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Poor provision for deaf children is forcing families to move

By Joe Lepper

| 04 January 2013

One in ten families of deaf children have been forced to move due to poor quality local support and cuts to services, according to a survey.

Deaf schoolchildren

Parents are prepared to move hundreds of miles to find suitable support for their deaf children, according to the NDCS survey. Image: Alex Deverill

The survey of 893 parents of deaf children, by the National Deaf Children’s Society, also found that around a quarter are considering moving to get the support they need.

In some cases the charity found parents were prepared to move hundreds of miles in search of support, such as for teachers of the deaf.

But a third said moving would be impossible for financial reasons. In addition, some families found services were being cut after they had moved.

This latest survey is part of NDCS’s Stolen Futures campaign against cuts to deaf children’s services. Last year the charity revealed a third of councils had made cuts to such services.

NDCS deputy director of policy and campaigns Jo Campion said: “When we asked families completing our survey how they felt about the cuts to the services their deaf children rely on, they used words such as ‘terrifying’ and ‘vulnerable’.

“This, combined with the fact that families are already feeling forced to move to get the support their children need, is a worrying indictment of what is happening to deaf children and the effect this is having on their families across England.”

She called on the government to ensure services for deaf children are maintained.

Latest government figures show that 60 per cent of deaf children are currently failing to get five GCSEs grade A*- C, compared with 30 per cent of their peers.

Among those to be surveyed by NDCS was Andrew Baker, whose 10-year-old son Miles is deaf.

He says the family moved from Hampshire to Lincolnshire in 2006 after the specialist school Miles attended closed.

However, the family have once again faced cuts including the axing of one-to-one communication at his primary school in Lincolnshire. After moving schools twice in Lincolnshire he now attends a specialist boarding school in the county.

Mr Baker said: “Moving to Lincolnshire hasn’t worked out particularly well for us. We shouldn’t have had to do that. It’s rather like the NHS and their postcode lottery, it seems to be the same for medical and educational services. Nothing seems universal anymore but care for children should be universal. The government and professionals don’t seem to understand the needs of deaf children.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Councils have a statutory duty to identify children’s special educational needs and provide the services to meet them. We’ve protected schools' cash levels nationally and made sure local authorities can maintain specialist SEN provision.”

She added that forthcoming SEN reforms would improve support on offer to families.

The Children and Families Bill, which is due to be introduced in parliament this month, is to include a duty on councils to publish details of how services are working together to integrate support and offer families personal budgets.

Michelle White, team manager with responsibility for Lincolnshire County Council's sensory education and support service, said: "We don't believe that services for children with hearing loss are less than adequate or poorly funded in Lincolnshire. 

"However, we are extremely sorry for the experiences in this particular situation and will be contacting the family to discuss further".

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