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Despite newborn screening, deaf children are being failed

Published Date: 10 May 2016

New data shows that the benefits of newborn hearing screening are being lost, with a quarter of parents of deaf babies (25%) not being given the support they need to develop crucial skills to communicate with their children following identification.  

Our ‘Right from the Start’ report, published today, marks the 10 year anniversary of newborn hearing screening in England and looks at the impact of screening and early years services. It highlights widespread problems in early years support for deaf children, leading to a significant skills gap with hearing peers when they start school. 

Most babies born deaf are identified within a few weeks, but many are being let down because they are not getting the right support at this critical development stage. Our report shows:

  • Nearly a third of parents don’t feel they got the support needed to ensure their child made good progress after being identified through newborn screening.
  • A quarter of parents said they didn’t get any general advice on language and communication development, following their deaf child's identification.
  • Over a fifth of parents said they couldn’t access the support they needed from Teachers of the Deaf, who play a pivotal role in the early years and at school.

This comes at a time when numbers of deaf children are rising (up 18% since 2010) but councils are cutting numbers of qualified Teachers of the Deaf (down 4% since 2010). Only a third of deaf children achieve their early learning goals in literacy and writing, compared to three quarters of other children. And NHS England’s Action Plan on Hearing Loss found unacceptable variation in audiology service quality.

Susan Daniels OBE, our Chief Executive, said: “Newborn hearing screening has been happening for ten years, which should mean deaf children and their families get the support they need right from the start. But a decade on, that’s still not happening.

If a child is identified early as being deaf and receives good quality support in their early years, there is no reason they shouldn’t achieve the same as any other child. Today’s report shows widespread problems, from patchy quality of audiology services to limited access to Teachers of the Deaf, which mean we are still a long way from giving deaf children the positive futures they deserve.”

We are calling on the Government, local authorities and health bodies to work together and make a commitment to ensure high quality support is in place as soon as a child is diagnosed as deaf.

Dame Evelyn Glennie, world class percussionist and one of our Vice-Presidents, is supporting us with this campaign. She commented: “Being deaf should never hold you back. The Right from the Start campaign is so important as it is shining a light on what deaf children and young people can achieve with the right support.”

Rebecca Stubbs is mum to profoundly deaf Lucas, 10. She added: “It's always felt like a battle to get the support my son needs and, more importantly, deserves. After Lucas was fitted with his first cochlear implant, our local audiology team simply supplied us with batteries! Where was the follow up? Our Teacher of the Deaf has been very supportive but their time is minimal and we’ve had to fight even to keep that. Lucas is very bright but I worry he won’t reach his potential without the right support.”

Give deaf babies the positive futures they deserve by joining the Right from the Start campaign at www.ndcs.org.uk/rightfromthestart.