In the past week or so many articles have appeared on different social media all carrying the same message – the decision by those in charge to cut costs to save money and yet having a long term, negative, impact on society and therefore spending the money they have ‘saved’ or spend more to try and reverse the effects.
The first article was regarding education failing deaf children. The statistics show that only 36.3% of deaf children in England left secondary school having hit the national GCSE benchmarks, compared to 65.3% of their hearing classmates (http://slfirst.co.uk/community/education/education-system-suppresses-deaf-achievement/). Both deaf and hearing babies are born with the same brains and so the question is why are deaf children so far behind their hearing peers? I believe this is because of the lack of support for deaf children in schools. Supposedly there is not enough money to employ trained, qualified interpreters for all deaf children and so “a huge percentage of the people put into our schools to support deaf children do not have signing skills above casual conversational level.” (http://slfirst.co.uk/community/education/education-system-suppresses-deaf-achievement/) So it is deemed acceptable that to save money some deaf children will have to make do with what support they are given which negatively impacts their ability to compete in the workplace, increasing the likelihood of their reliance on state benefits and therefore those costs that were saved back in school have been long eroded.
Only yesterday I saw an article with the statistics that deaf people have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (among other health problems) (http://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2015/feb/deaf-people-at-higher-risk-of-type-2-diabetes-99113596.html?utm_content=buffera642a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer). The suggestion being that this is due to serious communication barriers between doctors and their patients who are deaf. Why? Because deaf people are not being provided with interpreters or adequate information in BSL. The deaf health charity called ‘SignHealth’ have suggested that when the majority of deaf people see a doctor although 8 out of 10 deaf patients want to use sign language only 3 in 10 are given the chance (i.e. provided with an interpreter) (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/health-information/sick-of-it-report/sick-of-it-in-english/). Furthermore, evidence suggests that due to deaf people having poor access to healthcare they are about twice as likely to have mental health problems compared to the rest of the population (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/health-information/sick-of-it-report/sick-of-it-in-english/). In addition to this, early access to effective communication with family members and peers is desirable for deaf children for factors affecting their mental health (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)61143-4/abstract?cc=y). The cuts that were, and are still, being made for deaf people in education and health by not having the appropriate communication support seem to have unravelled because now a higher proportion of deaf people have mental health problems and other health related problems compared to the rest of the population, which could have been preventable if the appropriate communication support was put in place. So the costs that were saved in one place have reappeared higher in another, i.e. the NHS.
So, for those deaf people who are in employment – which, the odds are against them being there (http://slfirst.co.uk/community/education/education-system-suppresses-deaf-achievement/) – the support in the form of Access to Work (A2W) is being cut. The Limping Chicken article – http://limpingchicken.com/2015/02/13/if-the-need-is-there-why-not-support-former-adviser-talks-about-the-changes-to-access-to-work/ – suggests that “Less support may be offered due to cost commitments.” The effect changes in A2W is having on deaf people will be explored in future blogs but if interpreter support is not available to support the employee (and as the Limping Chicken article says, most support to deaf customers was through interpreters) then ultimately they lose their jobs or cannot get or sustain employment. This could cause multiple expenses, e.g. the deaf person possibly becoming depressed and seeking medical attention – a cost to the NHS, the deaf person no longer pays tax or national insurance – less contribution to the British economy, the deaf person may rely on social welfare – a cost to the tax payer. Again, those initial cost cutting ideas to A2W don’t seem to have any long term benefit for deaf people nor to society as a whole.
As Jackie Ashley states in this Guardian article, (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/09/hearing-aids-health-policy-austerity-nhs) and with which I agree “austerity economics is that all the focus goes on immediate, instant, short-termist ‘savings’ rather than on keeping our nerve and asking what is right and prudent for the long term.” Whilst I understand that there may be a need for austerity measures as an economic strategy that any government may choose to impose, it is falling disproportionately on those with a specialist need, like deaf and disabled people. What’s more, measures such as poor provision to deaf children in mainstream schools was something in place before austerity even came about. Will the results be worse from the next batch of research undertaken? Whoever is voted into government in May 2015 I hope they will shift their focus from immediate, short-term costs to the real, long term costs.
Image from: TaxRebate.org.uk