Spalding MP calls for more support for deaf children in Lincolnshire
During the Conservative Conference in Manchester, the powerful message of a small group of people I had arranged to meet, speaking on behalf of our nation’s 50,000 deaf children, struck a resounding chord.
Our senses connect us to this world in all its majesty. Their absence, temporary or permanent, can leave people feeling isolated and vulnerable.
Here in Lincolnshire, each and every one of our 342 deaf children deserve the very best support, starting in the crucial early years of life when the young develop language.
The fulfilment found in community and family life is made infinitely richer through the use of radio aids – an innovative technological advance enabling meaningful communication.
Though many do not, we are fortunate to live in a local authority that provides radio aids for deaf children to use at home during their formative years.
Similarly, whilst aids cannot fully restore hearing, they are vital to ensure that children are able to make the most of the hearing they have. The children’s audiology service based at Pilgrim Hospital is a crucial resource, supporting families with deaf children across Lincolnshire. I hope that the Prime Minister’s welcome enthusiasm for our National Health Service will help to ensure such services can be expanded across the United Kingdom.
It is striking that, although deafness has no intrinsic impact on a child’s chance to flourish academically, deaf children in the East Midlands are falling a whole grade behind their hearing peers. The solution is clear and pressing – we need additional support for children that find it hard to hear, 78 per cent of whom attend mainstream schools in which they may be the only child with hearing loss in their class.
Through targeted, tailored programmes of assistance, we can and must level the playing field. Lincolnshire County Council should make the recruitment and delivery of additional specialist teachers of the deaf a priority, alongside the provision of an education, health and care plan for every deaf child in Lincolnshire. The Government’s task is to back our councillors by funding all of this.
Making the transition from the world of education to work presents challenges for everyone, but these are magnified for disabled people. The deaf community are twice as likely to be unemployed, with 90 per cent of the parents of deaf children believing that their child’s future job options are limited. There are many ways to quickly and effectively improve outcomes by enabling entry to worthwhile, fulfilling careers.
Educational providers can offer invaluable, dedicated career advice, building the confidence of deaf individuals by informing them of workplace entitlements and available help.
As only 5% of deaf young adults are benefiting from the Access to Work Scheme, the Government should work to raise its profile, alongside schemes such as ‘Disability Confident’, to which I contributed to in Spalding.
We can learn a lot from listening to those who find it hard to hear - by doing so all of us will grow.
- In his last column John shares his misgivings about the Supreme Court judgement.