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Coronavirus: Your priorities for our campaigning work

Photo: Ann with her son, Daniel

Deaf children must not be left behind during this crisis

We’ve had an incredibly detailed response from parents of deaf children about how they’re coping with lockdown. 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.

If you aren’t already a member of our campaigns network, please join over 9,000 other campaigners who are standing up for deaf children and young people.

What you've told us about your experience of coronavirus

Thank you so much to those of you that have already filled in our survey.

The big issues you've told us about 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.

There are a number of inquiries going on across the UK into the impact of COVID-19. In Westminster, we’ve already responded to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 and we’ll be doing the same for the Education Select Committee inquiry.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, start to reopen we will be 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 recently 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 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 Youth Advisory Board is working with BBC Newsround. They will be making suggestions to improve the content to make it more accessible for deaf young people. We’ll let you know their progress…

Increased use of face masks

Communication for deaf children and young people will be more difficult if face masks are more widely used in public. Some UK governments are recommending that people cover their faces in certain situations where social distancing is not possible – for more on this do look at our blogs on the impact of face masks on deaf children and making your own DIY mask with a clear panel.

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.

As far as we know, 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 addressing this and driving up the commissioning of clear face masks. With other deaf charities, we have written to Public Health England and NHS England calling for them to make this a priority. In Wales, we have also been liaising with key officials on this issue.

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 will be 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.

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.