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A parent’s views on a pandemic: telling the Parliament inquiry about the impact of Coronavirus on deaf children

Published Date: 15 Apr 2020
Photo: Ann with her son, Daniel

Ann is Mum to Daniel (14) who is profoundly Deaf and a full British Sign Language (BSL) user.

Since Daniel’s school closed, I haven’t had time for lock-down boredom. We have tried to keep things fairly relaxed at home but, like many parents, we have taken on the challenge of filling the days with educational activities to supplement the work set by school.

The Easter holidays and a break from schoolwork have given me time for another challenge - submitting evidence to a parliamentary inquiry. This may seem an uninspiring task for parents but it’s worth considering if you are worried about the impact of lost schooling on deaf children, especially if your child has lost some of the specialist support normally delivered in school.

The Women and Equalities Committee is concerned that people with ‘protected characteristics’ may be more significantly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. The committee is now inviting people to send in evidence to its inquiry - https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/94/unequal-impact-coronavirus-covid19-and-the-impact-on-people-with-protected-characteristics/

At first glance this all looks quite daunting. Not exactly parent friendly language - what even is a ‘protected characteristic’? For simplicity’s sake, deafness can be considered a protected characteristic (The Equality Act protects those with disability). Parents have an opportunity to make sure the inquiry recognises the impact of Coronavirus on deaf children by submitting evidence themselves or helping the National Deaf Children’s Society Campaigns team gather evidence to submit. 

The inquiry wants to hear people’s experiences and wants to know what can be improved as the Covid-19 measures are periodically reviewed. They provide a few questions to consider (it’s useful to have these to hand when writing a response) though it isn’t necessary to respond to every question. The bulk of my submission covered the specific struggles for Daniel as a young deaf BSL user during the Covid-19 outbreak, for example:

  • Impact on providing specialist support for Deaf children

Specialist support (e.g. Speech and Language Therapies (SALT), direct support from a Teacher of the Deaf, Deaf role models and Communication Support Workers) is delivered in school.

  • Difficulties in delivering support for deaf children remotely

Our local authority had little time to plan how to deliver specialist services remotely. This is important for BSL users who need a means of video contact to communicate with support staff (and an even bigger issue for children whose parents are not fluent BSL users to translate/clarify schoolwork if needed).

  • School work may not be adapted for Deaf learners

Schools will be setting work for all children to complete at home, which may not be adapted by a Teacher of the Deaf. Remote lessons, e.g. using video recordings of lessons, create another issue - do they include captions and/or BSL translation for deaf learners?

  • Social Isolation

Many deaf children are the only deaf child in their mainstream school and may not be able to chat to friends using the phone. Another issue may be isolation for deaf BSL users whose parents cannot sign fluently at home.

  • Lack of accessible resources for deaf children

Whilst schools are closed, there have been some fantastic home-schooling resources on the internet and social media but many of these are inaccessible for deaf children via captions or BSL. There are few BSL resources, particularly for secondary students.

  • Access to equipment and technology

Problems getting batteries and repairs for hearing aids and cochlear implants, new ear-moulds etc. Not having use of school equipment at home e.g. Radio aids, laptop, etc.

Do you think the school closures and other Coronavirus measures may have had an extra impact on your child because of their hearing loss? Sharing your experience is a powerful way to show why specialist support is important, so that our children are not left to fall further behind once Coronavirus is no longer headline news.

Finally, a few additional tips which may help:

  • Your comments can be submitted by uploading a document (Word, ODT or RTF) so you can take your time to prepare before you submit anything.
  • You don’t need to write loads, just stick to the facts and write what feels comfortable (mine was around 1,500 words).
  • Be aware that your submission may be published, so leave out names and any sensitive information.

Above all, remember that you already have first-hand experience of explaining what your child needs (most of us have fought those battles!) It’s easy to be put off by the formal language but we each have our own unique expertise to share. Good luck!

Ann Jillings

 

You can share your experiences by completing our short survey. We will use your responses (anonymously) in our evidence submission to the inquiry - https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NLT86RJ

If you’d rather submit your own evidence directly to the inquiry, you can find more details on their webpage here - https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/94/unequal-impact-coronavirus-covid19-and-the-impact-on-people-with-protected-characteristics/