POLICE trained in sign language are making life easier for deaf people.

The team of 14 officers trained in British Sign Language (BSL) is on hand to help people who are arrested and gather statements from victims, witnesses and offenders.

The Constabulary also has a Deaf Liaison Officer, PC Paula Robertson, who promotes sign language and deaf awareness training.

She said: "Those who are deaf are a very isolated group and by improving the service we provide we will encourage them to report crime and other issues to us."

Supt Bob Eastwood, head of Lancashire Constabulary's Diversity Unit, added: "Lancashire Constabulary has come a long way in recognising and meeting the needs of the deaf community and it is our aim to make it as easy as possible for everyone to contact us."

Help is also on hand for deaf people thanks to a huge increase in the styles and types of hearing aids available.

Andrew Friel, of The Hearing Centre, which has branches in Blackburn and Burnley, will hold an open week from Monday to Saturday at the Blackburn branch, to coincide with the end of last week's Deaf Awareness Week.

He said: "Technology innovations in recent years means that today's hearing instruments are worlds away from most people's preconceptions.They can be small, discreet, even stylish and the sound quality is fantastic.

"Those who are hard of hearing can feel excluded from a world where people appear to communicate effortlessly. They feel frustrated that people are having to make an effort to speak to them, or they can feel cut off when no one makes the effort at all. Better awareness of deaf people in public services, along with better devices, has really helped."

A total of 9 million people in the UK suffer from hearing loss, with more than 2 million of those aged under 60.

Lancashire Constabulary has an emergency text messaging service for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, designed to enable them to contact all emergency services without needing help from anybody else.

The caller simply sends their message with their name, location and nature of incident to 66247.

All divisions across Lancashire also now have Deaf PACT (Police and Communities Together) meetings. These meetings allow people to raise their concerns to the officers who are trained in BSL.