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  1. ITV Report

Jersey's deaf community concerned by changes to government support

Some believe the new liason role will not be able to provide the same level of support as a dedicated social worker. Credit: ITV Channel TV

People from Jersey's deaf community in Jersey are unhappy with changes to support provided by the government.

In April, the government's lead support officer for deaf children and adults Angela Goddard was forced into compulsory redundancy but said nobody was going to replace her.

It means that families have had to manage without dedicated support for almost five months.

In a meeting public meeting, Health Minister Richard Renouf announced plans to introduce a new liaison service in addition to a social offering and online technology to help them.

But the move has been criticised by some who believe the new liaison role will not be able to provide the same level of support as was previously given by a dedicated social worker.

Jess has been losing her hearing since she was 15. Her eight-year-old daughter is also profoundly deaf.

Jess Wolanski says the support that the social worker provided was invaluable to herself and her daughter. Credit: ITV Channel TV

She says they both benefited massively from the support of a social worker, leaving them concerned by the changes.

The job description of the liaison officer seems to be missing a lot of the personal side that we had with the other social officer. It was a lot more like another member of family coming in to support you. This seems very official, very government and not very approachable.

– Jess Wolanski

Health Minister Richard Renouf insisted the changes are necessary but admitted that things had not gone as planned.

Health Minister Richard Renouf says social support is still available for families, but there was more need for a liaison advocacy type role. Credit: ITV Channel TV

As part of the government reorganisation this was up for reassessment. We needed to provide more of a liaison service rather than a professional social worker.

There will be a social work offering, there won't be a dedicated social worker, at least not immediately, because all our social work teams will be trained to meet the needs of all those who need social work.

I think we have to acknowledge that in government, we started with the best of intentions but things hadn't worked out exactly how we wanted.

There's been delays, the community has felt let down and we haven't been able to help them until now. Today we've been able to announce we're going out to advertise for that post.

– Richard Renouf, Minister for Health and Social Services

Peter Le Feuvre sits on the Deaf Partnership Board, an forum of agencies and organisations which provide support to those who are deaf or hearing impaired.

He supports the decision, saying he believes this is an opportunity for the nature of the role to evolve.

Peter Le Feuvre wants to see the role 'de-medicalised' so that it can benefit people across departments. Credit: ITV Channel TV

What I'm hoping is that the new post will sit in the customer services and local government at the old social security building.

I'd like to de-medicalise it so that it is there but the post-holder would be able to support anybody that needs support anywhere. Whether it's at education, whether it's at house, whether it's with business, so I'm hoping that because we're working together, we can get the right person in who can help the community evolve and services evolve and that we can make it efficient.

– Peter Le Feuvre, Chair of Jersey Deaf Partnership Board Member