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Coronavirus: Your priorities for our campaigning work

Photo: Coronavirus is having widespread impacts on deaf children and young people

Deaf children must not be left behind during this crisis

These are challenging times for everyone, but now more than ever, UK governments and others making decisions need to hear from families about the challenges they’re facing.

We continue to work with families of deaf children on the issues that are affecting you now. Our latest survey focuses on face masks, which are now widely worn. If you are a parent, carer or relative of a deaf child, please take a moment to tell us about your experiences of face masks and coverings.

Take action now

The use of face masks is now widespread. Tell us about your experience of face coverings.

Share your views

Let your politician know that clear masks and good deaf awareness are vital. Ask them to support the #keepitclear campaign.

Email your politician

If you have sewing skills, make a clear face mask for your MP and join the call for change now.

Make a mask for your MP

What we will do

Our main focus during this crisis are the people we support – you; the people that deaf children need and rely on every day.

We want you to know that our campaigning will be led by the issues and concerns that you raise. During this crisis we promise that we will:

  1. Champion the views of deaf children, young people and their families, making the most of opportunities for them to share their experiences with decision-makers
  2. Identify concerns of parents, professionals and young people and collate good practice in how services are responding to the current situation
  3. Share positive messages of support for the measures to address the current pandemic and save lives
  4. Celebrate the contribution of health workers and other professionals.

Above all, we’d like to hear from you. Is there anything you need from the campaigning team right now? 

Email [email protected] and let us know about your current experiences of support, any concerns you have and about what matters to you at the moment.

Also, we have lots of information and advice for families dealing with coronavirus.

What you've told us about your experience of coronavirus

Thank you so much to those of you that have been in touch with us by email or who have shared your experiences through a survey.

The big issues for deaf children so far:

  1. Lack of specialist support: almost half of parents who responded to the survey reported that their child doesn’t have access to their usual support network – for example, Teacher of the Deaf visits or Speech and Language therapy.
  2. Access to Audiology: parents report that access to their child’s audiology service or cochlear implant clinic is severely limited. In some areas, parents have told us that they’re worried about not being able to get new ear moulds or hearing aid repairs for their child. Parents whose child’s cochlear implant surgery has been cancelled are concerned about the long-term impact on speech and language development.
  3. Accessibility: deaf young people have told us that they’re struggling to access all of the online resources that have been set for home-learning. Parents agree with this and are concerned about their deaf child falling behind their peers during lockdown.

Coronavirus inquiries

There are a number of inquiries going on across the UK into the impact of COVID-19. In Westminster, we’ve already responded to these inquiries:

The evidence for these inquiries was based entirely on the experiences of deaf children, young people and their families. Take a look at this blog post to read some of the key issues families told us about.

In Wales, we’ve submitted evidence to Estyn and Qualifications Wales as well as the Welsh Government’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, Health Social Care and Sport committee and the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

More recently, we’ve responded to an inquiry from the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, a Welsh Government consultation on relaxing school reporting requirements, and two Welsh Government surveys on reopening schools. We have also submitted a response to a call for evidence on Wales’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In Scotland, we’ve responded to the Education and Skills Committee and are engaging with other inquiries into the impact of COVID-19 as they progress.

In Northern Ireland, we’ve submitted verbal evidence to the Assembly Education Committee. The Education Minister has spoken about the importance of clear communication for deaf children and young people, so it seems that we have made an impact!

We’ll be responding to further inquiries as they’re announced.

We’re still keen to hear from parents of deaf children so please do let us know how the lockdown has been impacting your child.

Our Young People's Advisory Board recorded a video to highlight the issues they're facing at the moment. The Education Select Committee was sent this video to inform their work looking into the impact of Covid-19. A number of MPs watched it and we've had some really positive comments!

Reduced access to education support and audiology services

Our teams across the UK are working with local groups of parents and professionals to monitor what’s changed, when it comes to the support that deaf children rely on. We are building up a picture of what good practice looks like, specifically for deaf children and young people, when learning has to take place online. This is information we’re sharing with professionals who are still trying their best to support deaf children in challenging times.

Professionals at local authority specialist services for deaf children have also given us their views on the impact of Covid-19 on deaf children and young people. You can read this evidence here

Where local authorities are refusing to be flexible, for example by not allowing deaf children to take home radio aid equipment, we are campaigning to change this.

If you have experienced difficulties getting the equipment your child needs, please let us know and we’ll help you challenge this decision: [email protected]


Many audiologists have been redeployed from their usual roles to support the NHS in dealing with COVID-19. They are heroes, and have put themselves in danger to support all of us. As health services, like audiology, reopen we are working to support professionals to adjust to post-COVID ways of working. We want to make sure that they have the staff and the funding to support as many deaf children as they can, as soon as is possible. Over the coming months we’ll be challenging UK Governments to make sure this happens. If your audiology service is unable to see your child at the moment, please do look at our advice on caring for your child’s hearing aids at home or contact our helpline if you need individual support or advice.

Making resources more accessible for deaf children

The Department for Education has published a list of online education resources – these are for parents and teachers to help children to learn at home. The list includes subject-specific resources for English, Maths, Science, PE, Mental wellbeing and Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND).

We’re not recommending the use of these resources over other online materials that you might already be using, or over work that has been set by your child’s school or Teachers of the Deaf.

