Damage costing thousands halts work at two Cumbria Deaf Association offices

Two offices belonging to the Cumbria Deaf Association have been broken into, causing thousands of pounds worth of damages.

The sites in Kendal and Barrow were targeted by thieves, who broke doors and locks, to steal old, "almost worthless" items like old laptops.

Representatives from the CDA say their community feels like they have been targeted and many are now too anxious to come to the centre.

General Manager Caroline Howsley told ITV Border of the trail of destruction left behind.

She said: "They climbed out of the window, they left footprints everywhere, they kicked through doors; they upended desks; there was sand everywhere; there were plants everywhere."

Shattered glass covers the floor in one office Credit: CDA

Cumbria Deaf Association says as a small charity they needed the stolen items, and vandals have caused damage to the work they do by such "a mindless act".

Caroline continued, "We don't have great assets here but we have a place of safety for the deaf community to come and spend their time."

Administrator Greer Shepherd says it's cost more than the immediate material damage.

"We're actually losing income because the rooms that we would use to rent out we can't use.

"The fire escape is damaged so legally we can't use the rooms. So we've got an income loss."Staff say some of the damage is covered by insurance, but it's causing distress to bosses wondering how the charity will pay for it.

"In the space of days we had the break-in in Kendal and then the lock tampering in Barrow. And I think the quote was in excess of £8,000, which we just haven't got."

The charity says this is not the first time vandals have targeted their facilities Credit: CDA

Susan McCabe, who is deaf and likes coming to the centre, told ITV Border: "When we found out it was broken into we felt like 'huff'. Thinking, 'ah not again.' Why us?"

Greer says the irony is that neither centre had anything of particular financial value but the incident hit at a time when the charity's funds are already being stretched with rising fuel prices and the cost of living crisis.

The charity's interpreter works across the whole of Cumbria so the charity says costs for the interpreting service have gone up, to align with petrol prices.

Fire damage shown at an entry point to the building Credit: CDA

The CDA claims it's not just the "physical damage" but the "upheaval". The hearing dogs were unable to work in some of the rooms because of broken glass. 

Leslie Jackson, who is deaf, spoke to ITV Border through his interpreter Karen Edmondson:

"It's been really difficult. It makes you quite frightened, you know, are they going to come back again? The deaf community has got quite a lot of elderly people in it and perhaps they're going to be frightened to come back again."

Leslie continued: "I just feel like quite often deaf people are at the bottom of the pile.

"And we get out there, raise awareness and then something like this happens and we're back to the bottom again. We just want equality with hearing people."

Caroline says there are now some service users who won't come to the centre.

"It's the safety and upset, the anxiety. Post-Covid a lot of the deaf community were still wary about coming out because they'd had a really upsetting time through Covid.

"And coming back out into the community for them was a big step forward and this has now made some in the deaf community reluctant to come back out again."Susan says as she lip-reads she found the mask-wearing during the lockdowns "a barrier" that made her feel trapped. "We were stuck," she says.And yet what the charity want is not punishment, but restorative justice.

They hope the Police find the thieves so they can help repair the damage and meet the people they've hurt.

Facts from the Cumbria Deaf Association:

  • In the UK, 1 in 6 people suffer from hearing loss

  • They provide around 200 hours of interpreting each month

  • CDA has been established for 125 years

  • And have trained over 150 organisations to become deaf aware