In 1972, national representatives of individual Local Optical Committees (LOCs) formed the Central Optical Fund, originally known as the Central (LOC) Fund, funded by a voluntary levy of the NHS Sight Test fee.
The Fund has supported projects that have benefited optometry from NHS matters, GOS fee negotiations, Parliamentary affairs, continuing education and training to developing new community services, public education, forming the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) and the Foresight Project by the Optical Confederation. In the 1980s the Fund partnered with the Association of Optometrists (AOP) to defend the profession in a VAT dispute with the Inland Revenue. The Fund has supported projects for the AOP, Optical Confederation, LOCSU, Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), College of Optometrists, Eyecare Trust, universities and charities.
In 2014 the Fund became a Company Limited by Guarantee, and in 2015 was renamed as the Central Optical Fund with an updated brand identity and website.
In February 1972, by resolution of the Conference of Ophthalmic Optician Representatives of Local Optical Committees (LOCs), the Central (LOC) Fund was formed.
Five LOC committee members were elected as Administrators, to represent five broad geographical areas of England and Wales. A 0.5 % voluntary levy of the NHS Sight Test fee, collected by LOCs, sustained the Fund. The Fund started to work on behalf on the optical profession, and LOCs in particular, by promoting, protecting and developing common optometric interests.
Much of this work was carried out by the “secretariat”, supplied by the Association of Optometrists (AOP). This work spanned NHS matters, Whitley Council services for General Ophthalmic Service fee negotiation and other Parliamentary affairs. In addition, grants were awarded to the Optical Information Council, London Refraction Hospital and other bodies, such as the British Optical Association, to run continuing education and training courses.
In 1980 the profession came under attack from the media and commercial interests. The Fund allocated £20,000 to a defensive response in partnership with the AOP. In later years, Fund was a significant contributor to the defence to Inland Revenue’s (currently known as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) VAT dispute, in a joint coordinated response lead by the AOP.
The Administrators continued to manage the Fund as its founders had envisaged, until developments led them to re-evaluate their role. A statutory levy was initiated by LOCs, payable by all practices, to run local affairs. In 2007, the AOP, Federation of Dispensing Opticians and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians formed the LOC Support Unit (LOCSU), funded by LOCs by an extension of this statutory levy.
Currently, the Fund helps projects promoting, protecting and developing the profession. Like a “Dragon’s Den” for the profession, the Fund is an investor in optometry. It invites and considers applications for funding optometry related projects in England and Wales. It is through these projects, the Fund aims to protect and maintain the sight, and ocular health of the public. Whilst there will be some national calls on its founding objectives, the Fund considers financing imaginative and forward thinking projects which will be useful and vital for the future of optometry.
In July 2014 the Central LOC Fund became a Company Limited by Guarantee, with LOCs as its members, and Administrators becoming Directors.
In 2015, the Fund was renamed as the Central Optical Fund, with an updated brand identity and website.