Wales campaigners: You made a difference!

 

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Wales, National Deaf Children’s Society

Have you ever looked at an email, tweet or Facebook post urging you to sign a petition or take some other campaign action and thought: “I wonder whether doing this will have any impact?”  Well, it really does – so please keep up the good work!

Back in December, we asked NDCS and SENSE supporters in Wales to respond to a Welsh Government consultation through an online action. We were concerned that plans to change the law on additional learning needs could prove problematic for deaf children and young people. More than 70 people took part in the online action, which enabled users to submit a template consultation response within a few clicks.

The Welsh Government has recently published the results of this consultation and NDCS supporters made up a fabulous 28% of the total responses. As a direct result, the report has a specific section outlining our concerns about how the law will affect deaf children. By taking this action, you have really helped us to shout out about the needs of deaf children and young people in this vital piece of new legislation.

The law is still in draft form and has a long way to go before it becomes a reality, so NDCS Cymru will continue to meet with key officials and politicians in the meantime. But by taking part in this action, you have given us a fantastic tool to call for the needs of deaf children to be at the centre of conversations as the law is developed. Thank you!

  • You can read the Welsh Government’s report on the consultation here
  • Check out our website for more information on the bill and up-dates… we may well be calling for your help again as the new law draws closer!

Lottery Injection For Scotland’s Deaf Children and Young People

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children's Society

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

Hundreds of deaf children and young people across Scotland will be able to play a fuller role within their families and communities, thanks to a huge £445,202 cash injection of Lottery funding.

The Big Lottery Fund have announced 60 new grants across Scotland totalling £17 million.

The National Deaf Children’s Society will use its £445,202 award for its Scotland wide ‘Everyone Together for Deaf Children’ project, which will offer advice and training to professionals working in the field and will develop the skills and confidence of over 350 children up to the age of eight, and their families.

The project will help to support children like 2 year old Halle Rawlinson from Falkirk who has cochlear implants and uses both sign and speech. Halle’s Mum, Alyson, attended a Family Sign Language (FSL) course through the National Deaf Children’s Society in 2014.

Alyson said:  “Halle was born profoundly deaf, with no immediate prospect of being eligible for implants. So when she was really little we felt a bit at a loss as to what to do to communicate with her and stimulate her development longer term. We had bought some baby sign books which were useful, but limiting as there were often just signs for specific words and objects. We looked into signing courses but there seemed aimed at people wanting to talk to deaf adults or people to become interpreters. Nothing was aimed at hearing parents of under-fives to help us understand how best to communicate with our daughter. It felt as though I was not expected to have to make any adjustments for her deafness.”

Heather Gray, National Deaf Children’s Society Director (Scotland and Northern Ireland) said: “This innovative new project will mark a step change in the early years support available for deaf children and their families in Scotland. The funding will allow us to use an early intervention approach to address the unique barriers deafness can create at a vital point in a child’s life.

“By supporting deaf children, empowering their families and training the professionals that work with them, it will help give deaf children the best start in life. Following the historic passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015), the launch of this project is another fantastic example of how Scotland is leading the way in taking steps to empower the deaf community and help deaf children and young people access their rights.”

Campaigning: working with professionals in Wales

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Wales, National Deaf Children’s Society

Whenever you meet new people, the inevitable conversation starter almost always crops up; “what do you do for a living?” I always take great pride in replying that I work as a campaigner for NDCS Cymru, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what being a campaigner involves.

At a friend’s hen party this weekend, I was asked: “So what does your job involve when you are not cheering and holding a placard?” Well, actually my job hardly involves placards at all!

While placards and demonstrations can be important and effective in some cases, my work is really about positively engaging and working collaboratively with policy makers and professionals. Those working to make new laws or to deliver services for deaf children ultimately want to see new laws and changes to services which are effective and work well. The bulk of my work is about looking at proposed changes and then meeting and working with key decision makers to suggest how these changes could be tweaked to ensure they work for deaf children, young people and their families. I like to think I work with officials rather than against them, pulling out placards and petitions only when raising concerns has not been sufficient and greater action is required.

It is quite fitting that after being asked the placard question, I spent the day with health professionals at a children’s audiology unit. I was part of an audit panel reviewing how the service was meeting standards set by the Welsh Government.

These standards first came into place in 2010 and cover a range of points from waiting times, qualifications and training of audiologists, and ensuring that families receive key information. Every year, audiology sites across Wales are asked to score how well they believe they are meeting each standard and to provide evidence for it. A panel made up of audiology practitioners from other services in Wales and an NDCS representative then review the evidence against the scores given.

For me, this is a great example of how, as a campaigner, you work with and alongside professionals as a critical friend. We support good practice, suggest areas for improvement in the interests of our members, and raise our hands when we feel something is going wrong. Essentially, we have a common aim: to ensure our services for deaf children and their families are up to standard.

Young leaders in Wales

Lorna

Lorna Langton, Gearing Up Project Officer/ Mynd Amdani Swyddog Prosiect

The quiet little seaside town of Colwyn Bay may seem like an unlikely place to invite a group of 14-18 year olds for the weekend but boy did we have a great time! As part of our Gearing Up project, Young Leaders made the most of every opportunity to have fun, learn and make some great friendships on this year’s North Wales Young Leader training course.

