Supporting children early — England 0 : Wales 1?

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Recently I attended the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) which discussed the APPGC’s second report Storing Up Trouble on the state of children’s social care services and social care funding in England.

Whilst the report highlights a crisis in children’s social care funding and makes various forthright recommendations, the emphasis on what action is required is being interpreted differently by key stakeholders. These can be broadly separated into two positions:

The first position focuses on addressing cuts in early help services, rising thresholds to access children’s social care support and a ‘demoralised’ social care workforce. The other position recognises the pressures on local authorities’ budgets but highlights the variation in the quality of support to vulnerable children across comparable local authorities and focuses more on improving decisions by social workers, their managers, commissioners and political leaders.

The meeting was attended by the Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi who perhaps not surprisingly adopts to the second position. He set out government action to improve the performance of social workers and champion evidence based practice through a new social work innovation fund and the What Works Centre for Social Work.

However, despite the minister mentioning the importance of early intervention on two occasions, he repeated the government’s continued position against any legislation to require local authorities to provide early help services.

At the National Deaf Children’s Society we know the importance of early intervention, a good example being the new-born hearing screening programme introduced in 2006. We also know research shows that early diagnosis and early intervention to support to parents of deaf children by a range of professionals has positive outcomes. Sadly some local authorities are being forced to cut visits by Teachers of the Deaf or support children based only on the severity of their hearing loss and not their actual level of need.

In 2011 Professor Eileen Munro took two years to review children’s social care, consulting widely across the sector and also with service users. Her conclusions were all adopted by the coalition government, except one, a duty on local authorities to provide early help services.

Wales has introduced the Social Service and Well-Being Wales Act 2014 making it the first UK country to place a duty on local authorities to provide a range of ‘preventative services’ for all people (children or adults) which ‘promote well-being’ and reduce their need for care and support. The Act has even brought in national eligibility criteria to prevent post code lottery of social care support seen across England.

If research by the What Works Centre for Social Work does show clear benefits that early help services make to the lives of children and families, the Government will find it hard to ignore the calls to take action. In the meantime, we’ll be continuing to call on the Government in England through our campaigns work for a new duty on local authorities to provide early help services.

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.

Grommet surgery not under threat

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Vicki Kirwin, Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

Recent headlines across the media have suggested that the NHS plan to cut some “ineffective” routine surgeries to save money. One of the treatments supposedly under threat is grommet surgery for children with glue ear.

We are aware that some of our members have raised concerns about the impact of these cuts on deaf children. However, we don’t feel that the headlines are a true reflection of the NHS proposals. We have read the draft consultation proposed by the NHS and it is clear that grommet surgery will still be available to all children who meet the current guidelines. It seems that the proposed changes are a way of making health professionals adhere more closely to these guidelines, rather than an attempt to stop the procedure altogether.

The selection criteria outlined in the proposal are:

  • All children must have had specialist audiology and ENT assessment.
  • Persistent bilateral otitis media with effusion (glue ear) over a period of 3 months.
  • Hearing level in the better ear of 25-30dbHL or worse averaged at 0.5, 1, 2, & 4 kHz
  • Exceptionally, healthcare professionals should consider grommets in children with persistent glue ear in both ears with a hearing loss less than 25- 30dbHL, where the impact of the hearing loss on a child’s developmental, social or educational status is judged to be significant.
  • The guidance is different for children with Down’s Syndrome and Cleft Palate, these children may be offered grommets after a specialist MDT assessment in line with NICE guidance.
  • It is also good practice to ensure glue ear has not resolved once a date of surgery has been agreed, with tympanometry as a minimum.

We feel that these guidelines are appropriate and we are not currently concerned that there will be a negative impact on the selection process. We don’t expect that it will be harder for families to access grommet surgery for their child; if it’s clinically necessary and their choice of intervention. If families have had issues getting the right treatment for their child we do, however, urge them to contact our Helpline.

The NHS consultation will be published soon and we will be responding to the final version. We will also closely monitor how the proposals are implemented locally. If anyone is concerned about the availability of grommet surgery in their local area please contact our Helpline or the Campaigns team at NDCS.Campaigns@ndcs.org.uk.

Wales – Ask the Minister to make the right decision this summer!

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

The Minister for Lifelong Learning is making a big decision this summer – we need your help to persuade him to make

For example, the proposed law would allow families to appeal to tribunal if they were unhappy with a plan… but only for the parts provided by their school or local authority.

If support happens to be paid for by health, even if it is educational support like speech and language therapy, families would have complain to the NHS instead.

Another point is that health bodies would be able to withdraw educational support– even if it is written in a support plan.

Along with other third sector organisations, the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru has lobbied for the proposed law to toughen up on health boards.

Assembly Members tasked with scrutinising the proposed new law agree with us and have recommended that the draft law be changed so that any support within a learner’s plan is backed up by a family’s right to take a case to tribunal.

