Making sure the views of parents are represented in local decision making

Graham Manfield, parent campaigner

Graham Manfield, parent campaigner

I joined Bromley Children’s Hearing Services Working Group (CHSWG) in March this year as Chair and it’s been a busy few months since then. Even though the group has only met twice, in March and July, there’s been much activity as we work through changes to special educational needs legislation and plans which may see substantial differences to the way that education services are delivered locally.

More than 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents with little knowledge about deafness who rely on good support and information to understand how best to help their child. I believe that an effective CHSWG plays a key role in providing this support and information and the group’s impact is enhanced when parents are actively involved.

So what is Bromley CHSWG?

Bromley CHSWG is a multidisciplinary group with representatives from education, health, social services, the voluntary sector and parents. The group has a key role in coordinating and integrating the planning, commissioning and delivery of education, health and social care strategies and services for deaf children and young people and their families. It stands to reason, therefore, that the group should also be at the heart of developing good quality policies and services which are family friendly and well resourced.

What’s being discussed by the CHSWG at the moment?

The issues we’re looking at include: –

  • The accessibility of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for deaf children. Deaf children are 60% more likely to experience mental health problems compared to other children. Bromley Chain are sponsoring a counsellor for deaf children for the Autumn Term. We look forward to seeing the results in the new year.
  • The impact of changes to NHS commissioning across South East London and how parents are provided with a choice of services at the different hospitals and clinics. We’re also looking at the increased use of hearing aids and how this affects the workload of the Sensory Support Service.
  • The ‘local offer’ which sets out the services deaf children, young people and their families can expect from a range of local agencies across education, health and social care. Knowing what is out there gives you more choice and therefore more control over what support is right for your child.
  • The ‘market testing’ of education services in Bromley; we are naturally focussing on those relating to deaf children and young people. External organisations are being invited to submit proposals to deliver services and, whilst any changes are some way off, this is a hugely concerning area for parents and local groups. We will make sure that the CHSWG is fully informed so we can provide our professional view.
  • The facilities at Darrick Wood School. As there are an increasing number of deaf children attending the school, I’ve met with the council to discuss the support available for deaf children in Bromley and attending the school from other boroughs. A forum to discuss regional commissioning already exists so the commissioning of low incidence needs, including hearing impairment, will now be considered. The next meeting of the forum is in October.

How are children and parents involved?

Deaf children, young people and their parents contribute a unique perspective so it is important that their views are captured, that they are able to offer suggestions to improve local services and that professionals discuss what is important to them. Friends of Griffins and Bromley Deaf Children’s Society are represented at CHSWG but, with over 240 children diagnosed with some form of deafness in the borough, I’d like to make sure that parents, children and young people have a range of ways of letting the CHSWG know about their thoughts and concerns.

So what’s the plans for the next year?

We need to be sure that the CHSWG makes a difference so we will focus on measuring our performance and effectiveness and look at how we can do things differently. Communicating with professionals and parents is really important so I’d like to explore how good quality information about the work of the CHSWG is readily available to service providers and users. I will be writing a review in the spring, setting out our work so far and our future plans.

A final thought?

There’s increasing pressure on service providers, struggling to deal with the impact of budgets cuts. It’s vital that we all contribute to decisions affecting our deaf children and young people and for parents, in particular, to make sure they have a voice. The CHSWG is just one of the ways they can do this.

How can you get involved?

There are CHWSG meetings held in all areas across England that welcome parent/carer representatives onto their panel. If you’d like to find out more or attend your local CHSWG or the similar meetings available in your area if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, please contact the NDCS Helpline.

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