All children in Aotearoa New Zealand are eligible for a number of eye checks from birth through to 12 years of age as part of the Well Child/Tamariki Ora service.
Key points about eye checks for children
- The Well Child/Tamariki Ora service offers free health visits and support to all families for children from around 6 weeks up to 5 years of age. This includes checking your child's vision (sight).
- Your child will also have their distance vision checked at school when they are 11 or 12 (Year 7).
- If the screening picks up a vision problem, your child will be referred for a full assessment.
- If you have concerns about your child's vision or hearing at any time, take your child for an assessment.
- If your child does have a vision problem, finding it as early as possible is good for their learning and development.
Eye checks at birth
At birth your baby will be screened for several serious eye conditions. If there are any concerns, they will be referred to an eye specialist. Your Well Child/Tamariki Ora provider will check your child's vision at regular intervals from 6 weeks to 5 years of age.
Eye checks before school
The B4 School Check is the final Well Child/Tamariki Ora check before your child starts school. Most of the check is carried out by a B4 School Check nurse, but vision and hearing technicians will test your child’s eyesight and hearing. The eye check screens for lazy eye (amblyopia).
To find out how to contact your local B4 School Check coordinator, visit the B4 School Check website or phone Plunketline on 0800 933 922.
Eye checks at Year 7
Your child will have their distance vision checked at school when they are 11 or 12. If the screening picks up a vision problem, your child will be referred for a full assessment.
Screening tests will not pick up all vision problems
It is important to remember that screening tests will not pick up all vision problems, and may not tell you if your child needs glasses.
Please contact your healthcare provider for advice if you or your child’s education provider has concerns regarding their eyesight. Symptoms of visual problems may include frequent headaches, screwing eyes up or tilting head to see, clumsiness or difficulties with reading and learning.
Is there any support to pay for glasses?
The Ministry of Health has a child spectacle subsidy for glasses. This is managed by Enable New Zealand and covers the whole of New Zealand.
The spectacles (glasses) subsidy can help with the costs of your child’s:
- eye patches
You may be eligible for the subsidy if you or your child has a current community services card (Work and Income) or a high use health card (Ministry of Health).
Other options for funding support
Work and Income has negotiated with some optometrists and opticians to supply glasses to people using the hardship assistance to pay for them. This is called the better deal for glasses initiative. You may also be able to get a loan from Work and Income for glasses.
Free vision checks for children Ministry of Health, NZ
Hearing and vision checks KidsHealth, NZ
Well Child/Tamariki Ora schedule Plunket, NZ
B4 School Check – key contacts Ministry of Health, NZ
Childhood vision development Patient Info, UK
|Dr Arna Letica has worked as a GP for over 13 years, with particular interests in women's and children's health. She is currently focusing on non-clinical roles, including working as a medical assessor.|