Having to use two different complaints systems seems confusing. We want a single robust, consistent and accessible system.

But the Minister has said he is still sitting on the fence. He has stated that he will use the summer to come to a decision about whether or not to make this change to the draft law.

There’s just a couple of weeks to go before the Minister is due to make a decision, please help us urge the Minister to address this important issue before it’s too late.

Our online action means that you can do this in just a few clicks. It only takes a minute so please take action now!

What is the new law?

The Welsh Government’s Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill is currently working its way through the political passages at the Welsh Assembly. If it successfully passes and becomes law, it will change the way in which support for learners with additional needs is planned for.

The new law would affect deaf children, young people and their families all over Wales.

You can find out more information and access our Q&A on the proposed new law here.

Don’t underestimate the power of taking part in an e-action!

I’m guilty myself of looking at e-actions and wondering whether one more signature or one email from me will really make a difference. But it really does.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has a history of achieving good results through e-actions. Just last year, supporters in Wales took part in an e-action to send a template response to a Welsh Government consultation. As a result, our supporters made up a fabulous 28% of the total responses and the Government report that followed had a specific section outlining our concerns about how its proposals would affect deaf children.

We need your help again to shout out about this very important issue. It only takes a few clicks, so please take action now and then spread the word to your family and friends – the more people who take part the better!

Thank you.

General election 2017: Uninspected audiology services

Beccy Forrow Policy and Campaigns Officer

Beccy Forrow, Policy and Campaigns Adviser

Would you send your child to a school that hadn’t been inspected by Ofsted? Would you ride in a car that didn’t conform to industry safety standards? Would you eat in a restaurant that refused to take part in food hygiene inspections? All questions I’d answer no to.

But this is what is being allowed to happen with children’s audiology services in England. Only 15% of services have been inspected and achieved a high enough standard to become ‘accredited’. This leaves the majority of services uninspected – with deaf children, young people and their families having no idea whether they are attending a great service or one that is poor quality and unsafe.

Considering that an NHS report in 2014 found that one third of audiology services were failing to meet critical NHS quality standards, with no incentive to improve, it’s unlikely that many will now be providing a better service. This matters because hearing is critical to a child’s development of language and learning. Early diagnosis and support reduces the risk of delays in language, educational, social and emotional development. But this support needs to be consistently of good quality.

Earlier this year we created an audiology map so that parents could check if their local service had reached a high enough standard to be accredited. However, of 134 services, 40 have so far refused to take part in the inspection scheme at all. Many others have registered for the scheme but not moved closer to an inspection visit over the course of the last few years.

We’re calling on the next Government to make it compulsory for all children’s audiology services in England to take part in the inspections so that parents can be confident that they are fit for purpose. As the inspections cost money and can be time consuming to prepare for, it’s vital that the Government levels the playing field by making the inspections mandatory for all services. Audiology services for deaf children won’t get better on their own.

If any general election candidates come to your door, be sure to ask them about the quality of children’s audiology services. We’ve got some other questions you might like to ask them on our election web page.

NDCS does Disability History Month – Part 1

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Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

It’s UK Disability History Month so I thought I’d take the opportunity to outline key events in the history of the National Deaf Children’s Society. Over the past 75 years, tremendous progress has been made in attitudes towards deafness. However, in writing this blog I couldn’t help but think there is still a remarkable similarity between the issues faced by deaf children of the 20th Century and today.

On the 15th December 1944 a group of parents of deaf children met in London because they were concerned over the impact of the Education Act 1944 on their children’s education. They formed the Society of St John of Beverley (who became the patron saint of the “deaf and dumb” in the eleventh century)  whose aim was to “to further provision of full modern education for all deaf children in England as originally accorded to hearing children”.   After a short while it changed its name to the Deaf Children’s Society (DCS).

From these small beginnings developed the National Deaf Children’s Society, serving the UK as well as supporting deaf children in Asia, Africa and South America.  Below I have highlighted some key events in our history between 1944 and 1964.

1944

David Jackson identified as deaf at the age of 6 months. David said his mother tried to cure it by placing brown paper soaked in vinegar on his ears and serving him a diet of fish and carrots. David said “people would try anything in those days”.

1945

DCS establishes a Teacher of the Deaf training bursary scheme and starts a campaign for the training of as many teachers as possible.

1946

DCS proposes that public health services should conduct hearing tests on children at an early age to ensure early identification and support. This campaign was finally won in 2006 when new born hearing screening was fully rolled out across the UK.

DCS publishes its first information leaflet for parents “If your child is deaf” and sets up courses for parents

1947

DCS lobbies the Department for Education to ensure teachers receive a salary while training to be Teachers of the Deaf.

child-and-teacher

1948

DCS links with groups in Glasgow and the Midlands  and then one in the NW of England. Over the next 10 years more and more parent groups are established throughout the UK and establish links with the DCS.

DCS produces a circular on research suggesting a link between German measles in pregnant women and deafness in babies.

