How to…stop a hearing impairment unit closing

Beccy Forrow Policy and Campaigns Officer

Beccy Forrow, Policy and Campaigns Officer

What would you do if the hearing impairment unit your child attends was in danger of closing? I’m guessing most parents would do something very similar to Wokingham parent Faye Gilbert….

Faye contacted us back in June about the HIU, based at Emmbrook Infant School, closing. Faye’s son Rhys goes to the unit and was really thriving at the school.

Although the council were allowing all the children currently in the unit to stay until they moved on to Junior school, Faye thought it was important that deaf children in the future also have the opportunity to study in an HIU, if that’s what’s best for them.

So, how was the unit saved? Faye did a number of things to persuade the council to change their minds. Most of them aren’t new or difficult but they did need time and persistence to make the difference. But happily anyone can get involved in a campaign like this…

  1. Tell people about the problem and get others that are affected on board – one of the first things Faye did was start a petition on change.org. She got nearly 2,000 supporters to sign the petition – which certainly got the attention of the council and the local media.
  1. Make sure the people who make the decision know about your campaign – the best way to do this is to speak to the media because bad media coverage is rarely ignored by councils. We can help with getting coverage and preparing for an interview but journalists almost always want to speak to someone affected by the changes.pester power
  1. Don’t stop! – decision-makers might assume that you don’t have the stamina to keep going when it looks like the odds are against you, but we all know that pester power works! Email the council and encourage as many people as you can to do the same. It doesn’t take many emails from local people for a council to starting doubting whether they are doing the right thing. Local councillors are elected by local people every four years so they will be nervous about upsetting people by making a bad decision. If you don’t get the response you want, keep writing until you do.

Although we supported Faye to win her campaign we can only ever do so much. We always need families of deaf children on board with any campaign and usually decision-makers give more weight to the views of deaf children and their families. There are a few things we can help local campaigners with:

  • emailing local parents to tell them about the issue to amplify your voice
  • joining campaigners at council meetings and help you to prepare for meetings
  • working out when key decisions will be made and who can influence the decision
  • writing letters to the council about their legal responsibilities to deaf children
  • helping you to get media coverage and to prepare for an interview
  • finding evidence about the progress made by deaf children in the local area to add weight to you arguments.

But…we can only do this if parents and those working with deaf children tell us about problems or concerns as early as possible. You can email campaigns@ndcs.org.uk or call our helpline on 0808 800 8880 – with any information that you think is worrying.

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