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Coronavirus and support for deaf children – information for families

Published Date: 04 Jun 2020

This blog has been written for families with deaf children. It covers things that parents need to be aware of in the coming days and weeks, such as school closures, access to hearing aid repairs and batteries, and supporting deaf children during the spread of coronavirus.  

This blog will be updated regularly throughout the next few weeks as new information becomes available.

What is the coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect the lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus. Most people will have mild symptoms (dry cough, high temperature) and recover quickly. However, the virus is hospitalising some people and causing death in around one in 100 people. Those most likely to become seriously unwell are the elderly and those who are already unwell with other heath conditions. Children and younger adults tend to have much milder symptoms, but those with severe asthma or weakened immune systems could still have serious complications.

Where can I get more information about the coronavirus?

Information about coronavirus is available from:

Information videos on coronavirus in British Sign Language (BSL) are available from:

The NHS 111 service is available 24 hours a day and can be used by deaf people who use BSL: https://interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111. In addition, SignHealth and and InterpreterNow have set up an on-demand BSL relay service, called BSL Health Access, for deaf people to use in health settings. Separately, deaf young people can also register to send text messages to 999 in an emergency.

Wider information for families is also available from the UK Governments:

Separately, the Northern Ireland Executive has set up a community helpline, available seven days a week:

Finally, the website for your local authority may also have information about coronavirus and support in your area.

School closures and other education settings

The Governments across the UK have announced partial or full closures of nurseries, schools, colleges and universities to help limit the spread of coronavirus. The different governments are taking different approaches to the re-opening of schools, as set out below.

England

Currently, schools are remaining open, as much as possible, for children of key workers and children who are the most vulnerable.

The definition of ‘vulnerable’ children includes those who have an Education, Health and Care plan. Previously, Government advice was that these children should only attend school if they had significant other needs that meant they could not be safely cared for at home. This advice has now changed and the Government now expects and encourages ‘vulnerable’ children to start to return to school now, where appropriate. If this applies to you, you should speak to your child’s school to ask when they expect your child to start to return.

The Government has asked education settings to prepare for a phased re-opening in June for other pupils, as follows:

From the 1st June

  • All early year settings – although some may need to impose a cap on the numbers who can attend.
  • Primary aged pupils who are in reception year, year 1 or year 6 – i.e. those children who started primary school in the last year, or will be moving onto secondary school in the autumn. The Government has indicated that it hopes to allow other primary aged pupils return to school before the end of June.
  • Special schools can re-open more widely to all pupils as they see fit.

From the 15th June

  • Pupils who are in year 10 or 12 will not be returning to school or college full-time – but they may be asked to return for some face-to-face time to support their home learning. This is to help them prepare for exams next year.
  • Specialist post-16 institutions can re-open more widely to all pupils as they see fit.

The Government has said it’s keeping its plans for school re-openings under review. This means that the above plans may change. The Government has also said that not all education settings may be able to re-open to all pupils to the above timetable.  

Before education settings re-open, education settings will be carrying out risk assessments to decide if it is safe for the above children to return. If your child falls into one of the above categories, you should expect your child’s early year setting, school or college to get in touch with details on their plans and if/how your child will return.

In order to limit the spread of coronavirus and keep children and teachers safe, children can expect some changes when they return. These include:

  • Class sizes will be reduced to smaller groups of no more than 15. Some groups may be led by a teaching assistant, working under the supervision of a teacher.
  • There will be limited mixing of groups within the school. Break times are likely to be staggered.
  • Classroom layouts may change.
  • Drop-off and pick-up times are also likely to be staggered.
  • Children will be expected to wash their hands regularly and follow new rules around social distancing.
  • Some education settings may introduce a ‘part-time’ timetable with a mix of onsite and home learning. This means that some children may be asked to come in for part of the day and to learn at home for other parts of the day.
  • Some teachers and teaching assistants may not be able to return to school if they have medical conditions which mean they’re more vulnerable to coronavirus.

The use of face masks in education settings is not recommended by the Government. Exceptions to this are if a child has personal care needs which means protective equipment would normally be used anyway, or if a child develops coronavirus symptoms whilst at the education setting.

