Sensory Support Service

This page has information about the services provided by sensory support.

The Northumberland Sensory Support Service is a team of specialist staff who work across the county with children and young people with hearing impairments (HI), vision impairments (VI) and multi-sensory impairments (MSI). Our aim is that all children make good progress, achieve well and enjoy their school and family life, and staff support the children and young people from 0-19 along with their families and schools/educational settings




As one of the Local Authority SEND Support Teams we work in line with County guidelines and ethos, adhere to the Code of Practice arising from the Children and Families Act 2014, and support inclusion.

With children and families at the heart of our provision we work together with other services as well as schools and settings.  This may include health services such as audiology, ENT, ophthalmology, health visiting, community paediatrics, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and a wide range of other Local Authority education and social care services.  We believe that working together brings success.
If you would like to talk to anyone in our team, please phone 01670 624854 and our admin team will deal with your enquiry. Alternatively email us at

We have the following staff as part of our Service:

  • Service Manager
  • Team Leaders (HI and VI)
  • 10 Teachers of the Deaf
  • 2 Teachers of Visually Impaired
  • 1 Teacher of Multi-sensory Impaired
  • Mobility/Habilitation Officer
  • Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist
  • Office Manager
  • Administrative assistant
We are based at
Riverside Centre
Armstrong Way
NE63 0YD
All the staff can be contacted via the main office on: 01670 624854

We will accept referrals from a range of sources (for further detail please see HI/VI/MSI sections below) for children and young people with permanent diagnosed vision/hearing/multi-sensory impairments. We will provide advice only for children with temporary hearing problems arising from glue ear. We always require written parent/carer consent before we become involved.
Following an initial assessment we will offer support based on individual need - this will include consideration of the degree of hearing/vision/multi-sensory impairment, but is not restricted to that.  We support learners with additional and complex needs.
Support will fall into one of three categories:

  1. Regular
  2. Monitored
  3. School/Setting to Contact
At any given time, the Service will be working with children and families from diverse groups and treat all equally, providing support for communication and accessibility according to individual need.
We work with children from birth to five, along with those of school age.  During these early years we visit family homes and other settings as necessary to meet the needs of children and families following an early diagnosis. We firmly believe that early intervention is the best way to secure good futures.

A sensory impairment can bring with it an impact on a child’s access to the world around them.  This can be true of any degree of impairment, from mild through moderate to severe and profound.
Our team of specialists all have experience and qualifications related to working with children with HI/VI/MSI and are able to help families and education settings to make any adjustments necessary to minimise that impact.  Whilst our work is mainly around access to education we are also concerned with the overall wellbeing of children and young people; having strong working links with the Disabled Children Team within social care we are able to make referrals as needed. Click here for more information about that team.
Many of our learners are referred to us at a very young age following a diagnosis of hearing, vision loss, or both shortly after birth.  We are committed to the principles laid down within the government’s Early Support framework which emphasises the importance and effectiveness of early intervention.  The Sensory Support staff work in family homes at this phase, and also in pre school settings, in order to maximise the benefits of early diagnosis and advise on strategies to minimise the impact of the sensory loss.
It is important that any adjustment to school environments are made quickly and efficiently so that sensory impaired children and young people are not at any disadvantage in terms of access to learning. Again, our specialist team will work with the young person themselves, their families and all school staff to ensure that the correct support is in place, and that everyone has a good understanding of their needs.


Our service supports learners in:

  • Homes (pre school)
  • Pre school settings (private nurseries, school nurseries, childminders)
  • LA maintained schools
  • LA special schools
  • Academies and Free Schools
  • Independent schools (costed service)
  • FE Colleges (partly costed)
Mostly these services are free at the point of delivery regardless of the degree of assessed need.

In 2016-17 we were providing support at some level into 144 schools across Northumberland, in addition to a number of Nursery/Post 16 settings.

We provide our service by:

  • Assessing need, i.e. the impact of the sensory loss on development and access to the curriculum
  • Assessing functional hearing and vision
  • Providing advice and guidance to schools and settings
  • Providing training on all aspects of sensory impairment to schools and settings
  • Providing and supporting the introduction and use of auxiliary aids and equipment
  • Providing direct teaching intervention when required
  • Liaising with other professionals, including the medical and health professionals concerned with diagnosing and overseeing the sensory impairments
  • Ensuring that the duties brought by the Equality Act 2010 are clearly explained to schools
  • Working with families to ensure informed choices
  • Ensuring compliance with Local Authority processes related to statutory assessment (Education and Health Care Plans), and the others, e.g. Early Help Assessments, Team around the Child/Family

We are always interested in receiving feedback and the views of anyone who uses our Service. If you have anything to say, please contact our office on 01670624854 or via Alternatively, please complete the form here and the Service Manager will contact you directly.
Each year we conduct an audit of families, schools and young people who we support on a regular basis. For a summary of the most recent audit click here
If you would like any further information on the following please click here

  • The current Service Development Plan 2017-18
  • The current Self Evaluation report 2016-17
  • NatSIP Eligibility Framework
  • Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP)

Please click here to view our Mission Statement 
Please click here to view our Data Protection Policy

Here you will find information about the service offered to children and young people with a hearing impairment in Northumberland

