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.

Wales: Mind the Gap!

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

Every year, a pile of statistics finds its way into my inbox. I’ve never been a fan of stats and spreadsheets, but nevertheless, I am always grateful to receive these ones on the attainment of deaf pupils in Wales.

Just a few years ago, there was no published data on the number of deaf pupils in Wales – let alone information on their attainment.

Such data is a key part of the picture when looking at how well our deaf learners are supported in Wales and NDCS Cymru campaigned for the data to be available.

We know that deaf pupils face challenges, but with appropriate support they can achieve on a par with their hearing peers. Unfortunately, the stats show significant attainment gaps between deaf learners and their peers. Last year, deaf pupils were 30.2% less likely to achieve A*-C GCSE grades in the 3 “core subjects” (English/Welsh, Maths and Science.)

Whilst this paints an upsetting picture, it is important to consider what it actually means. It certainly isn’t an indictment of our Teachers of the Deaf! We know we’re lucky to have many dedicated and talented Teachers of the Deaf working across Wales. But we also know that these professionals are often working beyond capacity with sky-high caseloads. We know that we desperately need to ensure new professionals are trained up for the next generation, especially since many of our current Teachers of the Deaf are nearing retirement.

But we also need to look beyond the Teacher of the Deaf. We need to find ways of addressing the numerous barriers and challenges that deaf pupils can face – barriers that deaf young people themselves tell us about. To name but a few these include the need for; greater deaf awareness among educational staff generally, improved classroom acoustics and more support workers with BSL skills.

The attainment statistics upset me, but they also keep me passionate about my work – campaigning to make a difference for deaf young people in Wales.

NDCS Cymru has been campaigning hard on behalf of deaf learners. Although there is still much to be done, some good changes are happening.

Even as positive steps are taken, it will be essential that we keep accessing this attainment data to monitor the attainment gap and ensure it closes. Essentially, we need to mind the gap. That’s why NDCS Cymru is calling on the Welsh Government to make sure this valuable information is not lost as it reviews the way in which attainment data is collated across Wales. It may sound like a boring topic, but it is vitally important!

So, when it comes to this year’s attainment data, let’s not read it and weep. Let’s read it and:

  1. be grateful for the fact that we have it;
  2. recognise the work of fabulous professionals who work hard to support our deaf learners;
  3. keep campaigning to ensure all deaf children can have the support they need.

Live in Wales? Here are 4 reasons why you should take our General Election campaign action

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

NDCS has recently launched a campaign action– the action enables supporters to get in touch with their local general election candidates and make them aware of key issues affecting deaf children.

The core services that deaf children and young people encounter (education, health, social services) fall within the power of the Welsh Assembly and its Assembly Members. The MPs elected on 8 June will sit in Westminster and won’t be part of the Welsh Assembly. Why, then, does our general election action include Wales?

  1. Westminster still has power over some areas that have an impact on deaf children and young people. In particular, laws made in UK parliament about welfare benefits and Access to Work directly affect us in Wales.
  2. MPs are appointed to represent you. As well as attending parliament, they should also spend time meeting their constituents and helping to raise issues that local people draw to their attention. MPs, as well as Assembly Members (AMs) and local councillors, can help make sure that issues with local services are addressed.
  3. Deaf children in England need our help too. It is true that laws made in Westminster around areas such as education, health and social care will be for England only. However, our Welsh MPs are able to contribute to these discussions and hopefully help deaf children in doing so.
  4. Dealing with issues in one area of the UK can help to put pressure on the other nations in the UK to look into the issues too.

Taking part in our online action is really easy to do and should only take a minute. Click here to take part.

Wales: Q&A on new education law

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

Wales ALN QA noteWales ALN QA noteThe first thing that most people find out about me is that I am the biggest chocoholic ever. But the second thing is generally that I can be a bit of geek – especially about politics and changes to the law.

 

So it’s of no surprise to my family and friends that I’m closely following a draft law making its way through the political passages at the Welsh Assembly.

I admit “The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill” is not a catchy title. Nevertheless, once approved by the Assembly, this new law will shake-up systems and structures that have been in place for years.

It’ll change the way learners with additional needs are supported in the early years, at school and at college. It will affect thousands of children, young people and their families across the country.

We know it’s not the norm to replace the latest best-selling novel with a copy of a draft law on your bedside table (ahem, guilty as charged!) So we’ve compiled a Q&A document to help those who may have questions about the reforms. Please get in touch if you have any other questions we’ve missed off – you can email us at campaigns.wales@ndcs.org.uk.

NDCS Cymru has been busy campaigning to ensure the new law will work for deaf learners. We’re pleased that some changes have been made, but still have ongoing concerns, so our campaigning continues. You can find out more at www.ndcs.org.uk/IDPWales. Watch this space for details of how you can help us in the coming weeks.

Your chance to improve communication with health services in Wales…

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Wales, National Deaf Children’s Society

In my eight years with NDCS Cymru, I have heard many stories about a shameful lack of deaf awareness at doctor surgeries and other health services. For example, deaf people being called verbally for their appointment and missing it, patients missing key information about their illness because their doctor is not deaf aware, and parents being asked to act as an interpreter for teenagers who would really prefer to keep their appointment private. 

