February 10 at 07:00
Spending on specialist equipment for people with hearing loss has been cut “dramatically” by Welsh councils – with some areas slashing their expenditure by more than half. New figures collated by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru found local authorities in Wales cut nearly £40,000 from their expenditure between 2010-11 and 2014-15 – an average reduction of 15%.
Despite more than 575,500 people in Wales being deaf or hard of hearing less than £210,000 is being spent on equipment in Wales each year. Social services are responsible for buying certain products to help people with hearing loss such as adapted telephones, flashing doorbells, and personal listeners. This equipment has been proven to help people with hearing loss live more independently and reduce their feelings of isolation and loneliness .
But Richard Williams, director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said the cuts are having a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life. He said: “These cuts are especially worrying when you consider the demands of an ageing population. “More than 70% of people over 70 years old have hearing loss and with an increasing number of people living longer, local authorities are at risk of neglecting those most at risk of isolation and mental health issues.” The charity’s research has also found there to be a “postcode lottery” on the equipment these people can expect to receive. While some areas have increased their spending to meet the rising demand other authorities have cut their expenditure significantly. There are now some local authorities who spend proportionally 10 times less than others on equipment for deaf people with Flintshire, Cardiff, and Pembrokeshire coming bottom of the list. But some council areas, including Ceredigion and Conwy, actually increased their spending over the four-year period. Gwyneth Williams, from Whitchurch, Cardiff, said: “The equipment that I’ve had from social services makes a big difference to my life. “People used to call for me and I didn’t even know – without my adapted telephone and flashing doorbell I’d be missing out on so much from my friends and family. “It makes me quite angry that these budgets have been cut. There will be so many people out there who need this help but aren’t getting it. “The councils need to realise how important this equipment is, and more importantly, they need to fund it.”
The charity’s Mr Williams added: “Local authorities have a duty to provide equipment for people with hearing loss. “We want them to reassess their budgets and make sure that these cuts do not continue, so people with hearing loss in Wales receive the support they deserve.” Cardiff council’s cabinet member for health, housing and wellbeing, councillor Susan Elsmore, said: “I want to assure those with hearing loss that the City of Cardiff Council has not cut the budget for providing specialist equipment – rather we have maintained a consistent level of funding for the past three years. “Expenditure has fallen because there has been a reduction in the take-up for our service alongside the successful work we have carried out to reduce costs. This is in spite of the number of people in Cardiff with hearing loss increasing. “Given that supporting vulnerable people is one of our key priorities we work with a number of organisations, including Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, to ensure that everyone with hearing loss in Cardiff can access the help we offer and make full use of the funding in place.”