If your child receives specialist support in the classroom, it is likely there will be changes to how this is provided.

  • Education settings may want to restrict the number of external visitors coming in. This means it’s likely that Teachers of the Deaf will not be able to carry out face-to-face visits in the same way they did before in many areas. Instead, support and advice may be provided remotely.
  • Teaching assistants or communication support workers may be used differently. For example, they may be asked to ‘lead’ groups within the school. They will also be asked to observe social distancing rules when supporting individual children.
  • There may also be new hygiene restrictions around handling or sharing equipment or devices, such as radio aids. For example, you may be asked to carry out checks on all hearing equipment before your child goes into an education setting, even if this was normally done within the setting. In addition, teachers may be asked to ‘clean’ radio aids before using them. This should be done carefully to avoid damage to the radio aid. The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf have produced advice on this.

If you have any questions or concerns on how this will work in practice, you should speak to the special educational needs co-ordinator at your school and your child’s Teacher of the Deaf. Whilst we recognise the challenges in this area, we encourage professionals to continue to be creative and flexible in ensuring that deaf children receive the support they need, as much as possible.

Even if your child falls into the category of those who can return to school, they should not attend school if:

  • They are displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
  • They have a medical condition which means they’ve been asked to ‘shield’ from others.
  • Someone in your house has been asked to shield, and you are concerned that your child will not be able to follow or understand rules around social distancing.

If you are concerned that your child should not be attending school for health reasons, you should seek medical advice and discuss your concerns with the education setting.

Children are encouraged to return to education, as appropriate and if requested by the education setting. However, parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time.  

More information is available in the following government guidance:

Wales

Schools in Wales will reopen to all pupils from the 29 June, with the summer term extended by a week - therefore ending on 27 July.

  • Each school will implement a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.
  • In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.
  • There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.
  • Pupils are expected to attend school. However, families will not be fined if they do not send their children to school this term.
  • Children and teachers who are shielding or at more risk, including pregnant workers, are not expected to return this term. This also applies for pupils and teachers who live with relatives who are shielding.

In the meantime, schools are expected to remain open, as much as possible, for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Further education colleges have been asked to prepare to re-open for  face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners.

More information from the Welsh Government can be found here. You can also check the website of your local authority for up to date information on the plans for reopening in your area.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

Education settings will remain closed for the foreseeable future – except for children of key workers and children who are the most vulnerable.

Unless a deaf child has significant other additional needs that mean they need ongoing personal care or they need significant social care support (and are not the child of a key worker), it is likely they will have been asked to stay at home to help limit the spread of coronavirus.

More information is available on the UK Government websites:

Guidance on essential ‘key worker’ roles can be found on the UK Government websites:

In Northern Ireland, the Government is funding additional emergency childcare provision to care for vulnerable children and children of key workers, using a more restricted definition of ‘key workers’.

In Scotland, the Government has said that schools will start to re-open from the 11th August, depending on scientific advice. They have also said that:

  • There will likely be a blended approach – where children are taught at school part of the time and otherwise at home for the other.
  • Classroom layouts may change.
  • Drop-off and pick-up times are also likely to be staggered.
  • Children will be expected to wash their hands regularly and follow new rules around social distancing.

More information is available from the Scottish Government.

Support at home

If your child is not attending school then we expect that teachers will prepare work that is sent home or made available via the school’s homework app. Some teachers (particularly of older pupils and students) are offering or signposting to remote or online lessons whilst children are at home. If you have any concerns about how accessible this distance learning will be for your child, have a chat with their teacher or Teacher of the Deaf. This way, you can ensure that whatever method of contact is used, your child can access it and be included.

