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.

General Election 2017. Deaf young people matter.

Martin-Mclean-cropped

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

Less than half of young people aged 18-24 are expected to vote on June 8th. Personally, I think this is a tragedy as it means that politicians may be less focused on trying to win young people over because this will not be the key to winning elections. It can be argued that policies on housing, benefits or higher education, for example, might be different if more young people voted.

We at the National Deaf Children’s Society want to make sure that the needs of young people are high on the agenda. We have some key asks for each of the parties to help ensure deaf young people have bright futures. For this year’s general election they are:

    1. Ensure deaf young people receive access to specialist careers advice. Imagine as a deaf young person thinking about what you want to do in the future but you did not know you had rights under the Equality Act or that there was funding for communication support and technology in the workplace (Access to Work). Sadly, this is the reality for many deaf young people and we believe it influences their subject choices at school and college. We want all deaf young people to have access to specialist careers advice so that they are better informed to make choices about their futures.
    2.  Revamp the Access to Work employment support scheme. As a user of the Access to Work I can say I probably could not do my job without it – it pays for the communication support I need to access meetings and training. However, when applying for the first time you will need to very clear about what support and how much of it you need. We don’t believe the application process is friendly for young people and would like to see specialist advice from dedicated champions when they apply for the first time, as well as support that it is flexible and tailored to their needs.
    3. Make it easier for deaf young people to complete apprenticeships. The main political parties are keen on apprenticeships. So are we. High-quality apprenticeships can be a good way of ensuring deaf young people gain vital work experience alongside achieving qualifications. We believe the funding system for additional support on apprenticeships is currently unsatisfactory and needs to be improved and simplified.

Help us put the needs of deaf young people on the agenda by asking the parliamentary candidates for your area what they would do on the above issues if elected to parliament. Also, if you know any deaf young people over 18, encourage them to register to vote- they do matter!

General election 2017: Getting a high-quality education for deaf children

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

In my own education and in others, I often come across the phrase “he’s coping well”. I hate the phrase. I hate it because it seems to suggest a lower set of expectations for deaf children is perfectly OK and even something to aspire to. Deaf children should not just be coping. They should be thriving, reaching for the top and being the best they can be.

As much as I would like them to, I doubt I can get the next Government to ban the word ‘coping’. But there are still a lot of other things they can do to make sure that deaf children can thrive in education and get the support they need.

Brian has already blogged about the need for the next Government to protect funding for education services for deaf children. We also want the next Government to make sure deaf children have access to a high-quality education. Two things they can do to help achieve this in England are:

  1. Get Ofsted to specifically inspect the quality of education services for deaf children. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have already begun a time-limited inspection programme of local area special educational needs support in England, something we long campaigned for. However, these inspections are looking at all children with special educational needs in a very general sense. Services for deaf children are still receiving very little scrutiny as part of this.

We think this is wrong – why should parents of deaf children get less information than other parents about the quality of support their child is receiving? We also think that local authorities would focus more on making sure deaf children get a good education if they thought Ofsted might rap them over the knuckles if they didn’t. 

  1. Set up a new bursary scheme to recruit Teachers of the Deaf to address the recruitment difficulties experienced in a number of areas. A report earlier this year found that there had been a 12% decline in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in England since 2010. In other words, 1 in 10 Teachers of the Deaf have disappeared in the last 7 years. Separately, we also know that around half of all existing Teachers of the Deaf are expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. Unless action is taken to address this staffing crisis, future deaf children are going to risk having to go to schools that haven’t had any expert advice from Teachers of the Deaf or not getting the specialist attention they need.

If you think deaf children need higher quality support, make sure that candidates standing for election know how important this is to you, and ask them to commit to take action if they are elected. Our website has more information about how you can get involved in the election to make deaf children matter.

BSL and apprenticeships

Martin-Mclean-cropped

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Adviser (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

In January there was quite a bit of press about a decision by the Government to allow BSL qualifications to be accepted as alternative to the English requirements for apprenticeships in England. This is something that the National Deaf Children’s Society campaigned for along with other deaf organisations.

Since the announcement in January, there have been quite a few questions asked about how the new policy will work. I am going to tell you what I know so far.

Click here for a BSL version of my blog.

Why was this change made?

Currently, if you are taking an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in England you will need to pass English at Level 1 or 2 (functional skills or GCSE) to complete the apprenticeship. For some deaf people this makes completing an apprenticeship much more difficult. We believe it is also unfair for those who use BSL as their main language.

Who is eligible for this change?

People who are deaf and use BSL as their main language.

Which qualifications will be accepted?

For intermediate apprenticeships, the Level 1 certificate in BSL.

For advanced apprenticeships, the Level 2 certificate in BSL.

Can be the Signature, iBSL or ABC qualification.

Is the Level 1 or 2 certificate in BSL the appropriate qualification?

The Level 1 and 2 BSL qualifications are primarily aimed at beginners learning BSL. For a deaf first language BSL user and already fluent are they appropriate? Maybe not but what is the alternative? The Level 3 or 6 courses are much longer and there are fewer teachers. Ideally, we would have a functional skills BSL qualification which would allow BSL users to apply their BSL skills to workplace scenarios.

What if a deaf apprentice does not have a BSL qualification?

They can take the required qualification as part of their apprenticeship. Their training provider will receive the same funding as they receive for providing English tuition. For most people this will just mean taking the Level 1 or 2 BSL assessments with a bit of coaching beforehand.

When does the new policy start?

There is a change in apprenticeship regulations required which is a legal change. The Government expects to do this this April. Fingers crossed.

What about those who do not use BSL?

Some who are oral will find it difficult to pass English and Maths functional skills qualifications for the same reasons as BSL users- delayed language development impacts reading and writing skills. The Government plans to set up a pilot where apprentices with disabilities that impact on learning can work towards functional skills qualification at a level appropriate for them. We don’t know when this will happen or how big the pilot will be.

NDCS does Disability History Month – Part 1

Brian

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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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.”