DEAF rights campaigners have blasted Lancashire County Council over the removal of a vital support service — and claimed they have been ignored over its replacement.
County Hall’s outsourcing partner One Connect first told East Lancashire Deaf Services (ELDS) last March it would need to re-tender for a Lancashire-wide deaf services contract, offering signposting to health, leisure, education and work opportunities.
And while temporary extensions were agreed, ELDS — which has offices in Blackburn and Burnley — was informed in August that none of the bids matched One Connect’s criteria to continue.
Bosses at ELDS have been continuing to operate the service from its own funds, as no replacement has been identified.
But the matter has left six deaf community support workers and three administrators facing months of uncertainty and the society’s funds severely stretched.
Doug Alker, ELDS executive chairman, said: “This has placed a massive strain on our charity’s finances, one which we can’t sustain for much longer and we will have no choice but to withdraw our services. Without a new framework or any other form of financial support or donations the service that the deaf community needs will be gone shortly.”
Lancashire Deaf Rights, a county lobbying organisation, has also questioned why the council failed to consult with the deaf community over the moves.
Leonard Hodson, of LDR, added: “There is a concern that LCC will award the contract to an organisation with no awareness of the deaf language, deaf culture and history.”
The Lancashire Deaf Service was launched in 2008 and county officials say funding is available for a replacement — and insisted they did consult deaf people before axing the old service.
County Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said that none of the tenders ‘met the specification first time around’ and new bidders were now being considered for a revised contract.
He added: “Funding for the service is still available and we are committed to offering high-quality services to deaf people across Lancashire, to make sure they have the same access to care and support as everyone else.”