3 Apr 2013

Disability benefits shake-up ‘unfair’ to deaf children

The government’s plans to reform disability benefits will penalise deaf children, according to a leading charity.

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) says the government’s personal independence payment (PIP), which begins trials on 8 April, will hit deaf youngsters unfairly.

The charity believes a high proportion of deaf youngsters who get disability living allowance (DLA) now will not be eligible for a PIP when they turn 16.

Parents have contacted them to say they are worried about how they will cope in future. The money is used to fund extra tuition to help their hearing- impaired children keep up at school or for health visits.

PIP is replacing DLA, which 15-year old Bethany Eason told Channel 4 News was “vital” as it funds her travel costs to the specialist cochlear implant centre at a hospital an hour away from her home in the Wirral.

‘Really upset’

“I feel really upset and annoyed that I won’t get benefits, ” she says. “It’s vital for a part of my life. Having to go to Manchester is something I need to do otherwise I will struggle with my hearing.”

This comes at a time when deaf youngsters are already losing out. A recent survey from NDCS found one in three English councils is cutting back on support to deaf youngsters, like specialist teachers of the deaf who go into schools to give one-to-one help to hearing-impaired pupils.

Jo Campion from NDCS told us: “This is having an impact on attainment and we’ve had parents contacting us who are very worried about the future for their children.”

When it comes to its welfare reforms, though, the government says its new system is about looking at disabled people as individuals rather than labelling them by their impairment. DLA costs £13bn a year and it says it wants to target the people who really need the money.

But the charity has a campaign called “Stolen Futures“. For NDCS, that sums up what is happening to deaf youngsters, whose life chances, it says, are under threat at a national and local level.