Our Young Leaders came from all across Wales, from as far as Cardiff to just a few train stops down the line at Bangor. After everyone had registered we headed off to a fantastic dinner at The Station restaurant just a short walk from where we were staying. This was a lovely chance to enjoy some good food and all get to know each other. By the end of the meal one member of staff, who we discovered is doing his Level 2 BSL at the moment, even treated us to a little magic show!

Saturday morning started with breakfast at our training venue Porth Eirias, what a fab location and the staff were so helpful, it really couldn’t be faulted. The amazing bacon butties and pastries that were waiting for us as we arrived really helped give us all the brain power needed for the day ahead.

The Young Leader programme aims to build deaf young people’s confidence, develop valuable life skills and give them an opportunity to make new deaf friends who have similar experiences to them. This weekend we started with a workshop to establish what the group thought the definition of a young leader was and then we took advantage of the great location on the beach to get out and do some team building activities. The group were really engaged and really added their own spin on their idea of leadership and the people in their lives who they looked up to as role models.

That afternoon we had Pete from the Wales Ambulance Service join us to train the
young people in CPR. They all got stuck in and learned a valuable life saving skill that everyone agreed was really important and helped them build confidence in tcpr-WalesBlog2016heir ability to act in an emergency situation in the future. The young people brought up some interesting views around being young and deaf and having the confidence to take charge in an emergency situation. Then it was time to grab our things and head off to the ski slope for snowboarding training. We were so lucky with the weather and our coaches at Llandudno Ski Centre we’re supportive and made it so much fun. It was great to see the group grow in confidence and ability over the 2 days.

Sunday started with an inspiring and thought provoking deaf role model talk from Dr Andrew Davies of Bangor University. He spoke about the young people finding whatever they were passionate about and taking control of their own education making decisions that would ensure they achieved their aspirations as he had done.

After that stirring session, the young people were all fired up and sparking with ideas when it came to the workshop on our bursary scheme; the Pay it Forward Fund. They came up with ideas that would develop them as individuals, support their communities and help them give back and be role models for younger deaf children and young people in Wales. A few of the Young Leaders submitted applications to the fund in the days after this event.at the beach- WalesBlogJune2016

I’m also delighted that so many of the young people who are involved with the Gearing Up project have already been inspired to use their new skills, interest and confidence to support our young campaigners network in Wales. Any deaf young person who wants to know more about what we campaign on, or who would like to get involved in campaigning can email  campaigns.wales@ndcs.org for more information.

I’m so excited to see how the Pay it Forward Fund develops and I look forward to updating you all in my next blog.

Bye for now,

Lorna Langton

Gearing Up Project Officer/ Mynd Amdani Swyddog Prosiect

5 days to save the world! Ofsted and CQC inspections.

Sophia-James-cropped

Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

After a long period of waiting, the moment has finally arrived. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have begun inspecting special educational needs services across England.

It was all hands on deck last week when notice of two inspections landed in our inboxes. If you are lucky enough to live in Bolton or Brighton and Hove, you may have been aware that deaf young people and parents in that area have been asked to contribute. For the first two inspections, the method of choice has been online webinars. A webinar is an online meeting anyone can join where the lead inspector will give an overview of why these inspections are taking place and ask a series of questions about how children’s needs are being met and identified in that area.

When notice hits you have five days to take action. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to feedback about services for deaf children and young people in your area. In my opinion, this is your five days to save the world. Your feedback could be crucial at highlighting failings in local services. It could put pressure on local authorities and health services to bring about the changes needed to improve support for deaf children and young people.

We still have our reservations about the process and accessibility but we’ll be working with Ofsted over the coming weeks to ensure that these inspections are as open and effective as possible.

So when that email lands in your inbox, please attend the webinar or ask the lead contact at your local council to pass on your feedback to the lead inspector. You can contact us if you like but please, please take action. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be a hero?!

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Click here for more information on the Inspect the Uninspected campaign or if you discover an inspection in your area, you can tell us about it here.

Wales: Reform on planning support for learners

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Wales, National Deaf Children’s Society

When I first started working for NDCS Cymru in 2008, there were mixed feelings as the Welsh Government vowed to change the way educational support is planned for learners with additional needs.

What we didn’t know then was that the Welsh Government was still a long way off making any change to the law… 8 years down the line and the reforms are still in progress, having been through numerous changes along the way.

Still, there’s the same sense of mixed emotion. There is excitement as we hope to overcome the flaws of the current system. But there’s also concern that the new system could come with a new set of flaws – in particular, a difficulty in accessing assessments by specialist professionals like Teachers of the Deaf.

A brief history…

Lobbying on the reforms has been a long rollercoaster ride with the Welsh Government’s proposed changes taking many twists and turns.

