News and events

Sign… the national society for mental health and deafness is delighted that Stephen (Steve) Powell, its Chief Executive, has been recognised for his work in developing services to deaf people by the award of an OBE in the New Year’s Honours.

Steve joined Sign in 1991 when it started employing staff in a humble setting. Steve has established a range of services to raise the awareness of the lack of services for deaf people who are largely overlooked by society. Sign today has a workforce of over 100 staff, offering supported housing, outreach and advocacy services, and is now moving into the field of health and well being. As much still needs to be done, Steve has looked overseas for further solutions. This realised the establishing of the first Club House for Deaf people with mental health experiences in the world.

Besides his full time role as Chief Executive, he has taken on many honorary roles such as Hon treasurer and Hon secretary for ACEVO, Hon treasurer for the British Society for Mental Health and Deafness, Chair of the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, Child of Achievement and more recently as board member of UKCOD.

He is often asked by the Charity Commission to audit ailing charities about which they have concerns and regularly sits on mental health Tribunals as a lay member because of his experience and knowledge gained in the field of mental health.

He has been forging strong links within the NHS, regional housing associations and other deaf organisations, and has encouraged the Deaf communities to become involved, creating job opportunities and training schemes especially for them. Sign employs 50% deaf people, which is higher than most other organisations.

Rodney Clark, Chair of Sign said, ‘This is a well deserved award for Steve, a man of tremendous energy and ideas, who continues to fulfil his role with passion and drive. Sign has grown at a tremendous rate, largely because of the quality of the work it has produced under Steve’s leadership. Steve has worked hard to reach out to the Deaf communities, who have in turn supported Sign’s work’.

Steve Powell
Sign Chief Executive

The basis of our work has always been the provision of services – residential care and day services. When people become ill, we are there to help.

However many of the mental health problems experienced by Deaf people are preventable.

Communication problems, misdiagnosis, lack of intervention, increase the risks of a Deaf person ending up in hospital or suffering years of neglect and ill health. Sign is now working proactively to change matters. Our Reaching Deaf Minds campaign is focusing on Primary Care, the gateway to health services; our advocacy service is supporting people as they seek equality and justice; and our outreach services are supporting people in their own homes.

We are trying to influence the health departments in England and Wales and working to ensure policies that are introduced are effective and appropriate. The results of our efforts will be seen in the next year or two.