The National Deaf Children’s Society has today reported 26 local councils to the Information Commissioner, for breaking the law by failing to reveal their budgets for deaf children’s services.
Despite three warnings, the councils have failed to comply with a Freedom of Information request to explain how much money will be available for deaf children’s services in this financial year. The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has been trying to get the information after a third of councils cut services for deaf children in the last two years, and there are fears that as budgets continue to be squeezed deaf children could be further hit by swingeing cuts.
Jo Campion, Deputy Director of Policy and Campaigns at NDCS said: “The lack of response by these councils shows a total disregard for deaf children and the importance of these services for their futures. This is not to mention a total disregard for the law, as councils are legally obliged to share information on budgets and 26 out of 150 councils in England have refused to do so. Parents of deaf children are taxpayers, and they deserve to know how their money is being spent.
“Given the right support deaf children can achieve the same as any other child, but we have spent the last year seeing deaf children’s services, such as Teachers of the Deaf, fall victim to savage budget cuts.
“This silence from councils makes us fear the worst – that even more deaf children’s services will be falling under the axe this year, with parents being kept in the dark until it is too late. This will have a serious impact on deaf children’s futures.”
The charity sent Freedom of Information requests to 150 local authorities in England asking for information on spending on education, speech and language therapy and social care for deaf children in this year’s budget. NDCS has today reported 26 to the Information Commissioner for failing to respond within the 20 working day legal deadline. NDCS has requested the Information Commissioner issue enforcement notices to force councils to comply with the law and release information about their budgets.
The charity is running its Stolen Futures campaign, calling on the Government to intervene where cuts are being made to deaf children’s support, such as Teachers of the Deaf who help deaf children learn in the classroom. NDCS urgently needs 100,000 signatures on its e-petition www.ndcs.org.uk/petition to force a Parliamentary debate on the issue.
Jo Campion added: “Deaf children’s needs are being ignored as councils try to save money without considering the very real impact their cuts will have. We already know deaf children are lagging behind their hearing peers and if further cuts are made these councils will be setting up thousands of deaf children to fail.”
The achievement of deaf children at GCSE level fell for the first time in six years this year, with 63% now failing to get five GCSEs grades A*-C including English and Maths.
Organisations are required to respond to Freedom of Information requests within 20 working days. If they don’t, they can be reported to the Information Commissioner.
For a list of the councils, go to: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/about_us/campaign_with_us/england/campaign_news/ico_complaint.html
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