Is it Hekia or her officials who are deaf to concerns over funding for sign language?

Recently Hekia Parata announced a further $11m for NZ Sign Language over the next 4 years.

This is on top of $6m over four years previously announced in this years budget and existing funding.

In addition to around $1m this year that the MoE has re-prioritised into this same area.

Hekia’s announcement was interesting and illustrates that she has been taken for a ride by MoE officials and sector lobbyists.

In the most recent announcement, the press release says…

 “There are currently around 400 deaf children in New Zealand aged between 0 up to 5 years-old, and another 1400 aged between 5 and 18 years old.”

So reading this you think the money is for 1800 kids. $18m over four years for 1800 kids who probably have pretty high needs doesn’t seem too much. It’s about $2500 a year each.

But do these numbers really stack up?

The DomPost did a follow up article after a number of people questioned their cut and paste job of the minister’s press release.

It turns out that there are only 60-70 kids 0-18 who are reliant on sign language and another 200 who might use it regularly in support of their oral language.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the figures were made up of children with moderate to profound hearing loss and drawn from the Deafness Notification Database 2010-2013, as well as quarterly reports of the country’s two deaf education centres to June 2014.

She confirmed that of the 1800 deaf children, only 60 to 70 were identified as reliant on sign language to access the curriculum.

About another 200 students in deaf education centres used sign language regularly.

In the 2013 census 20,235 people reported the ability to use New Zealand Sign Language, down from 24,090 in 2006.

So instead of $18m over four years ripping through Vote Education to 1800 kids, its actually for at best 270 kids. So instead of $2500 a year per kid, its almost $17,000 pa per kid.

You might be asking, hang on… the minister said 1800 kids and now it turns out there are only 270 kids. What do the other 1530 kids do?

Well they learn to listen and speak. How do they do that?

Well most of these kids have relatively mild hearing loss and use hearing aids and learn to listen and speak like any other kid. About 376 kids however have profound levels of hearing loss and they get cochlear implants. They get intensive therapy through two charitable trusts. The government funds these trusts for therapy to the tune of about $752,000 pa which works out at a $2000 pa per kid.These trusts have to fundraise around 50% of their costs and do this through Loud Shirt Day.

But back to Hekia. For a minister to have been taken by her own officials with misleading numbers and then put them out as gospel seems quite a lapse.

Speaking of lapses… now there is all this money sloshing around for sign language related things, do you think it is more or less likely that events like this will occur…

One other thing to note… the 270 kids are not going to see a large proportion of this money.

Already the various sector groups are employing project managers and sector consultants and forming reference groups and the like… there is a stampede to the troughs.


 – Compiled with the assistance of a reader who is knowledgeable about the intricacies of raising deaf kids.

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