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Social care services are failing deaf children, says report

25 Feb 2010

University of Manchester research has revealed that the majority of social care services are failing deaf children and their families – despite the fact that deaf children are more than twice as likely to experience abuse and many face significant challenges to personal and social development.

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The study, commissioned by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and published today in Every Child Journal, showed that two thirds of local authorities in England do not regard deaf children as ‘children in need’ even though the law defines them as such. Half of authorities are unable to accurately assess the needs of deaf children and their families, the report found.

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NDCS, said the findings raise serious concerns about the protection of deaf children: “This research shows widespread lack of awareness among social care services of deaf children’s needs. In addition to the increased risk of abuse, 40% of deaf children will experience mental health problems.

He added: “It is vital that Local Safeguarding Children Boards take heed of this research and improve their child protection arrangements for deaf children before it is too late. The Government urgently needs to hold Local Safeguarding Children Boards to account in the implementation of its recommendations for the protection of deaf children.”

In 2005, the Department of Health recognised the vulnerability of deaf children to abuse and recommended that all Local Safeguarding Children Boards review their child protection arrangements for deaf children. This latest research shows that the statutory duty of local authorities to promote the wellbeing of deaf children is being significantly compromised and that inadequate arrangements are still in place.

Alys Young, lead study author and Professor of Social Work Education and Research at The University of Manchester, said Children’s Services need to work together to promote the wellbeing of deaf children and their families.

She said: “This research is the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the UK and highlights that children’s social care, education and health services are not working together effectively and therefore the statutory duty of local authorities to promote the wellbeing of deaf children is being significantly compromised.”

Findings from the study also revealed that nearly half of authorities in England have no social workers who are qualified to work with deaf children and, in many authorities, children’s social care had no contact with the majority of deaf children in their area.

There are over 45,000 deaf children in the UK. Deaf children are more vulnerable to abuse and mental health problems due to a number of factors such as the perceived inability of deaf children to communicate, and a lack of understanding and inclusion in the community.

Ends

Notes for editors

About NDCS:

NDCS is the national charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and young people. For more information on childhood deafness parents can contact the NDCS Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text) or email helpline@ndcs.org.uk or visit www.ndcs.org.uk

About the study:

57 Local Authorities in England took part in the largest ever study of the organisation and provision of social care services for deaf children and their families. The two-part study focused on the impact of integrated Children’s Services on how social care needs are identified, assessed and met for deaf children.

The Phase Two report is available at: www.ndcs.org.uk/document.rm?id=4668

The Phase One report is available at: www.ndcs.org.uk/news/ndcs_news/social_care_radar.html

The research was funded by NDCS, carried out as part of the Social Research with Deaf People programme at The University of Manchester, and was approved by ADASS and ADCS. 

Key findings of the study:

  • Children in need– 60% of authorities did not regard a deaf child as a ‘child in need’, despite the definition contained in the Children Act 1989.
  • Assessment– 50% of authorities had no arrangements in place to ensure accurate assessment of deaf children and their families across health, education and social care.
  • Specialist workforce –46% of authorities had no qualified social workers who worked with deaf children and their families.
  • Child protection –Only a third of authorities had any kind of co-working arrangements in place between specialist social workers and child protection teams, and nearly 20% had none.
  • Referral – Over 50% had no formal referral arrangements between social care and education, and 45% had none between social care and health.
  • Numbers of deaf children – There was also considerable evidence that many authorities had no contact with the majority of deaf children and their families in their area.

To view the notes for editors in British Sign Language click here

For further information contact:

Aine Standen
Head of Media Relations
NDCS

Tel: 020 7014 1146
Email: aine.standen@ndcs.org.uk

Or Aeron Haworth
Media Relations
Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences
The University of Manchester

Tel: 0161 275 8383
Email: aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk