CHILDREN with deaf parents can often bear a huge responsibility.

This commitment is not always known or understood by society, in fact they are not recognised as young carers.

But one fledgling charity is determined to tackle this.

Julie Ratcliffe, who heads up children and families services for the Royal Association of Deaf people, has spent months researching this group, known as codas – children of deaf adults.

She is particularly passionate about the subject because her mum and dad were deaf.

She said: “Society has come to rely on young children to naturally communicate for their deaf parents, which places a burden on them to take responsibility within the home and community.

“It’s in no way a reflection of the parenting, and despite society being more aware about the deaf community, there is still an expectation that children will interpret for family members.

“A child will naturally feel they have to support their parents because they don’t know any different. The child has to grow up too quickly.”

As well as day-to-day duties, like trips to the supermarket and chemist, children must assist their parents with the more formal tasks.

The association has heard of cases where children have had to translate bank applications and court proceedings, including their parents’ divorce proceedings.

Julie spoke about one case where a 12-year-old had to tell a parent their cancer had become terminal.

The charity wants to offer advice to children and their parents, so they have the confidence to stand up and say no, and ask for an interpreter to be provided in these situations, rather than speaking through the child.

Julie, 34, said: “It is really about the community understanding young children can’t take responsibility in these more formal situations.”

At the moment the charity offers fun trips and activities to the children, alongside deaf children, as respite care.

Julie hopes one day theywill get funding to set up a new service, tailored to the unique needs of such youngsters.

It will offer advice to the children and their parents about the services out there, and their legal rights.

But this help requires money the charity simply does not have.

At the moment the services are funded by Essex County Council and Children in Need.

Some of the key work the charity does with the children is due to feature on this year’s Children in Need show.

BBC crews visited the offices, in North Station Road, Colchester, last week.

They filmed a family from Ipswich who use the service.

Julie knows firsthand how tough it can be for youngsters.

She also highlights that some deaf people cannot read or write, so children have to act as translators for documents and letters as well.

She said: “Children don’t recognise themselves as young carers, I can speak from experience.

“But when they get to the age of 14 or 15 they start to feel it could be a burden, and it can affect their social life.

“You get some children who are very proud to be a carer. It just feels natural.

“That’s how I felt as a child.”

However, some children are teased about the role they play, and have to face tough questions from peers about their parents’ conditions.

Having a child with such responsibility can also bring a change of power within a family, where the child can take control of various situations.

Julie uses the example of parents’ evening. If a child is translating, they control what details are actually relayed to a parent.

For example, they could lie and say they are being praised when this might not be the case.

To find out more about the charity visit