But it is not all doom and gloom – the good news is that Public Health Wales is keen to do something to address this issue. In fact, it is setting up a group to advise on how best to collect information on patient communication needs.

 Do you (or does someone you know) fancy joining this group to have your say and make a difference? Find out more here.

 

 

 

 

Campaigning: working with professionals in Wales

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Wales, National Deaf Children’s Society

Whenever you meet new people, the inevitable conversation starter almost always crops up; “what do you do for a living?” I always take great pride in replying that I work as a campaigner for NDCS Cymru, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what being a campaigner involves.

At a friend’s hen party this weekend, I was asked: “So what does your job involve when you are not cheering and holding a placard?” Well, actually my job hardly involves placards at all!

While placards and demonstrations can be important and effective in some cases, my work is really about positively engaging and working collaboratively with policy makers and professionals. Those working to make new laws or to deliver services for deaf children ultimately want to see new laws and changes to services which are effective and work well. The bulk of my work is about looking at proposed changes and then meeting and working with key decision makers to suggest how these changes could be tweaked to ensure they work for deaf children, young people and their families. I like to think I work with officials rather than against them, pulling out placards and petitions only when raising concerns has not been sufficient and greater action is required.

It is quite fitting that after being asked the placard question, I spent the day with health professionals at a children’s audiology unit. I was part of an audit panel reviewing how the service was meeting standards set by the Welsh Government.

These standards first came into place in 2010 and cover a range of points from waiting times, qualifications and training of audiologists, and ensuring that families receive key information. Every year, audiology sites across Wales are asked to score how well they believe they are meeting each standard and to provide evidence for it. A panel made up of audiology practitioners from other services in Wales and an NDCS representative then review the evidence against the scores given.

For me, this is a great example of how, as a campaigner, you work with and alongside professionals as a critical friend. We support good practice, suggest areas for improvement in the interests of our members, and raise our hands when we feel something is going wrong. Essentially, we have a common aim: to ensure our services for deaf children and their families are up to standard.

Young leaders in Wales

Lorna

Lorna Langton, Gearing Up Project Officer/ Mynd Amdani Swyddog Prosiect

The quiet little seaside town of Colwyn Bay may seem like an unlikely place to invite a group of 14-18 year olds for the weekend but boy did we have a great time! As part of our Gearing Up project, Young Leaders made the most of every opportunity to have fun, learn and make some great friendships on this year’s North Wales Young Leader training course.

Our Young Leaders came from all across Wales, from as far as Cardiff to just a few train stops down the line at Bangor. After everyone had registered we headed off to a fantastic dinner at The Station restaurant just a short walk from where we were staying. This was a lovely chance to enjoy some good food and all get to know each other. By the end of the meal one member of staff, who we discovered is doing his Level 2 BSL at the moment, even treated us to a little magic show!

Saturday morning started with breakfast at our training venue Porth Eirias, what a fab location and the staff were so helpful, it really couldn’t be faulted. The amazing bacon butties and pastries that were waiting for us as we arrived really helped give us all the brain power needed for the day ahead.

The Young Leader programme aims to build deaf young people’s confidence, develop valuable life skills and give them an opportunity to make new deaf friends who have similar experiences to them. This weekend we started with a workshop to establish what the group thought the definition of a young leader was and then we took advantage of the great location on the beach to get out and do some team building activities. The group were really engaged and really added their own spin on their idea of leadership and the people in their lives who they looked up to as role models.

That afternoon we had Pete from the Wales Ambulance Service join us to train the
young people in CPR. They all got stuck in and learned a valuable life saving skill that everyone agreed was really important and helped them build confidence in tcpr-WalesBlog2016heir ability to act in an emergency situation in the future. The young people brought up some interesting views around being young and deaf and having the confidence to take charge in an emergency situation. Then it was time to grab our things and head off to the ski slope for snowboarding training. We were so lucky with the weather and our coaches at Llandudno Ski Centre we’re supportive and made it so much fun. It was great to see the group grow in confidence and ability over the 2 days.

Sunday started with an inspiring and thought provoking deaf role model talk from Dr Andrew Davies of Bangor University. He spoke about the young people finding whatever they were passionate about and taking control of their own education making decisions that would ensure they achieved their aspirations as he had done.

After that stirring session, the young people were all fired up and sparking with ideas when it came to the workshop on our bursary scheme; the Pay it Forward Fund. They came up with ideas that would develop them as individuals, support their communities and help them give back and be role models for younger deaf children and young people in Wales. A few of the Young Leaders submitted applications to the fund in the days after this event.at the beach- WalesBlogJune2016

I’m also delighted that so many of the young people who are involved with the Gearing Up project have already been inspired to use their new skills, interest and confidence to support our young campaigners network in Wales. Any deaf young person who wants to know more about what we campaign on, or who would like to get involved in campaigning can email  campaigns.wales@ndcs.org for more information.

I’m so excited to see how the Pay it Forward Fund develops and I look forward to updating you all in my next blog.

Bye for now,

Lorna Langton

Gearing Up Project Officer/ Mynd Amdani Swyddog Prosiect