Can I get support for learning British Sign Language (BSL)?

Mum and daughter chat outside using British Sign Language (BSL).

Funding for learning British Sign Language (BSL)

Some local authorities offer funding for places on accredited courses from local providers. However, funding does not always cover assessment fees.

If you live in England and your child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan they and your family may be given the option to use a  Special Educational Needs (SEN) Personal Budget Budget (also known as ‘individual budget’ or ‘direct payment’) to buy in support you need. This could be used for sign language tuition, for example. However, at present, there are few examples of deaf children receiving Personal Budgets. 

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Support for learning British Sign Language (BSL) from your local authority

Your Teacher of the Deaf will be able to provide information about what is provided through your local authority.

The type and level of support provided by local authorities for parents to learn BSL varies greatly but can include:

  • home tuition for families from a Teacher of the Deaf or a sign language tutor/deaf role model
  • Introduction to BSL classes aimed at families, Family Sign Language courses or similar introductory courses for parents of young deaf children
  • setting up free Level 1 or 2 BSL classes for families.

Other services local authorities might provide include:

  • lending BSL resources such as books and DVDs
  • family support workers
  • groups for families and children to practice BSL
  • liaising with other local organisations who can provide support.

Local offer (England only)

If your local authority does not provide any courses or funding they are still legally obliged to provide information, as part of their Local Offer, to families about providers in the local area, who offer BSL courses. This information should be available on your local authority’s website.

View our Local Offer information to learn more about Local Offers and how you can provide feedback to your local authority if you are unhappy with their Local Offer. 

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Social care provision for learning British Sign Language (BSL)

Deaf children and parents or carers of deaf children are entitled to an assessment of their needs by children’s social care if they request one. 

The Children Act 1989 allows for children’s social care to provide almost any services to a disabled child or their parents/carers if the assessment has shown that a service is necessary to “safeguard and promote a child’s welfare”. This could include paying for parents/carers and extended family members to access sign language classes or communication support. 

Our webpage Know Your Rights: Getting support from your local council provides information specific to each UK nation about how to approach your local authority or social services for support.

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