It’s been too long! A call to update 2009 Safeguarding Disabled Children guidance.

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

In 2009, the Government in England published guidance on safeguarding disabled children. Guidance which, when read now, seems a world away from the way social care is delivered, written and even spoken about in 2018.

Since 2009 there have been some significant changes in the area of social care support affecting deaf children across the UK. There have been new laws, including:

• The Equality Act 2010 (UK) which addresses the discrimination faced by certain recognised groups, including disabled people, whether at school or in the community.
• The Children and Families Act 2014 (England) which includes arrangements for services to work together to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.
• The Social Service and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, both changing the way we consider how to support children and adults, focusing on promoting well-being and preventing need in the first place.

Since 2009, The National Deaf Children’s Society has commissioned research and undertaken surveys which confirm the barriers that deaf children face in accessing children’s social care in England. Specialist deaf sensory social workers have been replaced by social workers who now have to work across a huge range of children’s disabilities, leading to a possible ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ situation.

In addition, since 2009, the population of looked after children across the UK has risen from around 80,000 to 94,000. At the same time, funding cuts have led to the Local Government Association saying it will need £2 billion to address the shortfall in funding for children’s services by 2020.

We have also seen the ending of Aiming High for Disabled Children funding and the soon-to-be replacement of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards in England with new, untried ‘Safeguarding Partners’ tasked with leading on safeguarding children in their areas.

Deaf children are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in society. Despite this there is no evidence to support the view that we are safeguarding deaf and disabled children any better than before.

Scotland, however, have recognised this and in 2014 updated its guidance relating to disabled children and brought it in line with their new way of supporting children and families.

Given the significant changes which have taken place in social care over the last almost decade, The National Deaf Children’ Society and The National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children, are calling on the Government to update their guidance on social care. This new guidance will need to support professionals working with disabled children on the front-line, in order to adequately recognise these children’s needs and rights.

It’s a small step but a necessary one in the effort to give deaf and disabled children the same protection from harm that other children have.

Westminster Hall debate on deaf children’s services

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

Deaf children were at the heart of Parliament today when MPs debated the crisis facing deaf children’s services across England. There was lots of passion and commitment in the debate and a wide range of different points were raised, including:

• the pressures that local authority budgets are under – with over a third planning to make cuts to specialist education services for deaf children this year. Whilst government funding may be at a record high, the reality on the ground is clear that it’s not enough
• the need for more flexibility in how SEND funding can be used. Local authorities don’t have the same flexibility they used to have to move funding from schools where needed to respond to growing pressures
• the dramatic decline we’ve seen in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf over recent years, and the need for urgent action to address this. Many MPs spoke of the important role that Teachers of the Deaf play, particularly in the early years.
• importance of meeting the needs of deaf children who use sign language, and the need for the Government to support the development of a new GCSE in British Sign Language
• the need for high expectations for every deaf child, and the scandal that too many deaf children are not achieving their potential, because they’re not getting the right support.

The most powerful moments in the debate came when MPs talked about the experiences of families from their own areas. Peter Aldous MP praised Ann Jillings for her campaign work, whilst noting that she shouldn’t have to fight in the first place for her son Daniel to get the help he needs. Another MP, Darren Jones, talked about Ella, a bright confident deaf young person whose needs were often being overlooked because she seems to be “doing well”. And Emma Lewell-Buck MP spoke sadly about a young person who feels “left out” and “depressed and frustrated” because his school is not providing the support he needs.

We were hoping for positive words and action from the Minister, Nadhim Zahawi. But, while he indicated that funding was being kept “under review”, there was little else for us to go on. Frustratingly, there was a run-through of all the different bits of funding that the Government has in this area. All of this missing the point that a) it’s not enough and b) often this funding is not aimed at front-line staff who support deaf children. For example, there’s still no money out there focused on making sure we have more Teachers of the Deaf coming through the system.

So, the Stolen Futures campaign goes on, and we’ll keep on raising these issues with the Government until they take action.

We’d like to thank all MPs who spoke in today’s debate, especially Jim Fitzpatrick MP who led the debate and continues to champion the needs of deaf children. We’d also like to thank all the deaf young people and families who got in touch with their MP to share their experiences. This debate wouldn’t have been half as powerful without your stories.

PS: You can read the full transcript here.

Jovita’s vlog — Taking Stolen Futures to Parliament

Jovita, one of our Youth Advisory Board members, went to Parliament on 4th July together with the NDCS Roadshow Bus as part of our Stolen Futures event. Take a look at her signed vlog below (this vlog includes subtitles).

The aim of the event was to talk to MPs about budget cuts to services for deaf children and young people. We also wanted to speak to Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP and convince him to have a meeting with us to discuss these spending cuts.

Thanks to Jovita and our other supporters on the day we have now been successful! Nadhim Zahawi has agreed to meet with us to discuss education services for deaf children — well done to all our campaigners! We will keep you updated about the outcome of the meeting.

