The House of Lords will hold a debate on Deaf Mental health services on Monday 2nd February.
SignHealth worked with Lord Ponsonby to call the debate, because mental health services for Deaf people have been cut back since changes were made to the way the NHS is run.
The debate will begin at 7.30pm.
SignHealth has approached the House of Lords, the BBC, and the Lords who will be involved in the debate, to try to get it signed live in BSL.
Lord Ponsonby says, “Good friends of ours have a Deaf daughter who is now a successful independent young woman. Over the years it has been of great interest to me to see the family navigate the additional hurdles placed in her path. I have also become aware of the wider obstacles faced by Deaf people and access to equal mental health care is one such obstacle.”
Those obstacles are getting worse not better.
Before the changes to the NHS we only had to deal with 10 regions across England to get the service paid for, so that Deaf BSL users could have therapy in their own language. Now the country is split into more than 200 different areas, far too many for a small charity to deal with individually. Many of them don’t understand the need for the service, or think there are so few Deaf people in the area that they don’t need to worry.
It’s not just bad news for Deaf people in need of help, it’s a dreadful waste of money too. The government invested one and a half million pounds to train Deaf therapists to offer the service in Sign Language. Difficulties getting the service paid for under the new commissioning system means that a large number of those specially trained therapists have been made redundant.
SignHealth’s Chief Executive, Steve Powell, explained the problems to Norman Lamb, the Health Minister responsible for mental health. He asked the minister for action to give Deaf people the same sort of easy access to mental health services that hearing people have.
“The minister said he understood the problem and promised that his officials would investigate and find a way to make sure that the investment in psychological therapies for Deaf people isn’t wasted”, says Steve Powell. “We were delighted and encouraged by the commitment, but nearly three months later there has been no real sign of progress. For Deaf people in need of help this is an urgent matter”.
It’s a worry echoed by Lord Ponsonby. “The move towards co-commissioning for specialised services within the NHS represents a backward step for Deaf mental health services”, he said.
“Psychological therapies need to move to a national approach even if responsibility remains local. I hope my debate will get the minister to acknowledge this problem and we can consider how this should be addressed. I believe Deaf people should have access to a full range of mental health services in BSL.”
[clear-line] Photo Credit: Counselling session by Alan Cleaver, Parliament from the air by Jimmy Baikovicius, Pictures of members of Parliament from www.parliament.uk
You can see the debate on the BBC Parliament TV channel at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd February. Later, it will be posted on the House of Lords YouTube channel with subtitles. SignHealth is working to get Parliament to sign the debate live.