Deaf service axed in cuts

Len Hodson, Chairman of Lancashire Deaf Rights Group
Len Hodson, Chairman of Lancashire Deaf Rights Group
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A deaf rights campaigner has accused the county council of ignoring the needs of Lancashire’s deaf community.

Len Hodson, Chairman of Lancashire Deaf Rights Group, has spoken out following a council decision to end funding for an advocacy and help service which includes a British Sign Language (BSL)translation service.

Mr Hodson says the service, provided for the past five years by the East Lancashire Deaf Society under the banner of the Lancashire Deaf Service, has helped deaf residents to live independently in the community and enabled them to access information and services.

Now he has taken his campaign to the top, writing to Lancashire County Council leader County Coun Jennifer Mein and its Chief Executive Jo Turton.

He said: “At LCC they seemed to think providing us with technology will solve the problem, what the whole deaf community want is direct service.”

In his letter he expressed concerns about the research the council used to inform its decisions and wrote: “It is vital the deaf communities all over Lancashire continue to receive this service.”

But County Council cabinet member Tony Martin replied the council remained committed to providing deaf residents with access to services and had been in correspondence with the LDS for more than a year: “The bottom line is that we have to save £262 million by 2020 and in that context we are not renewing our existing contract.

“We are introducing a service where LCC services will have access to BSL interpreters when they are dealing with appointments and enquiries from deaf people. There will also be a new cutting-edge online interpreter service available to help deaf people when making enquiries or searching for information on our website.

“We’ve put these measures in place following research into services we need to provide for people with sensory impairments. We took advice from organisations that provide support for people with hearing and visual impairments to ensure the research was suitable and that the research sessions were accessible.

In addition to the new services, we will be continuing to handle customer enquiries via email, Minicom and SMS.”