 

Right to Sign – update on BSL GCSE campaign

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

There’s been another breakthrough in the Right to Sign campaign, and it’s all thanks to two of our amazing campaigners.

Back in June, we explained that the Department for Education in England had done a U-turn and would now allow a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). However, they also said that there could not be any new GCSEs in this Parliament. In theory, this meant that there could be no BSL GCSE before 2022.

Daniel Jillings, a 12 year old deaf young person, decided to take legal action, with support from his Mum, Ann Jillings. His solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, argued that a blanket policy of no new GCSEs was discriminatory, especially to young people like him for whom any new GCSE in BSL would come too late if it couldn’t be introduced before 2022.

In response, the Department has conceded that it will make an exception for a BSL GCSE and that it can now be introduced before 2022. This is great news, and we would like to pay tribute to Daniel and Ann for sticking to their guns and challenging the Department on this.

In terms of what happens next, any exam body, such as Signature, will still need to meet the requirements set by the Department for Education and the exams regulator Ofqual. It’s important that any GCSE is of the highest standard and has the same credibility as other GCSEs. We’re calling on the Department to do everything it can to support and expedite progress, so that a new GCSE is ready to go as soon as possible so that young people like Daniel can benefit from it. We want to see evidence they’re taking a ‘can-do’ attitude towards making a BSL GCSE a reality.

Much will now depend on the progress that the Department, Ofqual and exam bodies like Signature make and it’s still too early to say how any new BSL GCSE will work in practice. However, the Department’s announcement is a big step forward and we can now be more optimistic that change will come sooner rather than later.

More information about Signature’s work in this area can be found on their website. Keep an eye on our campaigns blog as well for more updates.

Right to Sign — What happens next?

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

The Department for Education in England recently confirmed that it does not object in principle to the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL). The Department also said that it was open to considering proposals for this GCSE for introduction in the longer term. We think this is a positive step forward. Previously, the Government had refused to consider any new GCSEs.

However, it’s important to note that the process for delivering a GCSE in BSL will not be short or easy.

Any exam body, such as Signature, will need to meet the requirements set by the Department for Education and the exams regulator Ofqual. In addition, the Department for Education has also said that any new GCSE could not be introduced in this Parliament so that schools can have a period of ‘stability’. Assuming there is no early election, this means there can be no new GCSE before 2022.

We are frustrated by the delay and that the Department continue to prioritise ‘stability’ over the need to ensure fairness for deaf young people. At the same time, we want any GCSE to be of the highest standard and we recognise it will take time for it to be ready. It’s important that any new GCSE in BSL has the same credibility as other GCSEs.

We’re calling on the Department to do everything it can to support and expedite progress, so that a new GCSE is ready to go as soon as the next Parliament begins. We want to see evidence they’re taking a ‘can-do’ attitude towards making a BSL GCSE a reality.

We’ve already had lots of questions about how the BSL GCSE will work. Unfortunately, it’s still too early to say how it will work in practice and much will depend on the progress that the Department, Ofqual and exam bodies like Signature make. Watch this space! More information about Signature’s work in this area can be found on their website.

There’s still a long way to go but we could not have got to where we are now without all the hard work by our campaigners and supporters – thank you to all those who’ve supported our Right to Sign campaign. We’ll be keeping a close eye on progress and will keep you updated.

Liam’s vlog – What can you do about the £4 million cuts?

Liam, a past member of our Youth Advisory Board has been vlogging all week for #DeafAwarenessWeek2018.

He’s just done his first signed VLOG (Go Liam!) and it’s all about our Stolen Futures campaign.

 

If you haven’t already – don’t forget to email your MP!

P.S: If you want to hear from him – check out his YouTube channel!

£4 million cuts – deaf children’s services at crisis point

Jess-Reeves-cropped

Jess Reeves, Campaigns Manager, National Deaf Children’s Society

Enough is enough. The Government must step up and support deaf children.

One third of councils in England are cutting a total of £4million from their budgets for deaf children’s education.

This comes at the same time as numbers of Teachers of the Deaf are falling and numbers of deaf children are rising. Research published earlier this year shows a ten percent drop in the number of these highly specialised teachers since 2014 and an 11% rise in the number of deaf children from 2016 to 2017. Over half of the remaining teachers are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

Is it any wonder then that despite the Government’s major reform of the special educational needs system in England, two thirds of deaf children are still failing to achieve the key target of a ‘good’ grade 5 in GCSE English and Maths? We know that deaf children who get the right support in their education can do just as well as their hearing friends. This is why the Government must step in to prevent this mounting crisis. We are calling on them to:

• meet with us to discuss this as a matter of urgency
• ensure central government funding keeps pace with the rise in demand for support for deaf children’s education
• take action to train up the next generation of Teachers of the Deaf.

You can help
Contact your MP today and ask them to email Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi encouraging him to meet us to discuss this.

Find out more
To see what we know about education services for deaf children in your area please visit our online interactive map.
Interested in the research and data mentioned above? Check out the data page on our website.