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Deaf Persons

Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what action he is taking to facilitate the employment of deaf people.

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that the Employment Service Agency, together with the Training Services Agency, provides a comprehensive range of services to help all disabled people, including deaf people, to get jobs. These services include the specialist attention of over 500 disablement resettlement officers, who advise about suitable employment; rehabilitation and in-depth assessment and guidance at any of the Agency's 26 employment rehabilitation centres; the loan of certain special aids to employment if these are required; and the training courses available under the Training Opportunities Scheme.

Deaf people who possess the requisite qualifications for entry to professional or degree courses are also eligible for help under the Training Services Agency's professional training scheme.

I am grateful for that reply. Does not the Minister agree that employers underestimate the capabilities, particularly in technical respects, of deaf people? Since the Department employs placement officers for the blind, will the hon. Gentleman consider using them to facilitate the employment of deaf people?

I agree that many employers undervalue disabled people generally, not only people who are deaf. We hope to be able to assist the situation by publishing a guide to employers that will shortly be produced by the Manpower Services Commission.

The difficulty about employing specialist officers is that such staff would have to be spread thinly. It would mean that they would not have the detailed knowledge of local jobs that is most important in the placing of disabled people.

Is not my hon. Friend talking a lot of nonsense when he says that a range of services is available, if he means skilled services? Will he bear in mind that, because of the depth of discrimination against deaf people and the subtlety of the problems they face, we require the services of skilled, energetic resettlement officers for the disabled? Will he do somethig about the matter instead of offering bromides in answer to legitimate questions?

I cannot accept that my answers were bromides. I believe that resettlement officers for the disabled are doing a good and skilled job. I have already given the reason why we do not accept that specialists in this area of activity would make the best contribution.

Does the Minister know what percentage of registered disabled people are deaf and are at the same time unemployed?

What progress has been made with the proposed scheme to make financial grants to employers who engage a certain category of disabled people?

I am pleased to be able to inform the House that a scheme of grants to employers for adaptation of premises and equipment will be brought into operation by the Manpower Services Commission in the financial year 1977–78. Up to £500,000 is provided in the Estimate. A general condition of the scheme will involve grants for modifications related to the needs of individual disabled people, and grants are considered to be essential to the resettlement of individuals with the employers concerned.