Spotting the Elephant: A Tale of Two Costs

elephant in the roomThis is about taking visual stress seriously, and I’m thinking about it at the moment because this Thursday the county of Norfolk are doing just that.  Norfolk Sensory Support are holding a conference on Visual Stress, where leading  Specialist Professor Bruce Evans will be speaking, and one of our visual stress assessment packs will be given to each of the 150 schools attending.

What follows is some maths which includes estimates, approximations, extrapolations and I’m sure lots of other ations which may not be scientifically accurate but which point to  a reality which needs to be addressed. If you need to accurate measurements for the elephant in the room before acknowledging that it’s there, stop reading now; if you are happy to recognise the shape behind some rather blurred figures, carry on reading – and, if you can, pass it on.

Cost 1: not assessing for and supporting Visual Stress in school

The UK Prison population was 86,286 in Nov 2012. 50% of prisoners have a reading age of 11yrs or (much) less. There is a strong connection between illiteracy and offending. Surveys show that about 25% are dyslexic, so about 8,600  (10% – double the national statistic) probably suffer from severe Visual Stress. This is probably a conservative estimate – the figure of 8,600 is based on doubling the percentage of the population who suffer from visual stress severe enough to seriously impede reading. I have doubled it because the percentage of offenders who are dyslexic is at least double the national average.

The cost p/a of keeping one prisoner approx £45,000 (The Guardian Nov 4 2010). Therefore the annual cost of keeping 8600 visual stress sufferers in the prison population = £387,000,000 (Yes this is an oversimplification, and a number of those people would still be there if they didn’t fail at school because of illiteracy caused by visual stress; but spot the elephant nonetheless.

Cost 2: Assessing and supporting Visual Stress in every UK primary school

The cost of assessing and providing reading rulers/overlays/tinted ex books for one primary school child over one year is approx £30.00. This is based on the material cost of the products that one could reasonably expect one child to go through in a year, plus apportioning the single outlay of £50.00 for the assessment pack.  Therefore the annual cost of assessing and supporting V.S in 20,000 Primary Schools = £7,500,000.

Following this through, the possible potential saving to the taxpayer of coordinated nationwide Visual Stress intervention could be as much as £379,500,000.

Norfolk’s contribution?
150 schools is about 0.0075% of all the primary schools in the UK.
So 0.0075 % of  £387,000,000 is £2,902,500!
And of course all this is just money. You can’t measure the impact on individual lives with figures like this.

I know it’s not that simple. Not everyone with undiagnosed VS turns to crime, and people don’t just turn to crime because of illiteracy.  These figures are just an attempt to indicate something of the scale of the issue: it’s a sketch of an elephant; not a photograph. But the difference this conference will make to a lot of children’s lives is huge.

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