HC Deb 19 December 1975 vol 902 cc838-40W
Mr. Michael Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what are to be the functions of the Director of the Institute of Hearing Research, who is soon to be selected; to whom he is to be responsible; and whether the special problems of child deafness are represented on the selection committee for the director; and, if so, by whom;

(2) what part, if any, are the deaf through their societies or individually to have in the selection of medical, technical, sociological or educational subject for research; and what are the respective priorities.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The Director of the proposed Institute of Hearing Research will lead a multi-discipline team tackling the urgent problems of deafness. He will develop and co-ordinate the team's research programme and will undertake his own personal research in this field. He will be responsible to the Medical Research Council through its Neuro-biology and Mental Health Board.

I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that the members of the committee selecting the Director are serving in a personal capacity. In common with other fields, particular needs are not specifically represented on the committee. One member of the committee, Professor C. I. Howarth of the University of Nottingham, however, does have wide research interests in the problems of the prelingually deaf. My Department, which is represented on the selection committee, is also deeply aware of the special problems of child deafness.

Turning to the more general questions of research into deafness, apart from the interest of the Department of Education and Science in the special educational needs of deaf children and the Social Science Research Council's funding of research relevant to the social and educational problems of the deaf, the Medical Research Council and my Department have considerable research interests other than those directly related to the Institute of Hearing Research.

The Medical Research Council has two working parties—on the social and rehabilitation needs of the deaf and on clinical and epidemiological features of sensorineural deafness—which have identified the following research priorities: a population-based study to assess the extent of sensorineural deafness; comparative trials of management procedures and therapy; and both the ascertainment of rehabilitation needs and the capacity of existing services to meet those needs. The four main societies and associations representing the deaf have been given the opportunity of putting their views to the two working parties.

My Department is represented on the Medical Research Council's working parties and, in addition, has established its own working groups and sub-groups—that is, research liaison groups—to consider research needs. One of these, the physically handicapped research liaison sub-group, is currently considering priorities in the field of deafness and will consider any representations made by the deaf through their societies and associations.