There’s a gaping hole in our ability to support our most vulnerable children

Chris Mullen

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

By 2020, in just 3 years’ time councils will be facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s social care services[1].The figure is eye-watering, but recently a collection of academics, researchers, parliamentarians, practitioners, England’s Children’s Commissioner, but sadly not the new Children’s Minister, gathered at the latest All Party Parliamentary Group on Children to discuss the state of children’s social care services in England. Not one person in the packed committee room disputed this figure, including the Director of the National Children’s Bureau who stated there was a clear crisis in children’s social care funding.

The meeting discussed a survey of 1600 social workers -the vast majority reporting that the bar is becoming higher and higher for children and families to get support by children’s services.[2] It’s hardly surprising.

As my last blog reported, it is only recently that the previous Conservative administration acknowledged the funding crisis in adult social care, with councils now being allowed to raise additional money through ring fenced council tax rises. But why has this not happened in children’s social care?

Is this because children don’t have immediate political power, as ageing or grey voters do, being able to trigger the issuing of P45’s of previous MP’s at the stroke of a pencil at the ballet box? Or is that children’s social care support is perceived by many voters as somehow about undeserving children or that children who receive social care support are in families who should be meeting those children’s needs and not the state?

If in these times of austerity the moral argument has been won to support the needs of our vulnerable elderly population, we must do all we can to persuade our politicians to extend this to children who are equally vulnerable!

Deaf and disabled children are also sometimes supported by children’s social care; but with resources and demand pressures, these children are getting reduced levels of support or are only experiencing social care involvement at the point where preventing abuse and neglect occurs- rather than the safety net support of services to help children and families. Sadly this reinforces the view of those children and families as being undeserving.

This is to be expected where the law is too narrow, and local authorities are not legally required to provide early intervention and early help services to children and families. This is despite mounting evidence showing that if targeted well, these services can prevent more costly state intervention later on[3]. With limited resources, many local authorities are striving to innovate to meet rising demand for services, but ultimately have to intervene to protect children who have suffered significant harm or at risk of immediate harm.

Sometimes when a crisis occurs, new or alternative ways of thinking emerge. In 1946 Britain was broke and devastated by WW2, yet during this time of austerity it took the wisdom of a few to create the NHS which despite its problems, is fiercely supported. We need a similar revolution now. Investing in a safety net of support for all children and families as a democratic right will reap benefits for the whole of society –and that includes those who disagree with such a measure who cannot escape living alongside children and families! And also as a final thought, weren’t we all once children?

Previous Blog

https://ndcscampaigns.com/category/social-care/

[1] https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/councils-face-2-billion-funding-gap-support-vulnerable-children-2020

[2] https://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/2004211/child-protection-thresholds-rising-due-to-budget-pressures

[3] https://www.ncb.org.uk/resources-publications/resources/no-good-options-report-inquiry-childrens-social-care-england

“Involving deaf young people in the technology they use is the best way to make sure it meets their needs for the future”

Lucy Read

Lucy Read, Head of Children and Young People Participation

Technology has come a long way over the past couple of decades. Those of you who can remember dial-up networks, floppy discs and MSN will be well aware of how much technology has changed over time.

If you have absolutely no idea what I’m wittering on about ­– that is proof of just how quickly technology moves on. What was current one minute and everyone was using can quickly change and adapt with people’s changing needs.

But how often do deaf young people get to share their needs, wants and wishes for the technology they use or might want? Our experience is not very often.

We are hoping to change this by launching an exciting new Design Your Own Tech competition for young people aged 12–18; giving deaf young people across the UK the chance to showcase their tech talents.

We created the competition to raise awareness of the daily challenges the UK’s 50,000 deaf youngsters face, and of how technology can help them to overcome these.

Budding deaf designers aged 12–18 have until 13 October to submit their innovative ideas for the tech of the future.

Two lucky winners will get to present their ideas to product manufacturers and those with the power to make their designs a reality. They will also get a prize for their school, and can choose from an iPad, VR headset or Amazon vouchers.

For more information and to enter the competition, go to www.buzz.org.uk.

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Right to Sign campaign update: Minister says no

Ian_Noon

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

Earlier this year, the National Deaf Children’s Society Youth Advisory Board, after months of hard work, launched their new Right to Sign campaign, calling for young people to have more opportunities for young people to learn sign language in schools.

They surveyed over 2,000 young people – deaf and hearing – and found that a whopping 92% thought schools should offer British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE. They published a report setting out the results in full and the case for action.

And the response from the Government? No.

Yesterday, when asked if the Department for Education in England would encourage exam boards to offer BSL as a GCSE, the Minister, Nick Gibb, said: “At present, there are no plans to introduce any further GCSEs beyond those to which the Government has already committed.”

To our knowledge, this is the first time the Government has ruled out introducing a BSL GCSE since the campaign was launched. It’s a massive disappointment and a real slap in the face for all of the hard work done so far by the Youth Advisory Board.

It’s hard not to feel angry about the response. It’s simply unfair and unjust that BSL, an official language in the UK used by thousands of people, is being treated in a way which implies it has a lower status and importance than other languages already being taught as GCSEs. It could even be seen as discriminatory to deaf people.

