Deafblind charity Sense has claimed that provision of out-of-school services for deafblind children has sharply declined six years after key mandatory guidance for councils came into force to improve support.
In a survey of families who care for a deafblind child, just one in eight said they received support from an intervenor – a specialist who helps the child experience the world around them – compared to one in three in a similar survey in 2001. It was also found that only 39% of deafblind children receive short breaks to give respite to families.
This is despite the introduction of mandatory guidance in 2001 for councils to provide specialist assessments of deafblind people and appropriate services, including one-to-one support where required. The guidance was withdrawn in 2006 but councils are still supposed to follow it as good practice.
Sense said that deafblind children were missing out on leisure activities and interaction with other children. Campaigns officer Lucy Drescher said: “Over 4,000 deafblind children and young people in the UK are legally entitled to services but they experience enormous discrimination and denial of services. Eighty-three per cent of families told us they were under significant pressure due to a lack of specialist support.”
Mary, a mother of a deafblind child who was included in the survey, said: “When I approached my local social services for a section seven deafblind assessment to address my child’s needs, they said they hadn’t even heard of it. Even when I pointed out it is mandatory, they were still very resistant. It was a constant fight just to get what we were entitled to.’
Sense are calling for senior managers to be made responsible for implementing deafblind government guidance in every local authority and for Ofsted to include the guidance in their inspections.