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Advocacy service for deaf people closes after funding cut, leaves '5,000 at risk'

The Irish Deaf Society said its members now face “further social exclusion”.

CEO of the Irish Deaf Society Eddie Redmond
CEO of the Irish Deaf Society Eddie Redmond
Image: Irish Deaf Society via YouTube

AN ADVOCACY SERVICE run by the Irish Deaf Society (IDS) has been forced to close following a decision by government to sever its funding.

It has sparked fears that it puts deaf people at “further risk of social and economic living standards”, and affects 5,000 people.

IDS confirmed that its National Advocacy Service has closed, with a full loss of staff, resulting from the Department of of Environment, Community and Local Governmen decision.

“We are seriously concerned for the welfare of Deaf community members,” CEO Eddie Redmond said, “many of whom have come to depend on the advocacy service as the only viable service for them, with other services inaccessible due to Irish Sign Language (ISL) being their first and in some case only language.”

Add to it that 80% of Deaf adults have literacy levels akin to those of 8 to 9 year olds compared with 25% of the general population, and you have a serious case of social exclusion with no means of remedy.

The IDS said the closure creates a “gaping hole in services”, and that the advocacy service had helped people to access public services, education, healthcare, and employment.

The  IDS noted that the decision is being appealed through Pobal.

Speaking this evening, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on disabilities Colm Keaveney said the 5,000 people had been left “high and dry”.

“To take this service away from deaf people is appalling and seems to have been done without any thought as to the consequences,” he said.

This decision by Minister Phil Hogan defies logic and I am appealing to the Minister to re-think this ill-thought out move.

A statement from the Department said:

The Scheme to Support National Organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector provides multi-annual funding to national organisations towards core costs associated with the provision of services. The new Scheme is intended to commence from 1 July 2014, on the basis of a competitive assessment process.The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government invited applications from eligible national organisations, in the Community and Voluntary sector, to apply for funding under a new round of the Scheme to Support National Organisations (2014-2016).

Pobal was engaged by the Department to manage the application and appraisal process and to make recommendations for decision to the Department. Pobal recently completed their analysis and grant allocations have been notified to groups.

Watch: Learn how to order a pint using Irish Sign Language >

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Nicky Ryan

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