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‘Frightened’ and ‘stressed out’ deaf community plea for help from Camden Council

Deaf campaigners outside Camden Town Hall (from left) Janet Campbell, Joyce Yankey, Billy McLaughlin, Peter Wiener and Andy Readman. They are signing the words Deaf campaigners outside Camden Town Hall (from left) Janet Campbell, Joyce Yankey, Billy McLaughlin, Peter Wiener and Andy Readman. They are signing the words "Deaf need access council service". Picture: Polly Hancock

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
3:15 PM

The fallout following the closure of a disability charity in Camden has left the deaf community “devastated”, “frightened” and “utterly stressed out”, campaigners warned councillors last week.

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Deaf people in the borough say the loss of sign language interpreters has meant they have been unable to access council services, make urgent repairs to their council homes or even get basic advice.

It follows the closure of Disability in Camden (DISC) in March.

The charity had been a lifeline for many of Camden’s disabled residents for over 40 years and offered the deaf community services like interpreters and employment training.

It has been left to informal organisations like the Deaf and Disability Awareness Group (DDAG) to pick up the pieces, with them claiming that the ordeal had put the community “back in time”,

The group issued a stark warning to councillors during the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee that the council “needed to do more to help”.

Petra Dando, of DDAG, said: “It has become very clear to us that the services are just not there for Camden’s deaf community.

“Ultimately our aim must be to try to empower members of the deaf community who are very able and capable but clearly, like all of us, need to be given support in a very tailored and structured way.

“Following the closure of DISC, there really has been a lack of personal touch from the council in helping the community.”

Half-a-dozen representatives from the deaf community arrived at the council meeting at the town hall in Judd Street.

They called for the council to employ British Sign Language interpreters, to receive more training around “deaf awareness” and to set up a regular housing and 
repairs surgery for the deaf.

Monika Caro, of DDAG, said: “If you can imagine that you cannot hear a baby cry, or wonderful music, or the birds singing – and all you hear is nothing.

“And then you seek help and you do not receive it, and then you end up the way the community is at the moment: totally and utterly stressed out, and they are also frightened.”

William Roberts, director of strategy and planning at Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has been working with other health groups across Camden to highlight deaf issues.

He told councillors: “This is one of those issues where it’s lots of small things that would be very easy to sort out and make a huge difference to this community.

“We’re not talking about seismic changes and it doesn’t require a lot of money. It just requires a commitment to do it.”

Responding to the concerns, Cllr Alison Kelly, chairman of the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee, said their message had been “powerful”.

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