Cuts to support for deaf children
A new report from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NCDS) adds credence to concerns about cuts to services for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
The Stolen Futures report notes that 25% of councils in England will, in 2012-13, be cutting essential services to deaf children. These include:
• ‘reviewing’ the way that they help deaf children at school
• reducing educational support for deaf children even though it is acknowledged that they are underachieving
• cuts to speech and language therapy that includes support for deaf children.
The report also highlights local decision-making practice characterised by a lack of concern with regard to accountability, impact and transparency. For example:
• no council could provide an assessment of the impact of cuts on deaf children for this year as required under the Equality Act
• two-thirds of councils failed to provide information about when budget decisions were being made and how families could participate in them
• 49 councils acted illegally by not providing information about their budgets for deaf children’s support.
The report concludes with a call for action and two recommendations in particular, that apply to services for deaf children, but also to a much a wider group of pupils and their families:
• the Department for Education must recommit now to reforms that focus on fairness. They must explain to parents now, how they will achieve the promises they have made to children with special educational needs when the specialist services they need are being taken away.
• local government must obey the law and protect deaf children’s services.
Children and families minister Sarah Teather has frequently argued that the government expects local authorities to maintain frontline services to vulnerable children and their families. Stolen Futures, together with other evidence published in recent months, suggest that it is struggling to live up to its own expectations.
By Christopher Robertson