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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Cumbrian charity given £200,000 lifeline

A key Cumbrian charity has been thrown a financial lifeline after it landed a contract to run social work services for deaf people across the county.

Deaf Vision photo
Lorraine Brown, of Cumbria-DeafVision, interprets for deaf joinery student Andrew Shaw, left, and his assessor Kevan Carruthers at Carlisle College

Earlier this year, bosses at Cumbria-DeafVision voiced their fears for the future after Cumbria County Council awarded a £73,000 contract to supply specialist equipment for deaf people to The Birmingham Institute for the Deaf.

The Cumbrian charity had already sustained one round of job cuts as it battled to find funding for its work.

The council’s decision to renew the charity’s £200,000 social work contract – for work it has done for the last 40 years – has come as a huge relief.

But acting chief executive John Brennan said that the coming year will be a crucial one as the charity strives to find fresh funding.

He explained that the contract, to run until September next year, will fund three specialist social workers, all experts in sign language.

They work directly with between 60 and 100 deaf or hearing-impaired people and with a project that supports deaf children and their families.

“This is essential work,” said Mr Brennan. “If you are deaf, and you need social work support, you need access to this very specialised support.

“These social workers are all highly qualified and experienced sign language users and without their skills people could end up poorly advised and supported.

“Without this help, deaf people could end up marginalised and suffering greater hardship than they might otherwise.”

Despite the good news about the social work contract, the charity still has to ease its financial position and so will sell off its Carlisle HQ in Compton Street.

The hope is that premises which offer better value for money can be found. The charity is continuing to look for additional funding.

Mr Brennan said Cumbria-DeafVision would forge stronger strategic links with partnership agencies, such as the county council and health services, making the county a national leader in providing quality support for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

With an expected rise in the county’s elderly population, the demand for such support services is likely to rise, said Mr Brennan.

He added: “The work we do is crucial and there’s a lot of expertise and experience within our organisation.

“We want stronger links with audiology services in the health service. We have heard stories of people having real traumas with equipment, to the point where they don’t use it.

“I used to be chief executive of Merseyside Deaf Association and I have seen people deteriorate rapidly once they have acquired hearing loss. They can quickly become socially isolated.

“But with the right intervention, the right equipment, and right support and advice, a lot of the issues can be addressed.”

The charity, which has a turnover of about £600,000, wants to encourage more people to learn sign language and will support more deaf awareness training.

Its bosses say it makes sense to fund support services from within their charity, which has built up its expertise and knowledge over a century.

In recent years, Cumbria-DeafVision has had experience of working with the 400 or so profoundly deaf or hearing-impaired people locally as well as with their families.

The charity also provides a programme supporting young deaf people and their families; an interpreter support service, community centres, and a care package programme for those who need additional support.

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