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 Specialist deaf sensory social workers have been replaced by social workers who now have to work across a huge range of children’s disabilities, leading to a possible ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ situation.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.

Seven things we’ve learnt from the latest CRIDE report

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

Last week, the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) published the latest results for England from its annual survey of education services for deaf children. Though it has its limitations, it’s one of the best sources of data out there on deaf children and the report managed to attract a fair bit of media coverage (including in the Huffington Post and the Guardian). In this blog, I set out my own personal take on seven key findings from the report

1. There are more deaf children

Or, at least, there are more deaf children that local authorities know about. There are now at least 45,631 deaf children in England, a reported 11% increase over the previous year. It’s difficult to be sure whether this is because there are genuinely more deaf children and/or whether local authorities are getting better at identifying those that live in their area.

2. There are fewer Teachers of the Deaf

In 2017, we saw a 2% decline in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in England. Since 2011, we’ve seen a whopping 14% decline. These figures don’t take into account the number of trainee Teachers of the Deaf or Teachers of the Deaf in special schools – but it’s still clear there has been a significant long-term decline. Despite this, government action to address this has not been forthcoming.

3. There’s a looming retirement crunch

Over half of all visiting Teachers of the Deaf are over the age of 50, meaning they’re likely to retire in the next ten to fifteen years. Combined with the long-term decline in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf, this could have a disastrous effect on deaf children, unless urgent action is taken by the Government.

4. Deaf children continue to be a diverse bunch

We know, for example, that 7% of deaf children have at least one cochlear implant, 14% use English as an additional spoken language at home while 22% have an additional special educational need. There can be a huge variety of need within deaf children which has important implications for Teacher of the Deaf training.

5. We still have an incomplete picture on post-16

It’s clear that local authorities continue to struggle in identifying deaf young people post-16, despite the introduction of a new 0 to 25 special educational needs framework in 2014 in England. For example, local authorities told us that 1,356 deaf young people left school in 2016. This is far less than we’d expect, based on what we know about the number of secondary aged pupils.

6. We know a bit more about the use of sign language in education

We already knew, from previous CRIDE surveys, that around 10% of all deaf children used sign language in education in some form. For the first time, instead of asking about all children, CRIDE asked about those who are severely or profoundly deaf. This revealed that, of this group, 29% use sign language in education, of which 8% use British Sign Language. It’s important to note that this doesn’t tell us about how much sign language is being used outside of school.

7. Government statistics on deaf children are still flawed

We know from CRIDE that there are over 45,000 deaf children across England. However, if we were to look at government figures, we’d be missing a large chunk of this group, around 42% of all deaf children. We’re calling on the Government to get better at collecting data on all deaf children.

There are still more stats yet to come – expect reports on deaf children in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the next month.

General election 2017- Scotland

Lois-Drake-2-cropped

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

On 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister, Theresa May announced a snap election would take place on 8 June 2017. What will your new MPs in Scotland do to ensure deaf children and young people and their families in your area get the support they need?

There has been positive progress lately in Scotland for deaf young people and their families. The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 (BSL Act) was passed which marked an historic moment for deaf people across the country.

The implementation of the new laws is now underway with the draft BSL National Plan open for consultation. However work must continue by closing any existing gaps in support that exist for all deaf children and young people and their families.

Some key facts prospective MPs in Scotland should be aware of:-

  • We estimate there are as many as 3850 deaf children in Scotland today and we believe that, with the right support, they can do anything other children can do;
  • Deafness is not a learning disability, but deaf learners consistently do worse than their hearing peers at school;
  • Teachers of the Deaf are vital for many deaf children but there is regional variation in staffing levels and services are being squeezed with half are due to retire within the next 10 to 15 years;
  • The latest Scottish Government data shows that last year 11.8% of deaf learners left school with no qualifications (compared with 2.6% of all pupils) and 38.7% obtained Highers or Advanced Highers (compared with 59.3% of all pupils). This gap in achievement at school goes on to affect deaf young people’s life chances, with 24.7% going onto university compared with 41.3% of those with no additional support needs;
  • The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and a strong focus on educational attainment all have the potential to drive positive outcomes for deaf children and their families;
  • While this progress should be celebrated, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every deaf child in Scotland gets the support they need from birth – with standards of support variable across Scotland, we need MPs who will champion deaf children in their area!
  • The early years are a critical time for deaf children to develop the language and communication skills they need for life, as outlined in our recent report Getting It Right From the Start;

Will your MP be an advocate for deaf children in your area?

Tell them to email us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk to request a briefing.

Could you help a family struggling with their child’s deafness?

Joanne O'Donnell

Joanne O’Donnell, Everyone Together Project Officer (Parenting)

The Everyone Together project will be recruiting parent/carer volunteers to support our work. Could you spare some time to volunteer with us? Project Officer Joanne O’Donnell explains more:

“The Everyone Together project supports families with a deaf child aged 0-8 years in Scotland. We are committed to building support around deaf children, beginning with the family, and bringing in professionals and the wider community.

If you remember back to when your child was diagnosed, chances are you remember that feeling of being alone. By recruiting parent volunteers, we hope that Everyone Together will provide families with emotional support from someone who has been in their position. There is nothing more encouraging than knowing someone has been through a similar situation and reached the other side.”