However, we’re very aware that not all online resource are easily, or fully accessible for deaf children and young people – that’s why we’ve audited the Department of Education’s list and have made some comments around their level of accessibility. We hope that these are useful and that they might help you to decide which of these websites might be most suitable for you and your deaf child to use at home.

We have shared our concerns around accessibility, with the Department for Education.

If you want to share examples of online sources which are doing a great job or need to better in making their content accessible, then we’d love to hear from you - email us at [email protected]

Successes so far

Oak National Academy

Oak National Academy delivered 6 million lessons in their first month. This incredible reach is one of the reasons we have been working with them to improve the content for deaf students. We have provided support and advice on accessibility from the beginning, and will continue to do so. Working together this is what we’ve made possible:

- All teachers creating content for Oak National have been sent our deaf awareness tips to help them make the best video content possible for deaf students.

- Many deaf young people are struggling with isolation at the moment. Having content about wellbeing available in BSL, is crucial to safeguard their mental health. This assembly focusing on wellbeing has been viewed by 22,000 young people. All the assemblies feature BSL interpretation and subtitles as standard, as a result of our work. They take place every Thursday morning.

- Many of the Primary aged lessons now also have BSL interpretation. We are continuing to support Oak National Academy to increase the numbers of lessons that do.

- 100% of videos on the site are now subtitled – despite none having subtitles initially. We asked people to volunteer to subtitle videos for Oak National – thank you to those who responded to the call. What an incredible achievement in such a short time!

We will continue to support them to improve and would love to hear your feedback if you’ve used the site – [email protected]


BBC Newsround

Access to reliable news that is tailored for a younger audience is crucial at the moment, so we’re really happy that our young campaigners have been working with BBC Newsround to improve their web content. 71 deaf young people, with a variety of communication preferences, were involved in our consultation. Priorities for improvements focused on more subtitled video content and BSL interpretation. There were also suggestions for reducing background noise or music in videos and for having more deaf specific content.

“We were delighted to work with the NDCS and equally delighted that so many young people got involved to give us their thoughts not just on what they think we’re doing well, but more importantly on ways we can improve.

“We already knew we had to be better at making Newsround accessible and relevant to all but the input from the NDCS and the young deaf people who took part in the survey will really help us in our work to do that – and the good news is we’ve already made a start, so watch this space!”

Michael Short, Deputy Editor, Newsround

We will continue to work with Newsround to suggest improvements based on feedback from young people and look forward to seeing the changes they are planning.

If you know a young person aged 13-25 who would like to help with similar projects, our young inspectors programme is up and running with training sessions available now

Increased use of face masks

Communication for deaf children and young people is becoming more difficult as face masks are now widely used in public. Government guidance changes regularly and is different depending on where you live in the UK. For more information on this please visit our regularly updated page on face masks and communication.

To help with communication when face coverings are being worn – we’ve come up with some top tips to reduce the impact on deaf children and young people. Please do share this video as widely as possible.

Successes so far

Face masks that meet the UK’s standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) and have a clear panel by which it’s possible to lip read are not manufactured to a large scale in the UK. We believe the UK Governments have a role to play in driving up the commissioning of clear face masks. With other deaf charities, we have challenged NHS England to provide clear face masks and 250,000 have now been purchased. Much more is needed, but this is a welcome step in the right direction.

We’ve been challenging NHS Wales about the same issue and some clear masks have now been purchased – this is a great step forward, but more work still needs to be done. In Wales, guidance for health services on clear communication with deaf patients has also been published.

In Northern Ireland, companies have been invited to tender for clear face masks for use in health and social care – we’re working with the Minister for Health to find out more detailed information about the commissioning of these masks.

We also continue to work with the Scottish Government to make sure that clear masks become available across the health service.

We want to hear about your child's experiences

We want to make sure that deaf children and young people are not excluded from communication whilst face coverings are the norm – that’s why we’d like to hear about your child’s experiences with face masks. You can let us know what you think in our short survey. We’ll use the results of the survey to let politicians, public services and businesses know about the challenges deaf children face.

More information 

What we're asking the UK governments to do

Professionals deserve enormous credit for continuing to provide support in such difficult circumstances. Despite their efforts, some deaf children and young people will have lost support that they rely on.

To make sure deaf children are not disadvantaged now, or over the longer term we are calling for:

  1. Governments in each of the UK nations to support professionals, services, and education settings with guidance on the reasonable endeavours and adjustments they should be making to ensure deaf children and young people’s needs are still met and their progress in education is maintained, as much as practically possible.
  2. The UK Governments to set out a clear plan of support for transitions for deaf young people who will be leaving education this year and/or entering employment.
  3. The UK Governments take steps to mitigate the impact of face masks and coverings on communication with deaf children and young people, by promoting deaf awareness tips and reviewing the commissioning and availability of clear face masks.
  4. The DWP, or DFC in Northern Ireland, to increase the flexibility of how Personal Independence Payments assessments and Access to Work claims are handled, including the greater use of evidence and contact by email, and removing any expectations around telephone assessments.
  5. Service leads across the UK to develop costed plans to ensure services build back stronger, reinstate inspections and take rapid action to address any backlog in identification of deaf children, providing emergency funding and additional capacity as required.