Some things to think about:

  • Are online videos being subtitled? For example, BBC Bitesize are subtitling their new daily lessons whilst many of the videos at the Oak National Academy are subtitled and BSL interpreted. For online teaching, some software (e.g. Google Hangouts) is available with automatic translation – however, the feedback we have from young people is that the reliability of this can vary.
  • Even if your child does not usually have communication support in class, they may require it for accessing online teaching. Remote speech-to-text support and BSL interpreting are now both well-established and easily accessible. Your Teacher of the Deaf can help with exploring options for funding this.
  • Ask your child’s school or Teacher of the Deaf about bringing their radio aid home. For many deaf children, radio aids will allow them to continue their learning and access sound on their computers, tablets or mobiles. It may also help them to keep in touch with family and friends and avoid feelings of isolation.
  • Find out how the school, support staff and your Teacher of the Deaf is planning on keeping in touch with students while the school is closed. You might like to suggest ways which your child already uses and that work well for them. Options include Facebook groups, Skype video calls or webchats, FaceTime, Zoom conference calls, Google Hangout, Microsoft Team, etc. Although aimed at deaf adults in the workplace, a blog on The Limping Chicken website helpfully summarises the different options available for video calls.

In Northern Ireland, the Sensory Service has published information on how they will be supporting families. The Education Authority in Northern Ireland has also published information about education for parents in British and Irish Sign Language.

Take a look at our website for some top tips on home learning. You can also download our Helping your deaf child to learn resources for families.

Guidance to support home learning can also be found on the UK Government websites: 

The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf website also includes a list of useful resources for home learning.

Exams

All school and college examinations have been cancelled across the UK. Any final grades will be calculated using a range of evidence, including teacher assessment, coursework and mock exam results. Any final grade will also have the same status as any grades given to pupils in normal years.

At the moment, if students are not happy with their results when they are released in August, they can take written exams or assessments in the autumn. However, this might mean a young person not being able to move to the education provider of their choice in September. If you fear that your child will not get the grades they need, it is important they have a plan B and have thought about what courses they could do as an alternative. We advise you not to postpone thinking about this until August.

The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf is encouraging Teachers of the Deaf to offer their services to schools and colleges to offer advice on what grades their deaf students would get when reasonable adjustments are made to exams/assessments. If your child has a Teacher of the Deaf, you can ask the Teacher of the Deaf if they are talking to your child’s school/college at the moment about your child’s calculated exam grades.

Further information on examinations and assessments can be found on the UK Government websites:

A similar approach is being taken for vocational qualifications. Teachers will be asked to calculate an expected grade, drawing from a range of evidence including results of previous assessments taken. However, there will be some qualifications where some kind of assessment will still be required. This will generally be for qualifications where very specific skills are required to enter a particular profession.

Further information is available from the UK Government websites:

We understand that some universities are carrying out assessments/examinations remotely. Universities should ensure that any such assessments are accessible (including provision of extra time if that had been previously agreed), so that deaf students are not unreasonably disadvantaged. This is a legal requirement under the Equality Act. If this is not possible, the assessment/examination should be deferred.

More information about the Equality Act and deaf children and young people’s rights in education can be found on our website.

Moving on from school and college  

If your child was due to leave school/college this summer, you should not postpone making preparations for moving on to what they want to do next - whether that is college, university or work-based training. To do nothing now would risk a young person not having their education in place for the autumn or being left without support.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care plan, statement of special educational needs or a coordinated support plan, a review meeting should have taken place to plan next steps. Whilst local authorities may have reduced levels of staff at the moment but we expect them to prioritise young people who are expecting to leave their school this summer. For young people in England and Wales, it is important that their new education provider is named on their plan/statement. The legal deadline for this to have happened is the 31st March.

Review meetings can be held online. Additional communication support should be provided as needed to ensure deaf young people can fully access this meeting and feed into the plan. Young people and their families should still expect to receive all relevant paperwork in advance to prepare for the meeting.

Colleges are currently accepting applications and deaf young people should still try and reach the learning support/disability teams to talk to staff about their arrangements for the next academic year through online meetings (with communication support provided by the college if necessary).

Teachers of the Deaf or other professionals who normally support transitions to college or university should still seek to support where possible remotely.

If a young person is moving onto higher education this September then they can contact the disability advisor for their preferred university from which they have received a conditional offer. They can request a meeting to talk about the support that needs to be in place by next September. If communication support is required for the meeting then the university should set this up.