Interested? Read on to find out more.

What will I be asked to do?

We have a number of volunteer opportunities and we would work with you to identify the best role for you. Tasks undertaken by volunteers include:

  • Talking to parents with a newly identified deaf child. Sharing your experiences and explaining about the support we can offer;
  • Giving talks to parents and professionals at workshops, courses and conferences;
  • Speaking to the media about your family, our charity and our services;
  • Supporting a parent/carer to attend one of our events by accompanying them or meeting them at the event.

How much time will I be asked to commit?

It’s up to you – let us know what you can commit to, and we will let you know which opportunities might best suit your availability.

What support will I receive?

You will receive training and ongoing support in your role. Your achievements and contribution will be celebrated through an annual recognition event and we will reimburse all out of pocket expenses incurred through your volunteer role.

I would like to volunteer

Great! The first step is to let us know you are interested. You can do this by emailing everyone.together@ndcs.org.uk or by contacting Joanne on 0141 880 7044/ 07837 056 267. We will provide you with more information and an application form.

If you live elsewhere in the UK and would like to know about other volunteering opportunities at National Deaf Children’s Society, please email volunteer@ndcs.org.uk or call 0121 234 9829. Alternatively, you can find current volunteering opportunities on our website.

Make 2017 the year you become an NDCS volunteer.

A Day in the Life of a Parenting Facilitator

 

Anne Frances Mason

Anne-Frances Mason, Raising a Deaf Child Facilitator

Think parenting courses are all naughty steps and no fun? Think again, as Anne-Frances, one of our fabulous facilitators explains…

Many of you will have heard of ‘Raising a Deaf Child’, the parenting course designed and endorsed by National Deaf Children’s Society. For those of you who haven’t, allow me to provide you with a sneaky snapshot of the course.

My background in social work means I have experience of delivering a range of parenting classes over the years. But sorry, I have come to the conclusion that this practice of running participants through programmes from A-Z often leaves people with more questions than answers.

My current role as a Raising a Deaf Child facilitator could not be more different and here’s why:

The shape changes. The sessions might be in workshop form, a one-off weekend, regular blocks of short, sharp sessions or a taster slotted into a special event.

The sequence changes. We might begin at the end and skip backwards. Why? Because parents prioritise the topics and ‘Everyone Together’ listens.

At the heart of my job as facilitator is my duty and privilege to remind every parent and carer of a deaf child that they are the expert when it comes to their child. Parents sometimes forget this. But please don’t forget that we are all different and it is vital that we celebrate the world of differences for each deaf child.

Finally, it is only fair to make mention of the secret ingredients that have made the Raising a Deaf Child a success. Apart from the food, the fun, the ice-breakers and the guest speakers, there is that parent sitting opposite who has experienced almost exactly the same as the parent who is climbing the walls. They’ve been there, they know, and their insight is passed on. Peer power in action.

But don’t just take it from me, come and see for yourself!

The ‘Everyone Together’ project is funded by Big Lottery Fund, and supports families with a deaf child aged 0-8 years in Scotland. To find out more about our 2017 workshops, visit the Everyone Together events page.

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.”

Scottish Election 2016: Employment and welfare

Katie-Rafferty-cropped

Katie Rafferty, Policy & Campaigns Manager, Scotland , National Deaf Children’s Society

The future of jobs and welfare in Scotland has taken centre stage in many of the debates ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Parliament election. How does each of the main parties plan to improve the experience of deaf young people in these two vital areas?

The Scottish Conservative party

  • Commit to halving the disability employment gap and say that the welfare system should support the most vulnerable.
  • They also say we should consider whether Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments should be managed more locally.

The Scottish Green party

  • Recognise that too many people are marginalised in the labour market, including disabled. They also support the devolution and expansion of the Access to Work scheme.
  • They recognise the move from DLA to PIP has disadvantaged thousands of disabled people and they will push for all PIP claims to be granted initially to avoid delays in accessing support.
  • Further information is available on how they believe Scotland can ensure equal opportunities for disabled people.

The Scottish Labour party

  • Commit to supporting those furthest from the labour market, such as disabled people, to get work through being provided with the specialist support they need.
  • They support the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering 30,000 apprenticeships and increasing the number of disabled trainees. In addition, they commit to every part of government offering internships, with places guaranteed for those who are disabled.
  • They also want to create a new agency, Skills Scotland, to deliver inclusive skills training.
  • More information is available in their Disability Manifesto 2016.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Commit to increasing the number of those with disabilities in Modern Apprenticeships.
  • They make no specific commitments with regards to DLA/PIP but more generally to a fairer welfare system.

The Scottish National Party

  • Commits to maintaining the level of disability benefits and making assessment processes fairer.
  • They have pledged to deliver 30 000 apprenticeships, and ensure these are open to all by increasing uptake by disabled people.
  • They believe the DWP’s Work Programme has failed unemployed and disabled people and commit to investing a further £20 million a year into services for those with significant barriers to the labour market.
  • More information is available on what they’ll do for disabled people.

So far over 2700 emails have been sent to local candidates reminding them about the needs of deaf children. Take action today by contacting your future MSPs and help us reach every candidate in Scotland.

Email your candidates