Do I have the required knowledge and training to assess a person who is deafblind?

Sense cannot give a view on every course or combination of courses in relation to assessing people who are deafblind. However, we hope that the information set out below will help local authorities identify the appropriate person to assess deafblind people in their area. 

Assessing children who are deafblind/Multi Sensory Impaired (MSI)

The Deafblind guidance sets out 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”.

Assessing a child who is deafblind/MSI is a specialist area and very different from assessing an adult who is deafblind. The training of assessors of children who are deafblind needs to reflect this.

The two qualifications which would be relevant to children’s assessment are:

  • Diploma in Deafblind Studies
  • Education of Learners with Multisensory Impairment (Deafblindness) MEd/BPhil/Postgraduate Diploma/ Postgraduate Certificate/Advanced Certificate

Anyone carrying out an assessment of a child who is deafblind/MSI should have one of these qualifications

Assessing adults who are deafblind

The Care Act guidance requires local authorities to provide an assessment from a person who is appropriately trained and who has the right skills and knowledge. The Care Act regulations require local authorities to offer people who are deafblind an assessment with a specialist in deafblindness. As a minimum, statutory guidance requires that a person carrying out an assessment of a person who is deafblind has knowledge of deafblindness to a minimum of QCF level 3, higher where the person has higher or more complex needs.

When assessing whether your training is sufficient to assess a person who is deafblind, it is not just the level which is important. Firstly the training must have covered all the areas listed in the Care Act Guidance:

  • communication 
  • one-to-one human contact 
  • social interaction and emotional wellbeing
  • support with mobility 
  • assistive technology 
  • rehabilitation

Secondly, it is important that the training recognises “that deafblindness is a dual sensory condition which requires a knowledge and understanding of the two respective conditions in unison, which cannot be replicated by taking an individual approach to both senses.” Training should therefore have covered the way in which the loss of both senses interacts to impact on a person’s life in a way which is significantly different from each single sensory loss. 

So to assess your training and knowledge of deafblindness you need to consider:

1. The level – was it equivalent to QCF level 3 or higher?

2. The breadth – did it cover all the areas set out above?

3. Did it cover the specific nature of dual sensory loss – not just each sensory loss considered separately?

The guidance states that the type and degree of specialism should be judged on a case by case basis, according to the extent of the person’s condition and their communication needs.  So for example, a suitably trained assessor who has only ever assessed children who are deafblind/MSI may not have the appropriate skills and knowledge to assess an older person with sight and hearing loss and vice versa; similarly an assessor who has limited knowledge of Usher syndrome may not be the appropriate assessor for a person with Usher whose sight is rapidly deteriorating. 

More complex needs

The Care Act requires that where a person’s needs are more complex, training must be to above level 3. More complex needs might include complex communication such as for people born deafblind; changing needs, for instance caused by deterioration of the person’s condition; a combination with other conditions especially those which also impact on communication, mobility and access to information (e.g. learning disability, dementia).

The main level 4 and 5 qualifications currently available are:

  • Certificate in Deafblind studies (Level 4)
  • Diploma in Deafblind Studies (Level 5) 
  • The University of Birmingham has a range of qualifications in Multi-Sensory Impairment (various levels)

The level and qualification required will be proportionate and appropriate to the complexity of the person being assessed.

What happens if I carry out an assessment for which I am not qualified or for which I do not have the right skills and knowledge?

The most likely consequence will be that you fail to correctly identify the impact of the dual sensory loss on the person. This could lead to an incorrect assessment of needs and eligibility, incorrect level of personal budget, inappropriate support provision and failure to correctly identify preventative approaches. It is more cost effective to carry out an appropriate assessment first time so that people receive appropriate support in a timely fashion.

If a person is unhappy with their assessment and their support plan and the person who carried out the assessment and drafted up the support plan was not correctly qualified then they would be able to make complaint; take a case to the ombudsman; or challenge the local authority decision by way of judicial review. 

How can local authorities ensure that they have sufficient trained staff?

Local authorities need to ensure they have sufficient appropriately trained staff to carry out assessments (and prepare care planning and sit on panels which are also required by the Care Act). A number of organisations, provide level 3 training aimed at local authority assessors. Before purchasing a course from any provider we would recommend that you check the breadth, as well as the level, is sufficient. These are relatively short courses and will enable your staff to assess the majority of people who are deafblind. 

For those with more complex needs a higher level of qualification is required. The Certificate and Diploma in Deafblind Studies is available as a distance learning option, which can be a cost effective way to increase in house capacity.

In addition, a number of organisations, including Sense, provide assessments of people who are deafblind. We would recommend that before contracting with an external provider or allocating a specific assessor to assess a person who is deafblind you:

  • check the level of qualification of the assessors 
  • check that the assessor has an appropriate knowledge of the Care Act
  • check that the assessor has the right skills and knowledge to assess that particular individual who is deafblind

June 2015; updated July 2015

First published: Thursday 16 August 2012
Updated: Friday 11 August 2017