1949

The Minster for Education agrees to fund the training of Teachers of the Deaf. The Society’s first campaign win!

At this time around 450 deaf children in London were out of school and in need of a school place.

1950

DCS takes up the case of a young deaf girl who spent years in a mental health institution before she was found to be deaf and not “disturbed”. DCS challenged the way the Ministry of Health identified children with a “mental deficiency”. 

1951

DCS suggests the shortage of school places for deaf children could be alleviated by attaching a class for deaf children to a grammar school. The Friends School in Saffron Walden agreed to be a pilot making the concept of hearing impairment units (specialist classrooms for deaf children attached to mainstream schools) a reality.

Two children learning to use hearing aid equipment

1953

The DCS commences evening courses for parents lasting 6 weeks on topics including supporting deaf children to read and develop speech and language.

The first quarterly newsletter for parents was produced. It continues over 50 years later in the form of NDCS’s Families Magazine.

DCS make access to technical training a priority as a step to work. A pilot is established with Regent Street Polytechnic for 4 deaf students.

DCS presses the Ministry of Labour to give disability resettlement officers and youth employment officers full information on the employment of deaf young people.

1954

DCS offers holiday weeks for families in caravans which were very popular.

DCS is concerned about the absence of books for deaf children. It offered £50 to authors to write books and guaranteed the publisher £500 to ensure publication.

1955

Ann William’s daughter was diagnosed as being deaf. Ann said she was told by the consultant that her daughter would never amount to anything and would need to be sent away to a special school which Ann refused to do. She was not given any information on any communication method apart from speech so the family had no choice.

First debate on the Education of Deaf Children in the House of Commons opened by Michael Stewart, Labour MP for Fulham. 

1956

The quarterly newsletter transformed into a magazine for members called “Talk”. 12,000 copies are distributed to families.

The society offers £25 grants to parents to help them pay for their children’s hearing aids.

Deaf Children's Society Talk magazine

1958

Parent groups from all over the country meet and form the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). They challenge the rigid approach to teaching methods for deaf children and reject the prevailing notion that a child who doesn’t speak is a failure: “A deaf child with no means of communication at all reflects a lack of flexibility of our education provision. Any method of teaching deaf children must ensure that each deaf child is given a means of communication” 

1959

NDCS establishes the Commonwealth Society to look into the welfare of deaf children outside the UK. Its first task was to raise funds.

1960

NDCS establishes the Deaf Children’s League of Service, proving volunteering opportunities for deaf children, encouraging them to be self-reliant and help others such as old people.

1963

NDCS responds to equipment requests and loans 38 Auditory Training Units to teachers to help children use their residual hearing. NDCS hoped the loans would convince local authorities to provide the equipment.

NDCS also provides 8 buses for use by local parent groups for deaf children’s excursions. By 1967 there were 17 buses on long term loan. It included one for the Manchester University Survey Team which was conducting research into the social adjustment of deaf teenagers.

250,000 copies of ‘What do you know about deafness’ were circulated as part of a deaf awareness campaign featured in newspapers, radio and TV.

NDCS bus

1964

NDCS’s campaign against the use of the term “deaf and dumb” meets with a measure of success when the Ministry of Health stops using the term “dumb”.

The Queen and Queen mother attend NDCS’s 20th birthday party (a reception at the Mansion House) joined by members of all 29 regional parent groups across the UK.

What happens next?

For what happened next read my blog on 1964 to 1984 to be published next week.

Cast a spell on the inspectors…

Sophia-James-cropped

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

With the evenings darkening as winter creeps in, the inspectors aren’t wasting any time. Round two of the Ofsted and CQC inspections into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has kicked off faster than a Boxing Day sale (yes, the shops already have their Christmas stock in). Feeling the need for speed, the inspectors have visited five local areas in the first month.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Herefordshire, Bexley, Hartlepool, Plymouth or Surrey, you’ve already had a visit. We’re curious to know if you had any idea the inspections were taking place? Did you get involved? Give your feedback here.

Cast your spell

 If your area hasn’t been visited yet, you still have the chance to talk to inspectors about the support you get locally. All towns and cities will be inspected within the next five years, so don’t miss your opportunity to cast a spell. To find out more about what you need to do, check out The Buzz if you’re under 18 or have a look at our website.

 Trick or Treat

Reports from the first set of inspections were released over the summer holidays. Initially, in our view, the reports consisted of broad, general statements about SEND services across education, health and social care. Only four out of the seven reports released gave any specific mention of deafness, and even then, these were rarely detailed references to services.

That said, there are certainly some treats in these reports; they are the first ever focused reports into SEND services at a local level. In some reports, the inspectors have demonstrated they are listening to parents of deaf children and flagging up their concerns. Ofsted and the CQC are also making efforts to alert people to the fact these inspections are taking place on social media.

With Halloween fast approaching and reports soon to be released, it’s worth asking the question – will this next set of reports hold more tricks or treats for deaf children and young people?

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