Esther recently attended Deafness and Hearing Loss Hustings, organised by Action on Hearing Loss. This is a summary of her report:
“This debate, chaired by Denis Campbell, a journalist at the Guardian newspaper, was aimed at giving deaf and hearing impaired people the opportunity to ask questions to representatives of the three main political parties on issues concerning deafness.
The panel was made up of Labour MP Kate Green, Conservative MP Mark Harper and Lord German, Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.
A variety of questions on a range of subjects were put to the panel. These included changes to the Access to Work scheme, cuts in services in some local NHS Trusts where hearing aids are being reduced to one per adult, lack of consistent subtitles in the media and lack of deaf awareness in social care of the elderly and across the health service in general.
Most of the questions focused on adult issues rather than those facing parents of deaf children. The overwhelming feeling from the audience was although legislation such as the equalities act is in place, not enough is being done to put in practical support.
All three participants came across as interested in the stories they heard and recognised that with the UK’s aging population, deafness will become an important issue and that we need to be planning health and social care support now.
The Conservative MP said that new NHS guidance would be published in the Spring concerning the Equalities Act and that in April a report will be published giving the latest update on Ofcom’s audit of subtitling.
The Labour member argued for an evidence-based approach, looking at where Access to Work is failing, stating that legislation on its own without action is no good and that training is important to ensure that social care becomes deaf aware to avoid isolation in old age. Changes need to be in the context of a co-production with deaf and disabled people.
The Liberal Democrat representative said that investing in supporting disability will result in more people in work, more taxes and less cost to tax payers. He believes in a personalised approach – universal services, but locally delivered. He feels that BSL should get legal standing of its own, like his own experience of Welsh.