Shailesh Vara MP recently attended a Parliamentary reception hosted by the British Deaf Association (BDA) to mark Sign Language Week. 

The charity is the only national deaf-led charity in the UK which represents and advocates for the signing community.

They aim to “empower deaf people to fully participate and contribute to society as equal and valued citizens and to build a world in which the languages, culture and heritage of deaf people in the UK are protected, preserved and promoted".

Mr Vara met Ms Nadia Nadarajah, a constituent from Peterborough and active member of the deaf community, along with Mr Tom Lichy, head of policy for the BDA, and discussed with them the provision of British Sign Language education for deaf children and their families. 

In view of the importance of sign language exposure in the very early years of deaf children’s lives, Mr Vara pledged his support for the charity’s campaign urging the Government to fund access to sign language education for the families of deaf children, the amount being just under £5 million per year.

With 90-95 per cent of deaf children being born to hearing parents with little or no experience of deafness or sign language, bridging this gap is essential to maximise their linguistic abilities. 

Following the reception, Mr Vara said: "I am grateful to the British Deaf Association for the opportunity to speak with Ms Nadarajah and Mr Lichy about their efforts to raise awareness of this issue for the more than 50,000 deaf children in the UK and their families.  

"Given the pivotal role of early exposure in sign language acquisition, I very much hope that the Government will consider providing the necessary funds to provide free access to sign language for the parents of newly identified deaf children. 

The estimated cost of just under £5 million would be well spent in better providing for thousands of children and their families.”