Ofsted has produced a guide to best practice in services supporting deaf children. It highlights the importance of access to well-coordinated support across a range of agencies.
Service provision must be grounded in the principal that all deaf children have an entitlement to communicate and be communicated which is fundamental to their development and progress, the report says.
Communication is the key examined practice in services supporting deaf children in three local authorities. It found that early diagnosis and timely support of those identified with hearing impairments were crucial, citing the example of children diagnosed as deaf shortly after birth benefitting from the newborn hearing screening programme.
Inspectors reported that communication was well-established between health and specialist education support services in each of the authorities visited. They also discovered examples of effective working across local authority boundaries to enable children to attend the right school for them. When children were diagnosed early, placed in the right school, with parent or carer involvement and with the right support, deaf children could achieve just as well as their hearing peers, Ofsted found.
While the report includes many examples of effective cooperation between agencies, it recognises that some deaf children do not get a joined up service and that provision can be patchy.
The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has gone further, with a spokesperson for the charity claiming that many deaf children “are invisible on the social care radar in many areas, before cuts come into force.” The charity fears that proposed changes to social care guidance and further cuts to local services “threaten to make a bad situation worse”.