Monday, January 25, 2010

Shortfall in care for deaf-blind people in Somerset

Shortfall in care for deaf-blind people in Somerset

An investigation by BBC Somerset has shown the needs of thousands of deaf-blind people are not being met.

Figures from the charity Sense show more than 4,000 people in Somerset have got visual and aural impairments.

However fewer than 300 of them have registered with their relevant councils across the county.

The government has issued statutory guidance stating that councils should be identifying and keeping a record of deaf and blind people in their area.

Lack of practical help

Local authority / Sense figures of deaf-blind people in Somerset
Somerset County Council: 220 / 2,400
North Somerset Council: fewer than 12 / 940
Bath and North East Somerset Council: 24 / 770

The investigation covered three local authorities in the county: Somerset County Council, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset.

Marcelle Holden, a widow in her 80s whose daughter Linda lives and looks after her in West Buckland, is blind and partially deaf.

"We haven't met any people who've come up with anything practical," said Linda.

"You do get a sense that they [social services] don't have any support for themselves in terms of things that they can suggest that can be offered to people who are in mum's situation, so there either isn't the funding or there aren't people in place who have the training."

Both representatives from Somerset County Council and North Somerset Council admitted not enough was in place to help people like Marcelle.

They said the reason why people were not registered was down to a number of reasons, ranging from people not wanting to register, or feeling it was necessary.

Barrie Fitzpatrick, group manager for Adult Social Care with Somerset County Council also said many did not contact the council because they felt sight and hearing loss were ''part of the natural ageing process''.

Pledge to improve services

However, there are now plans to address this gap in services.

"Somerset is about to undertake a review of sensory loss services across the board and we will certainly be focussing and thinking about in terms of how we reach out and engage with people who have both hearing and sensory loss impairments," said Barrie.

The same is also happening at North Somerset Council.

Alan Davis, policy and planning manager at North Somerset Council's Adult Social Care, said a recent review found more work was needed to identify and such people.

"This year we're going to be working with our local organisations for blind people and ones for deaf people to see how we can improve those services," he added.

A statement for Bath and North East Somerset Council said the council had different support services in place to help deaf-blind people live as independently as possible, and that the council's Sensory Services team carried out assessments using a fully trained staff.

The spokesperson added that although only 24 people were on the register, "this does not reflect the contact this authority has with people with dual sensory loss who often have physical impairments that mean their main contact is with our community teams".