Families of deaf children are being uprooted from their homes as cuts in education spending turn provision of services into a postcode lottery, according to new research.
One in ten families interviewed by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) said they had been forced to move to get the support they needed for their children. In addition, one in four thought they might have to do so in future – although one in three of these felt the move would be too difficult and stressful because of the current economic climate.
In one case, that of ten-year-old Miles Baker, the child has had to move schools four times in the past four years before ending up in a specialist boarding school costing the authorities £35,000 a year. His parents also had to move from Hampshire to Lincolnshire to secure adequate facilities.
“It seems as though everything has been a battle,” said his father Andrew. “It shouldn’t have to be like that.”
Miles first had to move when it was announced the impaired hearing unit at his school was closing and all facilities for the deaf would be concentrated in one school which was more than 12 miles away. His parents eventually decided to move him again – this time to a school in Lincolnshire – when they realised the support on offer was not as good as in the previous school.
“He was doing really well – he had one on one communication tuition and was making really good progress,” said Mr Baker. Eventually, though, as he improved so support was withdrawn with the result that his parents were told that he had only made two months’ worth of progress in his speaking in a two year period.
He is now at a boarding school in Yorkshire which is a two-and-a-half hour drive from his home. “Miles absolutely loves it,” said his father. “He is now in a school where every child is hearing impaired – his confidence has grown and he shines there.
“However, it is costing the local authority £35,000 and – if he had received the support earlier – he could have remained in a mainstream school.”
Jo Campion, deputy director of policy and campaigns at the NCDS, said; “Deaf children are losing out as budget cuts are made and are facing a postcode lottery of support which many families are powerless to stop.”
Ministers stress the overall budget has not been cut but local authorities say they just do not have enough money to top up spending on special needs as they have done in the past.
The National Deaf Children’s Society needs to collect 100,000 signatures on its Stolen Futures e-petition, which calls on the Government to stop cuts to deaf children’s services, in order for the issue to be debated in parliament. Sign the petition at www.ndcs.org.uk/stolen