Cornwall mother’s campaign to make sign language classes free for parents with deaf children

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A mum from Cornwall is campaigning for British Sign Language (BSL) courses to be free for parents with children who are deaf.

Katie Littlejohns, from Illogan, has started a petition for the campaign as she believes the courses are too expensive but essential for parents like her.

She says communication is key for every family, but ensuring she can always communicate with her youngest son who is moderately deaf hasn’t been straightforward.

Alvie, her two-year-old son, was diagnosed when he was just 7 weeks old.

Alvie is already learning his first signs Credit: ITV West Country News

At that time, Katie was told that hearing aids don’t always work "so if you're more than 2 metres away, if you’re behind him, in a noisy environment like a restaurant.

"I just thought I don’t want him to be struggling so we decided it made sense to learn BSL and that’s when I discovered it’s not offered because courses are difficult to access.

"It's a postcode lottery on funding and I just thought it’s basic communication that I’m struggling to understand has a price tag attached to it.”

Katie’s now campaigning for free British Sign Language courses to be offered on diagnosis for parents of deaf children.

Katie's petition has so far gathered just over 20,000 signatures Credit: Katie Littlejohns

She says she feels lucky as her employer is helping to fund her courses – but she knows of many other families struggling to cover the costs.

She said: "I’m friends with somebody whose child has no hearing and she’s spent thousands on learning BSL, her son is two - it's not right.

"If you're post-natal, there's a financial crisis and you're having to worry about your child's future if you can afford to just learn basic communication with them, that's not OK.

"If this petition can lead to start to change that I would be over the moon, I couldn't ask for more than being offered the courses on diagnosis, it should be standard."

Katie wants all families with deaf children to be able to access BSL classes for free Credit: ITV West Country News

On January 10, the Department of Education responded to Katie's petition.

"Adult Education Budget funding is available for British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications, below Level 3.

"At Level 3 and above Advanced Learner Loans are available for certain BSL qualifications. The government recognises how important it is for parents and guardians of deaf children to be able to access a British Sign Language (BSL) course if their own child is learning BSL to communicate with others.

"Although there are no plans to introduce a universal free BSL course for this cohort, funding is available through the Adult Education Budget (AEB) for qualifications in or focussing on British Sign Language (BSL) up to and including Level 2."

Katie says the impact on a child of not being able to communicate effectively can be devastating and she’s hoping her petition may lead to a positive change at the highest level.