Nearly a fifth of local authorities in England have cut education services for deaf children, according to new research.
The figures obtained by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) are the latest evidence of cuts to services being carried out by councils across the country, as the government’s deficit reduction plan begins to bite.
The charity also said it would back legal action by parents of deaf children facing cuts to the services they receive.
The NDCS released the figures as it launched its Save Services for Deaf Children campaign.
And it has written to Michael Gove, the education secretary, asking him to launch an investigation into the cuts.
The NDCS has information so far from 141 of 152 local authorities in England. Of those 141, 28 have confirmed cuts to education services for deaf children, such as specialist “teachers of the Deaf” and teaching assistants. Another 24 councils are at “high risk” of making cuts.
The charity also said that 96 per cent of the councils making cuts had breached their legal duty under equality legislation to consult parents.
Susan Daniels, chief executive of NDCS, said she was “appalled” by the cuts, and added: “The support being taken away is not an optional extra, it is absolutely crucial for deaf children’s learning and development, particularly as they are already underachieving compared to other children.
“We are so alarmed about the long-term impact of these cuts that we will support families in legally challenging reductions to services their child receives.”
A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: “Local authorities have a statutory duty to identify children’s special educational needs and provide the services to meet them – no ifs and buts.
“We’ve protected schools’ cash levels nationally and made sure local authorities can maintain [specialist]SEN provision – the best possible settlement considering the dire public finances.
“We expect local authorities [to]target resources at the most vulnerable children, who need the most support – including deaf and hearing-impaired children.”
He said Gove would respond to the letter “in due course”.
Meanwhile, the charities Dyslexia Action and RNIB have secured DfE funding to set up a website to provide print-disabled young people with downloadable curriculum materials in accessible formats.
The website will enable children with dyslexia, visual impairments or other specific learning difficulties to access textbooks and other published materials such as set texts, images and worksheets.
Kevin Geeson, chief executive of Dyslexia Action, said: “At the moment many children wait, sometimes for months, for the curriculum material they need, the inevitable result being that they fall behind and are increasingly marginalised.
“This will give teachers some of the materials they need to help their students and will level the playing field a bit more for children with hidden disabilities and specific learning difficulties.”
10 May 2011