The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

Social services involvement in the

NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme

Alison Weaver


An ‘open space’ event to consider how agencies can work together to meet the social needs of families of deaf babies identified through NHSP was organised by a group of independent consultants commissioned by the DoH to identify how social services can play an appropriate and active role with families of young deaf children.

Participants included representatives from health, social services, education, voluntary sector, parents and NHSP.

Summary of the main points of the meeting

The ‘open space’ format for the meeting gave all participants the opportunity to ask questions related to the theme. These questions then became the focus of the discussion groups, which ran throughout the day.

Questions raised included:

  • Do Social Services have the time and resources to meet the needs of deaf children and their families?
  • How can Social Services and other agencies work together to meet the needs of families of deaf children with additional needs?
  • How can we resolve tensions between different professionals that stop them working with families?
  • Should we be looking at families' needs rather than discussing which service should provide ?

In the discussion groups I attended many familiar issues and arguments were raised.

Frequently and strongly expressed views included:

  • Social services do not currently have the capacity and in many cases the training to support families of very young deaf children
  • More work is needed in clarifying the respective roles of the various agencies in the early stages - is there overlap? Could the support be provided more effectively with better co-ordination?
  • How can the work be more effectively co-ordinated while at the same time recognising the value of the individual specialist skills and training that the respective professionals bring to the work?
  • The development of the role of the keyworker and of Family Services Plans is an important area of work to be pursued
  • Teachers of the Deaf are often seen as the keyworker - important that a wider range of expectations on the teacher does not detract from their core role
  • The work begun through the ESPP and the various tool kits is a starting point for many of the recommendations from the groups

Next steps: Feedback from the groups will be incorporated into the consultants' final report.

Recommendations/discussion/action points:

Although there may be no direct outcomes/actions from this meeting, it is important that BATOD continues to be represented on such forums. BATOD also needs to consider how all this fits in with changes as a result of the forthcoming Children Act, development of Children's Trusts/Children's Centres and Children's Services.

At a teacher/service/LEA level it will also be important to:

  • monitor impact of ESPP and any changes in role which may evolve as a result of this
  • maintain involvement in any multi-agency discussions at local and national level
  • feedback positive examples/concerns
  • ensure specialisms are not lost.

First appeared in BATOD Association Magazine November 2004