If a young person is wanting to visit universities to decide which universities to list on their UCAS form next year then they will have to wait until this is possible. In the meantime, they can check out the information different universities have on their website for disabled students. If there is a lot of useful info on the website for disabled young people and accessible materials (e.g. subtitled videos) then this will probably be a good sign.

Deaf young people expecting to start higher education in September should still be applying for Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) if they require any communication support or technology in higher education. It may take longer than normal to obtain the medical evidence of deafness required for the application process which needs to come from a GP or audiologist. DSA assessment centres should still be open and offering DSA assessments remotely through video or phone, providing communication support when needed.

Careers advice

Careers advisors may be less accessible now to support young people with making decisions about what to study next or where they want to work. However, schools, colleges (and careers organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) can still make arrangements for careers advisors to be accessed online. Young people can also use webchat to contact national careers services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Young people can also find careers information on our website on work and careers for deaf people.

Children with Education, Health and Care plans or statements of special educational needs

New laws (the Coronavirus Act 2020) have been passed that allow local authorities in England and Northern Ireland to effectively ‘suspend’ a child’s statement or Education, Health and Care plan. Instead, local authorities have to do their best (to use “reasonable endeavours”) to meet the support needs set out in a plan or statement.

The suspension of statements or plans is time-limited and the Governments in England and Northern Ireland are required to issue a new notice every month if they think local authorities need this flexibility.

The Coronavirus Act allows local authorities in Wales to do the same. However, at the time of writing, these powers are not in force. If you live in Wales, your statement still has the same legal force that it did before.

What does reasonable endeavours mean and what can I expect from my education setting/local authority?

The following section applies to England only. Information for families in Northern Ireland about this issue is available on our website.

Your child’s Education, Health and Care plan sets out the support that your child legally requires. The Coronavirus Act means that local authorities and education settings, for a short while, do not have to meet these legal requirements. Instead, they meet use their “reasonable endeavours” to provide what is needed.

There is no single straightforward definition of what reasonable endeavours means – and what is reasonable in one situation may not be reasonable in another. There will be a range of different factors to be considered in deciding if a setting or local authority has done all they could reasonably do.

In addition, coronavirus is a crisis where, for all families, public health needs must take precedence. For example, speech and language therapists are being redeployed to provide critical care in health in many areas. One-to-one support may therefore no longer be possible in many cases. Separately, a large number of specialist staff may be unwell themselves or forced to self-isolate as a result of coronavirus.

The Government has issued some guidance around this but ultimately, the final arbiter of what is reasonable would be a judge in a court or Tribunal. However, we would expect to see the following approaches taken when considering what reasonable endeavours can be put in place:

  • Education settings and local authorities must look at each case individually to see what could be reasonably provided if what is normally provided or required is no longer possible. Specific levels of need or vulnerability should be taken into account.  There should be no ‘blanket’ policies or wholesale cancellation of support, plans or statements across an area.
  • Education settings and local authorities should work with families as much as possible to agree any changes. Families may have their own suggestions and ideas for how things could be done differently.
  • If what is normally provided or required is no longer possible, families should be given the reasons for this in writing, along with an explanation of what reasonable endeavours the local authority have used to ensure that the required support is still, as much as possible, provided, along with details of what will be provided instead
  • A consideration of how to respond to the individual needs of children in creative and flexible ways, as many education settings and local authorities already are. This includes drawing on the wider skills of other staff or other families as appropriate.
  • Whether any reasonable endeavours themselves are likely to be accessible to deaf children and young people. It’s important to recognise that the needs of deaf children will vary – what’s accessible to one child, may not be accessible to another.

