Deaf children at risk of losing vital services as local councils implement second year of savage cuts


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The Independent Online

Deaf children are at risk of losing vital services as local councils implement a second year of savage cuts, a new report by a deaf children’s charity has warned.

One quarter of England’s councils plan to cut vital support for deaf children this year, according to a report by the National Deaf Children’s Society.

The charity’s report, Stolen Futures, found that one in five councils will cut educational support for deaf children, even though deaf youngsters are already underachieving at school.

A further 50 per cent of councils said they were planning to “review” the way deaf children are helped at school.

Sixteen areas confirmed cuts to Speech and Language therapy that are likely to mean reduced support for deaf children.  

Twenty areas have made cuts to social care that include support for deaf children

Two thirds of councils failed to provide a clear picture of the social care support they provide to deaf children, even though deaf children are at higher risk of suffering from abuse and mental health problems

Jo Campion, Deputy Director of Policy and Campaigns at NDCS, said: “For a second year, deaf children across England are seeing the support they rely on to learn and communicate taken away. We will continue to fight every bad decision we uncover, but until councils are made to abide by the law and stop hoodwinking parents, our efforts will be hampered.

“The Government has set out ambitious reforms for Special Educational Needs support, including for deaf children, but these are inconceivable given the reality of local cuts.   The long-term impact of denying deaf children the support they need will be felt for decades to come – ministers must act now to make sure that deaf children have the bright future they deserve.”

The NDCS report also condemned authorities’ decision-making processes saying that there was a “culture of secrecy” at local councils.

The charity’s said it had uncovered a raft of “alarming practices”, including a failure of all councils planning cuts this year to provide an assessment of the impact this will have on deaf children, as required under the Equality Act.

Two-thirds of councils failed to provide information about when budget decisions were being made and how families could participate in them

Meanwhile, 49 councils broke the law by not providing information about their budgets for deaf children’s support, the charity said.

It warned that parents of deaf children were left powerless to challenge critical decisions about the support their children rely on. The charity called on ministers in the Departments for Education, Communities and Local Government and Health to use ministerial powers to hold councils to account over cuts that are putting deaf children’s futures at risk.

David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Councils take their responsibilities to deaf children very seriously. Services for deaf children, like services for everyone else, are being impacted by the very large cuts to councils – 28 per cent – that have happened since 2010.

“Because services are provided on a bespoke basis for each specific child, it is difficult to carry out a consultation because the service is just used by an individual.

All councils when they set their budgets go through detailed consultations including an equality assessment. I would expect that appropriate levels of consultation would have taken place with all people affected.”