Just how many Deaf people are there in the UK?
The honest answer is, we don't know. We hoped the Census would make things clearer, but it hasn't. Let's look at what we know.
In the 2011 census, 22,000 people in England and Wales said their "main language" was sign language. Of these 15,500 said their "main language" was BSL. That would be about 24,742 sign language users for the whole of the UK.
The GP Patient Survey is a questionnaire that gets sent to around 2.7 million people every year. After some pressure from SignHealth, it asks "Are you a Deaf person who uses sign language?" In the last year, 0.42% of respondents answered "yes" to this question. If you apply that proportion to the total UK population (61 million), then that would give us 254,000 Deaf people.
You can get another number by looking at Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claims. Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions say they are 43,880 people claiming DLA on the basis of their deafness.
So, what's the real figure? Well, none of them can be dismissed. Their are problems with each of them. The census represents the minimum—there cannot be any less sign language users than that. The GPPS is probably an over-estimate. And the DLA figure is probably close, but under the real number. Which means the 60,000 figure that has been used as an estimate before is probably quite close.
Census confusion - but still the same solution
Figures released from the 2011 census suggest the Deaf community is smaller than many earlier estimates. According to the statistics, there are 21,971 people who consider their main language to be a sign language in England and Wales. That number is for BSL and other sign languages.
While this figure may be lower than many people thought, SignHealth is arguing that it changes nothing. Health services still need to be making reasonable adjustments so the language barrier is removed. It makes no difference whether there is one sign language user or one million.
Indeed, there appear to be far more people whose main language is sign language than other UK languages, such as Gaelic and Cornish. While these languages are offered protection by the Government (and funding) BSL is 'recognised' - and that doesn't seem to count for much.
North West to Champion Deaf Health
SignHealth is working in partnership with the national umbrella body UKCoD (UK Council on Deafness) to establish a Deaf Health Champions pilot project in the North West of England. The project has just received a £599,954 grant from the Department of Health’s Health and Social Care Volunteering Fund (HSCVF). SignHealth will manage the fund which will be received in instalments over three years.
Schools still signing up for sign2sing
The 2013 sign2sing was a huge success. We are still waiting for schools to send it their paperwork, but we hope we have beaten last year's record. A big thank you to everyone who took part. Full details on the sign2sing website.
New guide to health changes published
Anyone confused by the changes to the NHS can download a new guide published by the National Care Forum and VODG. The guide explains what some of the changes will mean, and what the new health organisations are.
Had enough of poor interpreters in healthcare? Join the campaign now
SignHealth has joined other organisations to campaign for better standards of interpreting in healthcare settings. Sign the petition and find out more.
The Lancet warns that being deaf may damage your health
Articles published in a recent edition of The Lancet have warned that Deaf people experience poorer mental health, and are likely to experience poorer physical health.
It is great to see the world's leading medical journal recognising the health inequalities faced by Deaf people. The journal published a main article on mental health, a commentary piece which looked at health generally, and an editorial. It also devoted the front page to the subject - which shows how important they feel the issue is.
The highly respected journal also made the commentary available in BSL. This is the first time they have made content available in BSL.
SignHealth's chief executive, Steve Powell, was a co-author of the commentary (along with Dr Andrew Alexander and Dr Paddy Ladd). Steve said, "This is an important step forward. We have spent a long time saying the health of Deaf people is important. To now be recognised by The Lancet makes a real difference. Health professionals can no longer pretend that the health of Deaf people is not important. They have been set a challenge. SignHealth will be making sure they now try to improve services for their Deaf patients."
Read the Review article
Read the Commentary (with BSL video)
Read the Editorial
We did it!
Follow the link to see how thousands of children signed and sang their way to becoming record breakers.
Just £10 can provide expert help for abused Deaf women and children. Donate today by clicking onto Just Giving and then 'Make a Donation'.
Are you a parent, teacher or young person? The Deaf Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service needs your help. It's very simple and you'll be helping children and young people of the future who need the service's help. Full details here.
What is the Personal Independence Payment (PIP)?
DLA is being stopped from April this year. It is being replaced by PIP. Find out more from this BSL video on YouTube.