Whilst each individual case is different, below gives some examples of alternative arrangements that could be put into place that we believe could fit the criteria of ‘reasonable endeavours’:

  • Where deaf children and young people are known to have good use of their hearing for understanding spoken language, and/or known to have good lip-reading skills, using video conferencing instead of telephone appointments
  • Providing remote communication support as needed. For example, if providing online teaching or doing any kind of online assessment, we would expect the education setting/local authority to consider funding the cost of a remote speech to text reporter or a BSL interpreter. Similarly, if a deaf child uses a communication support worker in the classroom, exploring if this support can still be provided remotely or in different ways to support a deaf child can complete homework tasks, etc.
  • Provision of radio aids in the home. Individual bespoke insurance arrangements can be purchased if this is a concern. In any event, we would take the view that the need to ensure continued access to learning reasonably outweighs any insurance concerns.
  • If staff can no longer provide support remotely, providing a range of suggested, optional activities or interventions that families can chose to do if they are able to. Alternatively, considering if alternative staff who have some knowledge but not necessarily the right qualifications can be brought in to provide support.
  • Where appropriate and where it can be managed effectively, facilitating or making use of peer to peer support opportunities among families.

The Government in England has also relaxed some of the legal timescales around Education, Health and Care plans. For example, if you had requested an assessment for a plan, the local authority had to get back to you within six weeks with a decision. New laws have been passed which effectively suspend these and other timescales if the spread of coronavirus makes it difficult to meet the original timescale.

Instead, local authorities must instead meet their requirements as soon as "reasonably practical”. Again, there is no legal definition of what is reasonably practical. However, if you feel that a delay is unreasonable or is for reasons unrelated to coronavirus, or if you feel that a delay will cause significant harm to your child, you should discuss this with your local authority. 

This is a temporary change. The Government has said that the previous legal timescales will come back into force on the 25th September.

It’s important to remember that none of these new laws give local authorities the power to amend the contents of a plan. This means that, once any suspension is lifted, your child’s plan will have the same legal status that it did before. You also still have the right to request an assessment for a plan.

Local authorities also still have to carry out annual reviews of your child’s plan as soon as reasonably practical. Whilst the review may take a different form (e.g. it may be carried out virtually), the Government has stressed that young people must still be at the centre of the process. For deaf children, this may mean ensuring that remote communication support is provided to enable them to participate.

If your child is due to change schools this year, go to college or start an apprenticeship, the local authority should already have carried out a transfer review (by the 31st March). The Government has made clear there is no change to the statutory deadline for this and, if there has been a delay, they need to be finalised as a priority.

More information about these changes to the law is available in government guidance. You can also contact our Helpline for any information or advice on what these changes mean for your child.

Tribunals

In terms of the work of Tribunals that hear appeals on statements or plans, the different Tribunals in the nations are currently taking different approaches:

  • England - the Special Educational and Disability Tribunal hearings will continue by paper or by telephone and (where the technology permits) by video starting on Monday 23 March 2020. More information about this can be found on the IPSEA website.
  • Northern Ireland - we understand that the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal is operating on a limited basis due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Staff are able to process post and respond to e-mails. Parental SEN Appeals and Disability Discrimination Claims should still be filed by parents as usual and these are being registered and processed. Cases which are ready for hearing can be heard remotely by having a hearing on the papers alone; or by teleconference or secure video-link.
  • Scotland - Health and Education First-Tier Tribunals are being postponed until at least the end of June, unless the case is urgent. Any urgent hearings will be conducted by telephone.
  • Wales – we understand that the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales are currently looking into setting up virtual hearings.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants

Audiology services are working hard to ensure that they can still offer telephone support and provide repairs, new earmoulds and batteries as needed. Most are unable to provide routine face-to-face appointments at the moment, but audiologists are taking decisions on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether they have facilities, staff and personal protective equipment available, and what the level of COVID-19 risk is locally at the time. Do not go to the audiology clinic unless you have spoken to your audiologist first and they have asked you to attend. 

You can find the contact details of your audiology department at the top of any letters/reports they have sent you, inside the cover of your child’s “brown book” (“yellow book” in Scotland), or on their website or social media channels.

Repairs

All audiology services offer a postal repair service. Make sure you remove the battery before putting the hearing aid in the post. If it is safe to do so, they may also have a box at clinic reception where faulty hearing aids can be left for repair (a friend or family member could drop it off for you if you can’t go yourself). You will then be able to collect the hearing aid the following day, or it may be dropped off to your home, or posted back to you. Phone, text or email your audiology clinic to find out how to get a repair locally.

