It’s my job (and privilege!) as a Family Officer to support families of deaf children in East London, providing practical help and supporting families to make informed decisions for their children.
1) Raising awareness of campaigning
Sometimes families aren’t aware that they can campaign. A big part of my job is to show families that they have the power to create change. If a family chooses to campaign they’re not only making a difference for their children but for all other deaf children too. I discuss campaigning as an option with families, direct them to the campaigns pages on our website and encourage them to join the NDCS Campaigns Network.
2) Attending local meetings
One important way that families in my area can make their voices heard is by attending their local Children’s Hearing Services Working Group meetings. You’re likely to hear these described as CHSWG meetings (or even ‘cheesy wig’ meetings!). These meetings are attended by key professionals that work with deaf children, and usually happen once a term. I attend all the CHSWG meetings in my areas and encourage families to go along too, as it’s a great opportunity to raise any issues that might be happening locally. Across the UK there are various ways families can make their voices heard, for more information about how to get involved in your area please contact the NDCS Helpline.
3) Helping families to share their story
Sometimes family officers are asked to find a family that might be interested in providing a ‘case study’ for a campaign. Case studies work really well because real stories capture the imagination, and a personal story can illustrate a general point really well! NDCS only ever use case studies if families agree to it.
4) Feeding back to Policy and Campaigns team colleagues
Our Policy and Campaigns colleagues across the UK influence key decision makers in local authorities and health services to ensure education, health, social care and other public services meet the needs of deaf children. Family Officers meet with their Regional Director and the Campaigns Team four times a year to discuss issues which are arising in our areas. This can be anecdotal issues that we might have noticed, feedback from parents and professionals, or things that have been raised at local meetings. This information can then be acted on, and sometimes turn into a fully-fledged campaign.
5) Gathering families’ views
If families can’t attend local meetings or consultations, I can make sure their opinions are heard by collating their views and presenting these to professionals. This can be done via a visit to a local group of parents, or on an individual basis. I also work with the campaigns team to arrange campaign meetings with parents in areas facing cuts to services for deaf children to make sure that parents can express their views with local decision makers. Information from families is crucial for informing our campaigning work.
6) Supporting NDCS local groups
NDCS Local groups can be incredibly powerful when it comes to achieving positive change for deaf children. I know of lots of groups who have campaigned for improved services for deaf children and been very successful. I keep in touch with all the local groups in my area and support them in any way I can, this might be by promoting group membership within the community, going along to events, or sharing information.
7) Putting families in touch with each other
If I’m supporting a few families who have the same issue, I might suggest that I put them in touch with each other, either directly or through an NDCS family event. Like with anything, meeting with other families with similar experiences can be really powerful. Some of our best campaign ideas have come from families getting together to find a solution!
If you would like further information or to be put in contact with any of the groups mentioned in this post, please contact the NDCS Helpline.