Families across Tower Hamlets have finally been given the chance to fight for their deaf children’s futures and it’s one they must seize, the National Deaf Children’s Society says.
Last month, Tower Hamlets Council announced plans to slash its support for disabled children, with both the charity and local parents quick to speak out about the devastating consequences for deaf children.
The council has now announced it will hold a dedicated meeting for families of deaf children to express their concerns on Monday, January 4th, an opportunity the charity says as many as possible must take.
There are 519 deaf children in Tower Hamlets and the council’s proposals have put their specialist teachers in the firing line.
The cuts specifically target Teachers of the Deaf, who play a vital role in deaf children’s lives, and aim to cut them from 6.8 to just three.
This would leave each teacher responsible for visiting and supporting more than 170 children.
The National Deaf Children’s Society said the meeting would help local parents to show just how vital Teachers of the Deaf are to deaf children and to explain the damage that the proposed cuts would cause.
The charity is imploring as many families as possible to come forward to share their views and talk about how their deaf child would be affected.
The meeting will be held online on Monday, January 4th from 5pm to 6pm. Parents of deaf children who are interested in attending can get the details from Tower Hamlets Council or by emailing the National Deaf Children’s Society on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fatema Khanam’s daughter Aleena Ahmed, 6, is profoundly deaf, wears cochlear implants and uses British Sign Language. They live in Wapping and Fatema is very concerned about the proposals and will be attending the council’s meeting.
“With cuts and reduced support from Teachers of the Deaf, my daughter will struggle academically and socially, which given her needs will really affect her progress and wellbeing. Although the proposal mentions alternative support, I’m unsure about the nature and quality of it and this is really unsettling. I’m worried about my daughter potentially missing out and becoming more isolated.
“I’ll be there because this issue is incredibly important to me, and many other families I know are heavily reliant on the current support measures that are in place. I’ve attended many events over the years and spoken to many families, so I know they have had very positive experiences with the current support available.
“I also think that majority of Bengali-speaking parents in Tower Hamlets can’t access the material in the council’s proposal, mainly due to language or technology barriers. They already struggle to express their difficulties and challenges to the council, meaning that unfortunately their views are often unrepresented in meetings like these.
“Many families will suffer in silence following if these cuts go ahead, which will widen the gap between these families and the community in terms of communication and integration. We have to keep these services.”
Shahima Kazi’s son Mohammad Abdul Muhayin Karim, 1, is moderately to severely deaf and they live in Shadwell. She’s worried the support won’t be in place when he gets older and wants the chance to tell the council how she feels.
“I feel very insecure about my son’s future. It’s really unclear and it’s not specified in the proposal what they’ll do for our kids. They’re not clear what will happen in the future. I’m very annoyed and frustrated when I think about it.
“I will attend the council’s meeting to talk about it with other parents because I want it to be clear. I want to tell the council that, as families, we’ll all be affected by what they’re deciding to do.”
Hazel Badjie, a campaigner at the National Deaf Children’s Society who is working with families across Tower Hamlets, said:
“Families across the borough already know devastating cuts are on the horizon, but Tower Hamlets Council has still not provided much detail on what its plans will look like. As a result, families have been plunged into fear and confusion at a critical time in their child’s life.
“The council could easily set minds at rest by guaranteeing the support these deaf children need, but it’s seems much more keen to focus its energy on cutting costs instead.
“This meeting is a big chance for parents to now come together, demand some clarity and explain exactly how these devastating cuts will affect their children’s futures.
“The stakes just could not be higher for deaf children in Tower Hamlets.”