Withdrawal of State Government funding for critical services puts deaf children at risk

Charlie-Francis_edited

UPDATE as of Monday, 18th March 2019:

Both sides of state parliament have agreed to reinstate the funding deficit ahead of the NSW State Election on Saturday 23rd March, 2019. We wanted to share these words from Melanie Francis, whose daughter Charlie has benefited from our Transition to School program and who helped to spearhead the campaign:

“Thank you to everyone who signed the petition and put their voice toward supporting children with hearing loss! Today I was delighted to hear from The Shepherd Centre CEO Jim Hungerford who told me every politician in NSW was contacted and many got in touch with us to give their support for the call for funding. This has achieved a fantastic result with both Labor and the Coalition pledging to reinstate the funding for The Shepherd Centre to support children with hearing loss to transition to school. This will mean that children like my Charlie, their families and preschools, will again be able to receive specialist support and assistance aimed at ensuring these children will be able to thrive at school. Its amazing news and thanks to all of you!”

From everyone at The Shepherd Centre, thank you for making a difference to the lives of children with hearing loss.

 

Thursday, 14 March 2019: Crucial services to help deaf and hearing impaired children transition to school are under threat following a $500,000 funding cut by the NSW Department of Education.

The Shepherd Centre is calling on the NSW State Government to urgently reinstate the funding, which enables the not-for-profit organisation to provide critical School Age Services and Programs to help children thrive in mainstream schools. These services are not funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and are now no longer funded by the State Government.

One in every 300 Australian children will be diagnosed with hearing loss by school age, with half of these families already unable to access the specialised support they desperately need.1 The Shepherd Centre is currently maintaining their services unfunded which is not sustainable long term.

Dr Jim Hungerford, Chief Executive Officer of The Shepherd Centre said the decision to cut funding has left families stunned as it puts their children at risk of being left behind.

“This decision has been met with dismay and disappointment by The Shepherd Centre and the hundreds of families supported by our services,” said Dr Hungerford. “The withdrawal of this funding puts children with hearing loss at risk of significant delays with speech and language development as well as social and emotional isolation.”

The Shepherd Centre is committed to advocating for the families they support after repeated approaches to the Government throughout 2018 have gone unanswered.

Without an immediate commitment from the State Government to provide this ongoing funding, the future of children like 5-year-old Charlie Francis of Gymea Bay may be uncertain. Charlie recently started Kindergarten with speech and language skills on par with her hearing peers, only made possible after graduating from The Shepherd Centre’s Early Intervention and Off to School programs.

“Knowing that this help may not be available in the future is so heartbreaking and daunting for the families that need it,” said Charlie’s mum Mel Francis.

“It would put significant stress on the school system and parents to compensate the additional needs of kids like Charlie as they transition to school. These children deserve to have the best chance to maximise their education and reach their full potential. We and the Government should be doing everything possible to give them that.”

The Shepherd Centre has been approaching politicians across NSW to discuss the decision ahead of the State election on Saturday 23 March 2019. A Change.org petition has been set up by the families supported by the Centre: http://chng.it/NmCNHMZ6FP

“Continuing to run The Shepherd Centre at a loss is unsustainable and means we will have to turn away people like the Francis family who rely on us for help,” Dr Hungerford said. “At a time where demand is already very high, this can only lead to a logistical nightmare and personal heartbreak.”

“Our approach upskills the child and family, so that regardless of what primary and in turn high school they attend, they should be well-equipped for advocating for their needs with teachers and in social settings,” he said.

It costs almost $16,000 per year per child to provide these essential services. The Shepherd Centre relies on government support and fundraising to help the more than 500 families who turn to them each year and close the gap in access to these critical services. For more information, visit www.shepherdcentre.org.au or call 1800 020 030.

ENDS

For more information, interviews or for media enquiries regarding contact:

Maya Ivanovic                                                                   Christine Galasinao

Palin Communications                                                   Palin Communications

0403 354 305 / 02 9412 2255                                         0413 707 918 / 02 9412 2255

[email protected]                                                       [email protected]

 

About The Shepherd Centre:

The Shepherd Centre is a NSW-based not-for-profit organisation specialising in early intervention to help children who are deaf and hearing-impaired develop spoken language skills.

 

Since its foundation, The Shepherd Centre has opened up a world of sound for more than 2,000 children who are deaf or hearing impaired. The organisation is recognised as a world leader in the field of Listening and Spoken Language early intervention, providing families with assistance to develop their child’s speech, so they can reach their full potential.

The Shepherd Centre relies heavily upon fundraising and donations to support the more than 500 Australian families who turn to them for help each year. The services cost nearly $20,000 per year per child and the funds donated help give deaf and hearing-impaired children access to critical services.

 

More information: www.shepherdcentre.org.au.

References:

The Shepherd Centre Impact Report 2017. Available here: https://shepherdcentre.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2017-IMPACT-REPORT-FINAL-for-web.pdf