•       Parliamentary debate today discussed the urgent need to increase access to specialist support for deaf children
  • Charity Auditory Verbal UK and young deaf people welcome Government’s commitment to meet and work together to increase access to specialist Auditory Verbal therapists, and calls for urgent, vital investment to help transform the lives of deaf children across the UK now.

MPs have today (Tuesday December 12th) discussed the urgent need for investment to improve the outcomes for deaf children and increase the provision of Auditory Verbal therapy - a specialist approach to developing spoken language through listening, for deaf children.

The parliamentary debate was led by Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings and Rye, who highlighted how deaf children who attend an Auditory Verbal therapy programme have the same opportunities as their hearing peers, with the majority attending mainstream school and achieving age-appropriate spoken language. 

Sally-Ann said: “Deaf children in the UK currently face a lifetime of disadvantage without access to early and effective support, and less than 10% of deaf children who could benefit from Auditory Verbal therapy can currently access it.”

 She added: “We need to train more specialist practitioners in the Auditory Verbal approach, and, for an investment of just over £2 million per year over the next decade, we can transform the landscape of Auditory Verbal provision. Economic analysis has shown that by training a small proportion of the currently public sector workforce to embed 300 Auditory Verbal Therapists, £150 million of economic benefit can be delivered, rising to £11.7 billion within the next 50 years, through improved quality of life, employment prospects, lower costs of schooling and avoided injuries.”

 Auditory Verbal therapy supports deaf children to learn how to make sense of the sound they receive through their hearing technology, so they can learn to talk like their hearing friends. Research by charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK), backed up by international evidence, shows that 80% of deaf children who attend an Auditory Verbal programme for at least two years achieve the same level of spoken language as their hearing peers, rising to 97% of children without additional needs. Most of these children attend mainstream schools and are attaining educational outcomes on par with hearing children.

With little to no provision of Auditory Verbal therapy for deaf babies and children currently via publicly funded services, and only 31 certified Auditory Verbal Therapists in the UK, there is inequality of access to support and a ‘postcode lottery’ of provision.  AVUK’s #HearUsNow campaign is calling for the investment to train a small proportion of the current public sector workforce already working with deaf children to embed 300 specialist Auditory Verbal Therapists in local services, so every deaf child under five in the UK has the opportunity to access an Auditory Verbal therapy programme close to their home.

During the debate, the Government made a commitment to meet with AVUK, who currently provide Auditory Verbal therapy direct to deaf children and their families and provide international accredited training for professionals in the Auditory Verbal approach.

Maria Caulfield MP, Minster at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “We do know... that language is linked to social, emotional and learning outcomes, and from birth through to childhood, children and young people with hearing loss might need a range of therapies, such as speech, language, and Auditory Verbal therapy, however as we’ve heard today, those children aren’t always receiving the help that they need.”

She added that she recognises “that nationally we have to do more to train those practitioners that teach AVT”, and welcomes “the work of Auditory Verbal UK on their plans to upskill health professionals to deliver AVT”, and is “very keen to hear about the work they’re doing and see what more we can do to get those skills in place to help children and young people.”

AVUK Chief Executive Anita Grover said: “Today, MPs have highlighted the lack of provision of Auditory Verbal therapy and called on the Government to meet and work with us to enable more deaf children to access this specialist support. We need urgent investment now to ensure every family who wants their child to learn to listen and talk is able to access an Auditory Verbal programme through publicly funded services in their local area. Early and effective support is critically important, whether a family wishes to use sign language, spoken language or both. And my call to this Government is clear. A small investment today will deliver lifelong benefits for deaf children and their families. This cost-effective step could help children’s lives for years to come. “

During the debate, Sally-Ann Hart MP said: “I’ve met some amazing deaf children and young people who brim with self-confidence and self-esteem. We have some sitting here with us quite per chance, I have Noli who is doing a day’s work experience with me, who I met at Auditory verbal UK’s event in Parliament. She’s at university at Durham studying. She has huge confidence and self-esteem.”

Noli Tebe (19) from London was diagnosed as deaf aged two after contracting meningitis as a baby. She attended an Auditory Verbal therapy programme at the charity AVUK which supported her to learn to listen and speak and have the same opportunities as her hearing peers. Now Noli is in her second year at Durham University studying Archaeology and Ancient Civilisations.

 After attending the debate this morning, she said: “The support my family and I had from AVUK to help me learn to listen and speak has always been central to the determination I have and belief that I can achieve anything I want to and do everything my hearing friends can. But this isn’t the case for all deaf children.

 “I really hope that this debate serves to make MPs understand how urgent it is that there is support for the provision of Auditory Verbal therapy because for me it has been truly life transforming and with investment the same could be true for many more deaf children.”