Traded services (or how to cut deaf children’s services by stealth)

A new menace is sweeping specialist support services for deaf children across England and the protagonists claim they’re doing so with the Government’s approval. It goes by many names. But most people refer to it as “traded services”.

Definitions vary. But when I refer to traded services, I refer to it as the practice whereby local authorities stop providing specialist support services for children with special educational needs free of charge, and instead start “selling” or “trading” their services to schools who must now buy them back in. Warwickshire council, for example, charges up to £85 for an hour of Teacher of the Deaf time and up to £285 for a day with a specialist Teaching Assistant.

Why is this a problem for deaf children?

1) Because deafness is relatively uncommon, most schools will rarely come across a deaf child. How will they know what to buy?
2) How are they going to pay for it? If budgets are split between all schools, regardless of whether they’ve got a deaf child, then the schools where there are actually deaf children present are not going to have enough money to buy the help that deaf children need.
3) It produces a whole set of distorted incentives. Schools are incentivised to save money for buying support “on the cheap”, like a general teaching assistant, rather than a specialist teaching assistant. Councils are incentivised to spend more time “marketing” their services rather than actually giving deaf children the help they need.

In Warwickshire, these problems are particularly acute because of (in my view) the incredibly cack-handed way in which the service has made the shift to traded services. A sub-group of deaf children have now been shifted over to “traded services.” 3 reasons to be angry with the council are:

1) Schools haven’t been given ANY extra cash to help pay for the help they are now expected to purchase for deaf children. The council repeatedly refused to answer questions on this issue and the council only admitted there was a funding cut when forced to through a Freedom of Information request.
2) Headteachers were told about the move to traded services for some deaf children over the summer break. When the school was closed. Many may only have got the letter once school term started.
3) Parents weren’t initially told. Many parents only found out when they discovered their child was no longer getting any help from a Teacher of the Deaf. The council has been remarkedly reluctant to meet with parents.

Warwickshire’s attitude has been incredibly cavalier. These deaf children are now the responsibility of the schools, they say. It’s a pretty shocking state of affairs when a council can just wipe their hands of a group of deaf children that they had until recently been supporting.

Parents are rightly upset and outraged. They’re petitioning the council to think again. And on Saturday, there will be a campaign day of action in Stratford-upon-Avon. The National Deaf Children’s Society is supporting their campaign to reverse the move to traded services. The help that deaf children receive should be determined by what they need, end of. Not by what their school is able or willing to buy back. And any cuts should be openly and honestly (or not at all). Not through reckless changes to funding systems or by stealth.

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2 thoughts on “Traded services (or how to cut deaf children’s services by stealth)

  1. If support costs money, no support is given or at best any old stop-gap to comply with whatever the law is supposed to be. Every child has an right to an education, but that’s ALL the law is saying basically. Schools are expected to meet whatever need is there without back up and without funds. There simply is no curricular back up officially or extra-curricular support either. SS abandoned the deaf here 8 years ago, there is no service to approach for support, you have to fight your way through ‘special needs’ depts and there no sign support is available unless you are 24 hr persistent. . We are fighting to re-establish supportive systems and meeting huge opposition or abject apathy. That means you, me and others with the interests of deaf/disabled children at heart have to fight every case on an individual level. The system (SS/LEA’s etc) just abandoned our child at 6 yrs of age, now 16 they have again refused to support as he is ‘adult’ so no longer their ‘problem’, he never was in reality as they never offered any service, my son is autistic, had he been deaf he would have at least had a bit more help.. ALL disabled children and their families are up against it, I don’t find a piecemeal approach an good idea, whilst I understand specific areas campaigning, the issues are common and any successes usually mean our disabled kids are in a tiered system of have and have-nots. So an successful charity for one sector leaves 5 others still without the support they are entitled to, the whole campaigning thing is a lottery. When will they unite to form an decent lobby ?

    • i could not agree more with the statement you have just made i petition 3 years ago about the closure of deaf schools and specialist schools for disabled and stop the enforcement into of mainstream schools and said then it would not stop there sadly i have been proven right.
      i am a profoundly deaf person myself and was fortunate to have been placed in a deaf school and it proved profitable to my education and life in a hearing world but sadly we saw the closure of that school on the Sussex close last year
      and the remaining students forced into mainstream.
      only for them now to not get any help at all from this and suffer with bullying and poor education along with other disabled in mainstream education.
      this government and local authority are out to destroy years of work with there one step forward and 100 yrs back approach soon be back to mental hospitals as a answer like 100 yrs ago

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