Councils in England and Wales have to follow guidance on how to provide services for deafblind people. The guidance was created to make sure deafblind people received the support and services they required from their local authority.
In England this guidance, called ‘Care and Support for Deafblind Children and Adults’, was issued in December 2014 by the Department of Health. It replaced the previous guidance, ‘Social Care for Deafblind Children and Adults’, issued by the Department of Health in 2009. The new guidance was issued in order to reflect the new Care Act 2014, but keeps broadly the same principles as the old guidance. Similar guidance is in place in Wales, issued by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2001.
Local authorities in both England and Wales must follow this guidance unless there is a legally sound justification for not doing so.
The Guidance asks local authorities to:
Identify, make contact with and keep a record of deafblind people in their catchment area (including those who have multiple disabilities that include dual-sensory impairment);
Ensure that when an assessment of needs for care and support is carried out, this is done by a person or team that has specific training and expertise relating to Deafblind persons – in particular to assess the need for communication, one-to-one human contact, social interaction and emotional wellbeing, support with mobility assistive technology and habilitation/rehabilitation;
Ensure services provided to Deafblind people are appropriate, recognising that they may not necessarily be able to benefit from mainstream services or those services aimed primarily at blind people or deaf people who are able to rely on their other senses;
Ensure that Deafblind people are able to access specifically trained one-to-one support workers if they are assessed as requiring one;
Provide information and advice in ways which are accessible to Deafblind people;
Ensure that a Director-level member of the local authority has overall responsibility for deafblind services
Who does this apply to?
The Guidance defines deafblindness widely and says: "Persons are regarded as deafblind if their combined sight and hearing impairment cause difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility.” This definition means that anyone who has both a hearing loss and a sight loss that cause them problems in everyday life is covered by the guidance. People do not have to be completely deaf and blind.
Your right to assessment
Local authorities must undertake an assessment for any adult who appears to have needs for care and support, regardless of whether or not the local authority thinks the adult has eligible needs or of their financial situation.
Regardless of whether you are receiving services already or this is your first assessment, you should ask to be assessed in accordance with the Deafblind Guidance. The assessment will consist of you meeting with the person who will be assessing you, usually a social worker, once or on several occasions. The person assessing you will probably use an assessment form. You can ask for accessible (i.e. in a format you can use, such as braille) copies of this before the first meeting. This will give you an idea of the sort of questions you may be asked. The assessment should include assessing your needs in relation to:
- One-to-one support and social interaction
- Support with mobility
- Assistive technology
- Your current and possible future needs
In England the Guidance also contains a provision whereby any assessment of a deafblind/multiple sensory impaired child must link up with an assessment of Special Educational Needs.
Your right to one-to-one support
The social services department within your local authority has a duty to provide you with support if you need it and if your needs are eligible needs. The local authority must make sure that if you need a specifically trained one-to- one support worker they are able to provide one. This means people with appropriate training and qualifications. These people fall into three main categories:
- Communicator Guides: they usually work with people who have become deafblind later in life, offering support that the deafblind person needs to live independently. They have qualifications from Signature (formerly CACDP)
- Interpreters: they act as a communication link between the deafblind person and other people, using the deafblind person’s preferred method of communication. They have qualifications from Signature (formerly CACDP)
- Intervenors: help children and adults who were born deafblind to learn by offering them sensitive, individualised one-to-one attention
Your rights to information
The Equality Act (2010) makes it clear that every organisation that provides services to the public must provide that information in a variety of formats so that it is accessible to disabled people.
In addition to this, the Deafblind Guidance also makes it clear that local authorities have a duty to provide information about services in formats and methods that are accessible to deafblind people. The guidance goes on to list possible methods of communication as:
- Clear speech and lipreading
- British Sign Language or a sign system e.g. Sign Supported English
- Visual frame signing, close-up signing
- Hands-on signing
- Braille and Moon
- Block alphabet
- Deafblind manual alphabet
- Note writing
- Electronic communication (with braille output or large font on screen)
- Individual's own personal signs
- Tadoma (gaining additional information from the vibrations of the speaker's vocal cords)
- A combination of any of the above
The Care Act places a specific legal duty on local authorities not only to provide up to date, thorough information and guidance for all local residents, but to signpost people to independent and impartial advice providers where necessary. Information must include what types of care and support are available and how to access them, as well as an explanation of the assessment and appeals process.
Your rights to social services for your deafblind child
When children are assessed this should be carried out by someone who is specifically trained to understand their needs as a deafblind child.
Assessing a deafblind child is a specialised area and different from assessing a deafblind adult. Ask about the qualifications and experience of the people assessing your child. We would expect the level of expertise of a person assessing a deafblind child to be significant. The services your child is assessed as needing should be provided by people who have the appropriate training and skills. These services may include the need for one-to-one support such as an intervenor, equipment, short breaks, etc.
Detailed information about the Deafblind Guidance
You can download the full guidance on the UK Government website.
In Wales the Guidance is National Assembly for Wales Circular No.10/01 and is available to download on the Welsh Government website.
You can also contact the Sense Information and Advice service to request a copy of the Guidance.
First published: Thursday 5 July 2012
Updated: Tuesday 31 March 2015