Referral route
Referrals need to be  made by health professionals, usually Audiology/ ENT Consultants, in order for audiological information to be passed on. Consent for the referral will be obtained before it is made. This informs our initial assessment visit. However, parents, schools and other professionals are able to contact us for advice on how to proceed if they have concerns about a child having a hearing loss that is not yet diagnosed. Please call us on 01670 624854 or email for advice. Alternatively use the enquiry form here.
If the referral is in regard to a baby following the Newborn Hearing Screen we will respond within 48 hours and arrange a home visit.
If the referral is for a child of school age, we will make contact within 5 working days and arrange an assessment visit as soon as is practical.  This visit will be in school, but parents/carers are invited to attend. Our staff will look in detail at any impact of the hearing impairment on access to school life.
Following this, a report will be written, and a support offer made. This support offer is based in part on a nationally recognised Eligibility Framework, and visit frequency will range from 3-4 visits per week to an annual monitoring visit.
Please note that we sometimes receive referrals for children who have normal levels of hearing but who are having difficulty accessing speech and language. We will carry out an assessment in school as above, but if we suspect that the problem may be related to Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) we will refer back to Audiology services for further investigation. We may be able to provide an assistive technology on a trial basis (Radio Aid System) pending further discussions. For further information on APD, please click here

Underpinning all our work with deaf/MSI young people is the efficient and consistent use of assistive technologies and auxiliary aids.  These are pieces of equipment which help children and young people to hear and see what they need to.  Personal hearing aids are fitted by the Audiology department at Freeman Hospital, and we work with children, families, and young people following fitting to ensure that use is established. In this way full use can be made of any residual hearing. Referrals can be made for cochlear implantation (usually to the North East Region Cochlear Implant Programme based at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough). The Sensory Support Service has close working relationships with both teams. For contact details please click here.

Radio Aid Systems are often required to help deaf/MSI young people access the curriculum.  These are jointly funded by education and health.  All hearing aid wearers are considered to be candidates for radio aids and the recommendation for one is based on individual need following an assessment of functional hearing.  We support the use of radio aids for pre school children also, again making recommendations following an assessment of suitability.

Please click here for further details regarding radio aid allocation.

In some settings it may be beneficial  to fit a classroom based sound field system.  The Sensory Support Service can provide a system on loan to schools and subsequently advise on purchase/repairs as appropriate.


The Northumberland CHSWG is a group of parents and professionals who meet three times a year to discuss and co-ordinate the best services possible for children with hearing loss across Northumberland.

Please click here for group membership

The group meets three times a year, usually at Riverside Centre, Armstrong Way, Ashington NE63 0YD. The meetings last for around one-and-a-half hours.

If you would like to contact CHSWG the chair of the group is:

Ginny Parker
Low Incidence Needs Team (LINT) Sensory Support Service
Riverside Centre, Armstrong Way, Ashington
NE63 0YD
Tel: 01670 624854

Click here for minutes of the last CHSWG meeting 18 May 2021.

Click here for the CHSWG Summer 2021.NDCS


The internet can provide a wealth of further information on all aspects of Deafness and hearing impairment.  These are good starting points:


National Deaf Children’s Society

The Royal National Institute for the Deaf


British Deaf Association

Deaf Education

Learning Sign Language

Ear Foundation

Here you will find information about support provided to visually impaired children in Northumberland.

Referral route

Referrals can be made by any professionals from health, education or social care. Please contact us on 01670 624854 or email Alternatively use the consent forms by clicking here.
Following a referral our Team Leader will seek written parent/carer consent and then request any medical information from the relevant Ophthalmologist .

Once this has been received parents/carers will be contacted within 5 working days and an appointment made as soon as possible. This will be the assessment visit where our staff will look in detail at the impact of the visual impairment on access to school life.

Following this a report will be written and a support offer made. This support offer is based in part on a nationally recognised Eligibility Framework, and visit frequency will range from 1-2 visits per week to an annual monitoring visit.

If required an internal referral will be made to our mobility/habilitation specialist.

As part of our support we will assess the need for a range of specialist equipment to help children with visual impairments access their learning.  We will recommend the use of low vision aids when necessary, and provide advice to schools on where these can be purchased.  Where appropriate we will also assess the need for more specialist equipment, and make recommendations for purchase of specific computer accessories and technologies and braille equipment.  Some of this equipment will be purchased by schools, other pieces may be provided by the local authority.

Our Mobility/Habilitation Officer will also make recommendations for assistive equipment when required.  Her work is largely education based at the present time and focusses on access to the curriculum and school buildings.  Again, decisions about funding specific pieces of equipment will be made according to the specific request.

  • Cerebral Visual Impairment Society is a charity giving support and information to families affected by CVI

  • Action for Blind People provides practical and emotional advice and support across England to people who are blind or partially sighted and their friends and family

  • Guide Dogs

  • The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)  is a charity offering information, support and advice to in the UK with sight loss

  • Nystagmus Network is an excellent source of information and support for those diagnosed with nystagmus and their families

  • Useful Vision is a registered charity established to help visually impaired children in the North East and their siblings to get the most out of life

A multi-sensory impairment is defined as a permanent loss in both senses, regardless of the degree of loss, where the vision cannot be corrected by the use of spectacles. So a learner with a mild hearing loss and a severe sight impairment can be considered to have MSI, as can a profoundly deaf youngster with a mild vision impairment.

Referral route
It is likely, but not always the case, that children and young people with multi-sensory impairment will be referred to us initially via the hearing impairment route as permanent hearing loss is likely to have been diagnosed through the newborn or targeted hearing screen.
Whilst we will consider referrals from schools and other education staff, audiological information will be necessary in order for us to complete a full functional assessment. Please call us on 01670 624854 or email for advice. Alternatively use the enquiry form here.
When a child/young person is thought to have a MSI our specialist teacher will arrange a visit/visits to complete an assessment of need.  She may also request advice from our teachers of the deaf/visually impaired along with the mobility/habilitation specialist and specialist speech and language therapist.  We will offer a package of support.
We support MSI learners in mainstream settings, special schools and at pre school.