In 2009, I founded a lobbying group with a number of other charities, called TSANA (Third Sector Additional Needs Alliance). Through this group, we’ve given evidence to the Welsh Assembly on their proposals. We’ve also been part of two Welsh Government advisory groups, enabling us to make the needs of deaf learners known.

TSANA and NDCS campaigners lobbied hard against a proposal to restrict the right to appeal to the education tribunal. The proposal would’ve left many deaf learners in Wales unable to seek an independent challenge to important decisions about their educational support. As part of this lobby, more than 100 NDCS supporters wrote to the Welsh Government to call for the restriction to be rejected. It was dropped. Under current proposals, all families will ultimately have the right to appeal against decisions on a learner’s support needs.

While there are many promising aspects to the latest proposals, NDCS Cymru still has serious reservations about how the system will work in practice. The good news is that, after giving evidence with TSANA to the Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, the Committee has urged the Welsh Government to address many of our key concerns and suggestions. We’ve also been part of a Welsh Government advisory group, where we have been able to talk to key officials about these issues.

Where are we now? This is what you should know about the proposed new system:

  • The Welsh Government wants existing Statements and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to be replaced by an Individual Development Plan (IDP). IDPs will be a legal document setting out a learner’s support needs.
  • IDPs will be available to learners with additional needs aged 0-16, as well as those aged 16-25 in further education.
  • Currently, there are no changes to the law on planning for learner’s support needs. Some local authorities have been offering IDPs instead of Statements. However, IDPs do not currently have the same legal status as a Statement and families remain entitled to request a Statement.
  • Following the election on May 5, a new Welsh Government has been formed. First Minister Carwyn Jones has already identified that additional learning needs will be one of his Government’s first priorities. However, there is still much work for the Assembly to do before we see any changes in law.

What will be our Next Steps?

The Welsh Government will be writing a second draft of the new law and a new Code of Practice (this is the manual for how the new system will work). This is a crucial time for influencing the new system and, among other things,  NDCS Cymru will be calling for:

  • The new Code of Practice to make it clear that deaf learners are eligible for an IDP and the requirement to access specialist professionals, such as Teachers of the Deaf.
  • A standard format for the IDP, containing clear information on a learner’s support needs.
  • More detail on how the new system will work for deaf learners outside of the school setting (i.e. pre-schoolers and those in further education).

Watch this space for more details on how you can get involved in making sure these changes will work for deaf learners – we will need your help!

Read more (www.ndcs.org.uk/IDPWales)

Welsh Assembly elections – What happened?

Kate-Cubbage-cropped

Kate Cubbage, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

On Thursday 5 May 2016, 60 Assembly Members were elected to the National Assembly for Wales.

40 Assembly Members represent constituencies like Bridgend or Wrexham and 20 Assembly Members represent bigger areas called regions, like North Wales or South East Wales.

In the election no political party got more than half of the seats in the Assembly.

Labour 29
Plaid Cymru 12
Conservatives 11
Liberal Democrats 1
UKIP 7

This has made choosing a new First Minister, and therefore a new Welsh Government, very difficult. Although the election happened a week ago, we are still waiting for a Government to be formed.

Assembly Members have until the 2 June 2016 to decide on a First Minister and Government or a new election will be held.

Why is this important?

Whilst some decisions are still made in the UK Parliament or by the UK Government, many important decisions that will impact on deaf children and young people are made by the Welsh Government and National Assembly for Wales including:

The Welsh Government is usually made up of Assembly Members from the party with the most seats in the Assembly. In this election that would be Labour. Sometimes, when A party doesn’t have more than half of the seats in the Assembly they will work with another party to form a coalition. This has happened before at the Welsh Assembly.

Once we have a Welsh Government their job will be to propose policy and laws and it is responsible for making sure that they are put in to practice. You can read more about the work they do on their website.

The National Assembly for Wales is what we call all 60 Members if the Assembly. They represent everyone in Wales. The Assembly’s role is to make the laws for Wales and to make sure that the Welsh Government is doing a good job by scrutinising their work.

What is going to happen?

We don’t know when the new Government will be chosen. However, once a Government is formed we will work hard to influence them to make sure that their policies, laws and any guidance they give to public bodies, like local councils, give the best deal for deaf children, young people and their families.

Regardless of who is in Government, there are 5 issues that our members have told us are most important to them:

  • Additional Learning Needs reform;
  • Emotional and social wellbeing;
  • Curriculum reform and educational attainment;
  • Supporting the development of early communication skills;
  • Getting the educational environment right.

Whilst we wait for our new Government we are continuing to work with civil servants to support changes to the way additional learning needs are identified and planned for. Deafness is an additional learning need.

We are also working with civil servants to influence changes to what is taught in school and how this is examined.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more about the National Assembly for Wales on their website. Once a Government has been chosen you can find out about the Ministers on the Welsh Government’s website.

You can keep up-to-date with what NDCS Cymru Wales is doing to campaign at the Welsh Assembly on our website

If this campaign work is something you would like to get involved with we would love to have your support. Maybe you’d be interested in attending an event, have a story or some information to share or you’d like to write to your AM about the issues listed above. If you are interested in getting involved please email campaigns.wales@ndcs.org.uk