Wales

Deaf children: 'We fundraised to communicate with Lola'

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Media captionDeaf children: 'They let us down over our daughter'

Parents of a toddler who is deaf hope they will finally be able to communicate with her after being forced to fundraise for sign language lessons.

Ros and Josh Hannam, from Caldicot, were told after Lola was born that they would have to pay £6,000 for a British Sign Language (BSL) course.

They raised the money but said the situation was "ridiculous".

It comes as an independent Welsh Government report found provision of BSL classes in Wales was "patchy".

Another problem highlighted was financial cuts to education, with the government vowing to consider the recommendations.

The National Deaf Children's Society called on it to take urgent action.

There are 2,642 deaf children in Wales and 3,116 pupils with hearing impairments in Welsh schools, according to figures.

Mrs Hannam and husband Josh were shocked to discover how little help there was after Lola was diagnosed.

"I couldn't believe that there was nothing available, because it seemed to me such an obvious need," said Mrs Hannam, from Caldicot, Monmouthshire.

They were told it would cost £6,000 to learn BSL and started trying to raise funds.

A concert at Newport's Dolman Theatre was one idea they had to bring in the cash.

Mrs Hannam added: "The expectation that a family has to raise thousands of pounds to be able to learn a new language just to be able to communicate with their own child is ridiculous."

Image caption When Lola was born, her family was shocked by the lack of help

Lola recently had cochlear implants and while doctors do not yet know how much she can hear, she reacts to sounds and loves to dance.

The generosity of friends and family supporting their fundraising efforts also means her parents will begin their BSL training shortly.

"All that any parent wants for their child is that they have a happy, successful fulfilled life," Mrs Hannam added.

"She needs to feel that she fits in and it's important that she has every tool available to her to fit in, in whatever life she chooses for herself."

Image caption Lola enjoys dancing and responds to some sounds

The Welsh Government provides some funding for BSL courses.

However, its report said parents faced barriers.

Image caption Approximately 90% of children with hearing loss are born to families with no experience or knowledge of deafness

Some local authorities including Anglesey, Conwy, Caerphilly and Merthyr Tydfil do not offer any BSL courses and parents are directed to other local authorities who do.

Debbie Thomas, of the National Deaf Children's Society, said: "BSL was officially recognised by the Welsh Government in January 2004.

"And yet, in January 2020, people across Wales are still facing barriers to learning the language.

"Classing BSL as an essential communication skill is a key step to acknowledging that opportunities to learn this language must be more readily available."

'Cohesive action plan'

She added: "What we need now is a clear and cohesive action plan to address each of the barriers and make learning BSL in Wales a reality."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The provision of BSL and supporting people within the deaf community is extremely important.

"We welcome the independent report and we will be considering its recommendations in detail."

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