New NDCS survey into local authority social care provision for deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen - Social Care Policy Adviser

Christopher Kang-Mullen – Social Care Policy Advicer

NDCS has published a report about the results from a survey of all local authorities in England into the social care arrangements they have in place to consider the needs of deaf children.

Deaf children are recognised in law as ‘disabled children’. This means that local authorities should:

  • provide services to help families bring up disabled children and help them lead lives as non-disabled children do.
  • make sure that the range of services they provide are accessible to disabled children e.g. recreation facilities, childcare provision and children’s centres.
  • provide additional support where felt necessary to disabled children and their families.

This additional support is usually done through assessments by children’s social care teams. For example, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 means that deaf children could benefit from important technology equipment such as vibrating alarm clocks, pagers and altering devices to ensure their safety and promote their developing independence.

This survey has found that:

  • many social care disabled children’s teams have high thresholds to access their teams and so will only assess disabled children with more than one disability.
  • many disability social care teams do not have any clear arrangements in place to consider the social care needs of deaf children. They often assume that education services are expected to provide all the support to deaf children need.
  • only 16 % of local authority social care teams have a designated worker for deaf children.
  • 49 % of social care teams said their eligibility criteria did not include any specific reference to deaf children or sensory impairment.
  • deaf children’s social care  needs are recognised best where there are either designated social care workers with deaf children or where eligibility criteria to access children’s social care teams clearly includes deaf children.

Where necessary after an assessment social care support might include:

  • access for parents and extended family members to learn sign language where felt necessary to meet their child’s communication;
  • vibrating alarm clock or door alert system to help a deaf child/young person become more independent as they get older.
  • costs of transport to enable a deaf child to attend a short break activity to socialise with other deaf children; or
  • providing a communication support worker for a deaf child to access a mainstream activity e.g scouts. (such support could come via direct payments by children’s social care or part of an personal budget for those children who have Education Health and Care plans).

While health and education are key services involved with deaf children and families, social care should therefore be offered to families to ensure that they can support their deaf child at home as early as possible.

NDCS will now be taking action through our network of English regional directors seeking to challenge and work with local authorities to ensure they make arrangements to consider the social care needs of deaf children and their families.

The full report can be accessed at:

More information on social care rights can be accessed at:

If you would like any advice accessing support from children’s social care services contact the NDCS Freephone Helpline at 0808 800 8880 or email

Fostering needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

In this first part of a two part blog I will discuss the needs of deaf children and young people who become ‘looked after’ or go into local authority care.

When alternative care is necessary

In very extreme circumstances when it is felt that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm due to the care given by their parents or carers a child may require the local authority to place them in alternative care. This could be with extended family or relatives; foster carers or in children’s homes.

In the UK there are 92,000 children in care and the majority of these children are in foster placements.

Such arrangements can be temporary where it’s felt that parents/carers will be able to meet their children’s needs, or it could be longer term. For very young children where it is felt that they clearly cannot return home the adoption route must be considered.

 The experience for the child

Leaving home, where a child may have experienced long term abuse or neglect will still be a traumatic experience for any child. They will have to break routines and disrupt attachments to parents or carers, family members and friends. In some instances a child may have to move away from a school they attended and the community they live in.

A child will inevitably try to give meaning to such events and for a deaf child who may have limited language and or access to communication this will likely increase the stress they experience. In such situations the need for a social worker who can communicate effectively with the child and ensure their language needs and potentially deaf cultural needs are fully considered in the placements sought is crucial. If not, further damage is likely to the child’s emotional health and well-being.

The challenge of meeting deaf children’s needs in care

There are a number of factors which make it difficult to recognise and plan for the needs of deaf children when they come into care. These include;

  •  the statistical data requirements on local authorities in most UK countries does not require the types of disability to be specified and therefore total numbers of deaf children in care are unknown
  • there are very few specialist social work teams and social work posts for deaf children. An NDCS soon to be published survey of social care provision in English local authorities confirms this
  • many local authorities do not recognise the possible social care needs of deaf children and that they are ‘children in need’ within UK law.
  • deafness is a low incidence disability and being deaf does not necessarily mean every child must require social care support to meet their needs. This will be dependent on the resources within the family; other children’s services.

NDCS project

At NDCS we recognised that whilst the numbers of deaf children in care are low it was important to try to identify and highlight their needs and those that care or may care for them with local authorities planning services.

In the next blog I will explain about our NDCS project to raise awareness of deaf children in care.

For more information on fostering go to:

Chris Kang-Mullen NDCS Social Care Policy Advisor


New NSPCC report into safeguarding deaf and disabled

Christopher Kang-Mullen

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

The NSPCC has just published a report into safeguarding deaf and disabled children. ‘We have the right to be safe’ Protecting Disabled Children from abuse draws on research evidence; consultation with disabled children and young people and a wide range of safeguarding professionals.

Safeguarding disabled children means the actions we take to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.

Recognised in law

The report says that there has been an increasing recognition of the safeguarding needs of deaf and disabled children across the UK by legislation including;

• the UN Conventions of the Rights of the child (1989) and Persons with Disabilities (2009);
• Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and
• The Equality Act 2010.

These have helped improve practice across all services supporting deaf and disabled children but that much more work needs to be done.

What are additional risks to disabled children?

All deaf and disabled children are individuals but the report reminds us of the additional vulnerabilities that deaf and disabled children face which makes them at a greater risk of abuse. This can include:

• a lack of access to those in authority who can communicate with the child and understand that a child is disclosing abuse
• lack of education given to disabled children around sexual health and abuse
• an increased reliance on adult care giving for intimate and personal care needs.

What will help support disabled children?

The report highlights the importance of empowering disabled children through measures such as:

• peer support; where young people are trained to support each other
• safeguarding awareness through PHSE education in school
• developing services in consultation with disabled people.

At NDCS we already have a peer support project called Helping Hands. Working with a number of schools we are training deaf young people to support their deaf peers in order to promote self-esteem and reduce bullying.

Accessible information

The report says that more accessible information on safeguarding issues for disabled children will also help promote their welfare and protect them from harm. The development of NSPCC’s Deaf zone within Childline is an example where information on a number of topics is now available in BSL. It however accepts that there is still further work to make Childline fully accessible to deaf children and young people.

What disabled young people say

Finally perhaps the most powerful comments from the report are from deaf and disabled children and young people themselves who time after time express the importance of communication. As one young person stated;

“Talk to me not my carer!”

NDCS continues to work with NSPCC through the National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children.

The full report can be downloaded here