Take a look at our blogs on caring for your child’s hearing aids at home and troubleshooting technology for some hints, tips and resources in this area.

Batteries

It is sensible to make sure you have a supply of batteries in advance and the NHS will continue to supply at least two packets per hearing aid at any one time. Don’t wait until you have run out to request new ones. Call or email your audiology clinic and they will arrange to post new batteries out to you.  

In an emergency, if you do run out and can’t get replacements from your usual NHS service, you can buy hearing aid batteries from Boots and other chemists, high street hearing aid dispensers or opticians.

Earmoulds

New earmoulds for children are being made without impressions when possible. Manufacturers are re-printing moulds (based on stored scans of impressions) where available, adding a small percentage for growth and then posting to the family. Where scans are not available, services may ask you to post in one of your child’s earmoulds at a time (so that they are not without amplification altogether) and a remake can then be made from this. These are not perfect solutions, but are working for some children. Where impressions are considered necessary, services will try and see children in this situation if they possibly can. Contact your audiologist for advice if your child needs them.

NHS and routine surgery

The NHS will not be carrying out any routine surgery in the next couple of months. This is to free up both staff capacity and beds for those people who are seriously ill with the coronavirus, and also to protect both patients and staff from unnecessary contact with the virus. Routine surgery includes grommet surgery for glue ear, bone anchored hearing aids and cochlear implant surgery on older children.

The British Cochlear Implant Group has written to NHS Trusts asking them to consider cochlear implant surgery in babies and young children as neurolinguistic emergencies. It has also reminded them of the risk of cochlear ossification in those who have had meningitis, asking that they should still be implanted as priority cases. Each hospital will make the decision of whether to go ahead with cochlear implant surgery on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether they have facilities, staff and personal protective equipment available, and what the level of coronavirus risk is locally at the time. It is likely that routine surgeries will resume at different times across the country depending on the local risk at the time.

If you think changes to surgical priorities is likely to impact your child, have a chat with your doctor and audiologist to find out if there are any other options (such as temporary hearing aids if grommet surgery is not possible) and if there is anything else that can be done to support your child in the meantime.

For children who have already had surgery, cochlear implant centres have been bringing forward appointments and continuing to work their way through switch-ons. There are a few children left to see, but teams are planning to see them in the next week or so. Teams will carry out all follow-ups remotely where possible. 

Face masks

Communication for virtually all deaf children and young people, including those who use sign language, relies in part on being able to see someone’s face clearly – whether this is for lip-reading, understanding facial expressions or for understanding non-verbal communication more widely (e.g. seeing whether someone is smiling or looks upset).

Face marks can have the effect of obscuring speech, making it harder for deaf children to make use of any residual hearing they have.

Face masks therefore present specific challenges for deaf children and young people.

They are already being used in some situations for public health reasons (for example, in hospital settings). Governments in England, Northern Ireland are now also advising that people consider covering their face when in enclosed spaces (for example, such as when shopping or using public transport).

In England, where schools are starting to re-open, the use of face masks in education settings is not recommended by the Government, except in specific circumstances (for example, where a child demonstrates symptoms of coronavirus whilst at school).

Where it is necessary to wear face masks or coverings to comply with public health guidance, we encourage families and professionals to be flexible and creative in how they communicate with deaf children and young people, depending on the resources they have to hand and the situation they find themselves in. Options might include:

  • using alternative forms of communication – such as writing things down or via text messages, depending on the individual needs of the child
  • dictation or translation apps can sometimes provide a speech to text option when out and about – they do not always work perfectly, particularly if someone has a strong accent or if speech is muffled
  • using face masks with clear panels where the mouth can be seen or, better still, using face visors/shields. Our website includes information about how you can make DIY clear face masks at home if you would like to do so. Such DIY face masks would be for use by the general public, and not for use in health settings.
  • ensuring the listening environment is as quiet as possible and making use of any other hearing technology used by a child (such as a radio aid)
  • communicating via a window/glass panel
  • considering the need for face-to-face meeting, and whether a video call could work as an alternative for individual deaf children
  • temporarily removing the face mask and communicating within the current safety guidance (e.g. ensuring hand washing before and after, not touching the face when the mask is removed, remaining within the social distancing guidelines of staying 2 metres apart).

