must choose from.”

Flexibility welcomed

With these recent enhancements, he said patients now had the option to use GlassesSA as a starting point and top-up the Government contribution to purchase a more expensive frame and/or lens.

“It is critical that children who are prescribed spectacles wear them when they’re supposed to. But if they’re not comfortable in the only glasses their parents can afford, or break them because they’re not robust enough, the necessary compliance is unlikely,” he said.

“The government will now add a further $50 for each children’s pair, which of course the parents can also top-up further if they choose, to buy their child a stronger, or ‘cooler’ pair that they’ll be more likely to wear.”

He added: “Up until now, patients with a script requiring very thick lenses have had to bear the possible embarrassment of those lenses and the subsequent limited choice of frames able to fit them. The scheme will now provide an extra $50 towards the dispensing of thinner lenses for these patients, which again they can top-up to find a lens and frame more comfortable and fashionable.”

SA’s Minister for Human Services Ms Michelle Lensink said: “Many South Australians are hurting right now, so the ability for eligible South Australians to get free or low-cost glasses is a big help.

“We’re really aiming to increase the uptake of glasses by Aboriginal South Australians, so we’ve introduced no gap for standard glasses for those eligible.”