Following a meeting at his advice surgery on Saturday (9th June), Michael Fabricant has now written to Christine Doubleday, Director of Staffordshire Area, The Learning & Skills Council and to Neil Carr, Chief Executive of the South Staffordshire Healthcare NHS Trust to ask for lip reading training courses to be introduced in South Staffordshire.
Michael says: "I was surprised to learn that there are no lip reading courses available in South Staffordshire at all though courses in British Sign Language are run locally. But signing is no substitute for lip reading. Many people who are hard of hearing or are profoundly deaf find lip reading a vital aid to communication. It helps them to remain an integral part of our society.
"I fully recognise that the ability to lip read is a more flexible tool than signing alone which needs two trained parties to participate. Hearing can be affected by disease and age. With an ever aging population in our county, I believe the absence of such courses is an omission that must be corrected."
In early October 2006, Michael Fabricant wrote to Ministers at the Department of Health about the need for lip reading courses.
In a letter dated 7th November, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Ivan Lewis wrote:-
"I would like to reassure you that the Government remains committed to ensuring that there is appropriate learning provision in place to meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing learners, and more generally for all learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LLDD). In 2004/05 the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) allocated nearly £1.5billion to learning providers in order to support 640,000 LLDD. This is an increase of over 60,000 LLDD, and £200million compared to the previous year. Funding for LLDD remains a priority, and we expect each institution to maintain this proportion of LLDD in their overall numbers. Institutions should discuss any major planned changes in provision with the LSC.
"The Government is providing investment to ensure that we actively support programmes that enable individuals to achieve their aims and aspirations. Through Inclusion to Excellence: The Report of the Steering Group for the Strategic Review of the LSC’s Planning and Funding of Provision for Learners with Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities across the Post-16 Learning and Skills Sector was published in November 2005 and reviewed LSC funding and planning of LLDD provision. The LSC then published their national LLDD strategy Learning for Living and Work: Improving Education and Training Opportunities for People with Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities on 16 October this year. The Adult Learning Inspectorate also produced a report on provision for LLDD, entitled Greater Expectations – provision for learners with disabilities. The recent Further Education White Paper Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances also set out plans to improve support for these learners through the implementation of Through Inclusion to Excellence."
Michael says: "Despite his confidence, clearly the Minister is wrong when he says ‘there is appropriate learning provision in place to meet the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing’. Later in the same letter the Minister admits that there are no lip reading courses either at Lichfield, Tamworth, or Burton. I hope this will now be rectified."