These steps will help ensure that deaf children and young people can continue to communicate with others around them and access key information at this challenging time.

We have produced an infographic video that summarises the above top tips.

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of two or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary school age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

Face masks or coverings may also present particular challenges to deaf children with speech impediments and/or facial disfigurements. More widely, it would significantly change the way that all children communicate. Some deaf children may therefore need emotional support and patience to get used to this. We will signpost to any useful resources we find on this.

We are calling on UK Governments to review the commissioning and availability of clear face masks.

You can read more about this issue in our separate blog on face masks.

Disability benefits

It should still be possible to apply to the Department for Work and Pensions for Disability Living Allowance (DLA - for under 16s) or Personal Independence Payments (PIP - for 16s and over). However, there may be delays in handling your application. If successful, any benefits will be backdated to when the application was first made.

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that if your child’s DLA or PIP was due to be reviewed or reassessed in the next month, this will be postponed and your child will continue to receive their benefit at the same level as they do now.

In addition, all face-to-face assessments for PIP are being postponed for the next three months. Instead, officials will look at written information that’s already been provided, as well as gathering further evidence from other professionals. Young people should be contacted by the health assessment provider if they had an assessment booked in the next few weeks.

It is possible that the health assessment provider may ask to speak with your child over the telephone to collect further evidence. We have asked the Department for Work and Pensions to consider the appropriateness of this for deaf young people. If this happens to your child, we encourage you to contact the health assessment provider to explain that your child cannot use the phone (if this is the case) and to agree an alternative approach. This might include a video call, jointly with the assessor and an interpreter (using technology such as Zoom), or a webchat. Please contact our Helpline if this situation arises.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal is still considering any appeals on decisions made about your child’s DLA or PIP. Similarly, in Northern Ireland, the Appeals Service is still considering appeals. These will be carried out by telephone or video. If you have a hearing scheduled in the coming few weeks, please call Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) on 0300 123 1142 or (for Northern Ireland) the Appeals Service on 0208 9054 4000 to clarify the status of your hearing. As yet, it is unclear how these will be made accessible to deaf young people. Please contact our Helpline for support and advice on this.

Where families receive carers’ allowance, if they are temporarily unable to care for their child normally because they or their child have coronavirus symptoms, the Government has said this will not be treated as a ‘break’ in caring responsibilities for the purpose of this benefit. More information on this is available on the Contact website.

Supporting and reassuring children

We all know how important it is to look after our children's physical health, but their mental health is just as important. Many children are feeling anxious about current events and changes to their usual routine. Have a look at our webpages for ideas on how to support your child's emotional wellbeing. You can also take a look at Public Health England’s guidance to families on promoting children’s mental health and wellbeing at this time.

Deaf young people can also look at information about coronavirus on The Buzz website.

Remember that “social distancing” should not mean social isolation. It is important to our health and well-being that we stay connected with friends and family, even when we can’t do this in person. Support may also be available through local groups for parents of deaf children where you live. Find out what support may be available in your area.

Also consider social media to connect with others and the use of video to communicate with friends and family using Skype, Facetime, Zoom or similar.

You might also like to download and read a free storybook created for children under the age of seven about the coronavirus. The book offers the opportunity to discuss the range of emotions arising from the current situation with young children and is available in different languages. The World Health Organisation has also created a story book for children aged 6-11 years, which is also available in different languages.

Online safety

At this time, deaf children and young people are more likely to be using social media and virtual communication to keep in touch with others. This will be an important way of helping deaf young people to feel less isolated and to support their wellbeing. Now is a good time to remind your child how to keep themselves safe online.

Get in touch

There are a wide range of other issues that will affect deaf children and their families and we will keep this post updated with any new advice. We are keen to hear from you about any other issues and welcome your advice on how you are handling particular challenges. You can share these with us by contacting [email protected].

And remember, if you would like information or advice about anything related to your child, please do get in touch with our Helpline.

Last updated: 27 May 1pm. We aim to update this blog as soon as any new information is made available.