Fears that majority of deaf-blind pupils are missing out on vital support

Written by: HTU | Published:

Nine in 10 deaf-blind children have no chance of getting the professional support they need because they have not been identified by local authorities.

Nine in 10 deaf-blind children have no chance of getting the professional support they need because they have not been identified by local authorities.

And even when a child is identified as being deaf-blind and given an assessment, seven out of 10 still do not get the support they need.

The findings come from a survey of local authority services for deaf-blind and multi-sensory impaired children by charity Sense.

Sense is now calling for the government to ensure deaf-blind children get the support they need in the form of what it terms an “intervenor" – a highly trained professional who works one-to-one with a deaf-blind child to help them play, learn and develop communication while they are growing up.

The research found that local authorities on average are identifying three deaf-blind children per 100,000 head of population, but Sense says that this figure should be more in the region of 31 per 100,000. The Centre for Disability Research has estimated that there are a minimum of 4,000 deaf-blind children in the UK.

The Sense research involved 69 local authorities which had identified 549 deaf-blind children. Of these, 42 per cent had not been given an assessment.

Furthermore, following an assessment, deaf-blind children should receive appropriate support as recommended by their assessor. However, Sense found that only 30 per cent of children given such an assessment were getting one-to-one support, such as an intervenor or communication guide. The research found that out of 316 assessed children, only 94 were getting social services support.

Sense says that too many local authorities still do not have a senior manager whose remit includes ensuring deaf-blind children are getting the support they need.

The findings of the Sense survey were unveiled during a Parliamentary reception on Monday evening (November 12) which was due to be attended by children's minister Edward Timpson.

Steve Rose, head of children's specialist services at Sense, said: “These children are truly unique and Sense recognises that an intervenor's role is a highly specialist one that provides crucial support for deaf-blind children to make sense of the world, learn how to communicate and overcome the isolation caused by deaf-blindness."

The campaign is being backed by The Thick of It actress Rebecca Front, who added: “I am shocked to learn that most deaf-blind children are being left without the professional support they need to develop language and make sense of the world. Surely as a society we cannot leave deaf-blind children unable to connect with their world, and their families alone to cope with the many challenges."

For more information, visit www.sense.org.uk.

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