We’re not going to be deterred and will keep pressing the Department for Education in England for action – our briefing sets out some of the arguments we’re using. Two members of the Youth Advisory Board will also be asking MPs to support their campaign when they head to party political conferences later this month.

If you want to show your support for our work, please sign the Youth Advisory Board petition. More information about the different ways you can support the campaign can be found on the Buzz website.

 

Growing up in a mainstream school

Emily primary

Emily Meacher (aged 4 years) Policy and Campaigns Support Assistant

Jake’s recent blog got me thinking about my own personal experience at primary school, and how I wasn’t alone in these experiences. And so below are some random reflections of my time at Codicote primary school.

 

I was the only deaf kid in school- children used to say to me ‘why are you death?’ and I would have to try and explain at 6 years old how I am deaf and not actually dead.

I used the deaf card (I started young!) to get out of recorder sessions- I couldn’t bear the noise (can anyone?) and felt elated when I was let off.

Children were curious about how my radio aid worked, so the teacher had the bright idea of sending me out into the playground where everyone watched me. The teacher would say something into the aid but I didn’t understand a word. I felt a bit miffed about being sent out whilst the whole class gawped through the window.

I used to take part in school plays, and didn’t hear or understand any of the songs- I would just move my mouth and pretend to go along with it.

I used to go to my friends’ sleepovers and whilst a lot of the kids were up late chatting in the dark, I would be asleep. I would wake up and see the kids playing with my hearing aids, trying to put them into their ears out of curiosity.

I had a best friend Claire, who I am still best friends with to this day whose mother, told Claire she was worried about her hanging out with me- as her voice had started to get ‘lazy’- and that she was starting to sound like me! Of course, Claire didn’t listen thankfully.

Although there were times when I struggled, overall I received good educational support in school and if it wasn’t for the support there, I don’t think I’d have passed the entrance exam (this has now changed -they no longer have an entrance exam) to get into Mary Hare, secondary school. It was at Mary Hare that I developed my deaf identity.

Since my time working at the National Deaf Children’s Society, it pains me to think that some deaf children out there do not get the same support I had growing up. Some deaf children are coping, rather than thriving. This needs to change – we are working hard to challenge proposals to close resource bases and reduce support – one example being in Manchester. Hazel, our Regional Director for the North West and Sally, our Policy and Campaigns Officer fought hard alongside passionate parents, and in the end we managed to reduce the amount of budget cut to the service. Not only that, but we also managed to save one of the two resource bases under threat. Great news!

If you want to get involved in campaigns like this, then join with me and the Policy and Campaigns team by signing up to our Campaigns Network here: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/help_us/campaigns/campaign_with_us/campaign_network.html

 

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.

Sharing your story to improve the lives of other deaf children

NickTry

Nick Try, Media Relations Officer

When we campaign to improve the lives of deaf children, talk to parents to reassure them that they’re not alone, and fundraise to support our work, having the real life stories of how we have helped deaf children and their families is so important.

Up and down the country we fight cuts to the services that deaf children rely on. We work with schools and hospitals to improve the quality of support they offer. We work with the UK government, as well as the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to demand improvements and changes to policies.

But in order to do this, in order to affect change, and make people with power sit up and listen, it is vital that the voices and the stories of deaf children and their families are heard loud and clear.

So this is why we need you. We are asking you to answer 3 short questions about your experiences, and you can share with us as much or as little as you want.

  • How and why did you get involved with us?

Let us know why you got involved with us. Maybe you are one of the 90% of deaf children’s parents who had no previous experience of deafness.

  • How have we helped you and what impact has working with us had on you?

Maybe you used our Helpline for advice or our online resources, or came to a weekend event.

  • What has your experience been like with other services for deaf children?

Have you had a bad experience with your child at nursery, school, an activity club or even at hospital?

Take a look at the ‘Your Stories’ section of our website, and share your story with us today.

Are universities going to become more inclusive?

Martin-Mclean-cropped

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

Pretty soon, lots of teenagers will be receiving their A-level and BTEC results and find out if they will go to their preferred choice of university. I can remember how exciting and also nerve-wracking it felt to go to university for the first time. If you are deaf like me I think it can be even more so: will it be easy to follow the lectures? Will I make friends? Is communication going to be a problem?

Some readers of this blog will remember our fight against the changes to Disabled Students Allowances back in 2014 and 2015. Whilst the Government decided to maintain DSA funding for specialist note-takers (people with training specifically in writing notes for deaf students), funding for ordinary manual note-takers was removed for the 2016-17 academic year along with some other forms of less-specialised support such as library support assistants and proof-readers.

One of the Government’s justifications for cutting DSAs was because it wanted universities to develop a more inclusive approach to teaching so that learning is accessible to more students. No objections to that – we have always wanted universities to be more flexible. There have been plenty of deaf students who have expressed their frustration over the years at reasonable adjustments not being made such as Dean Kamitis in his recent Limping Chicken blog.

The Government has published guidance for higher education providers on ‘Inclusive Practice’. The guidance encourages universities to make changes so that their courses are more accessible to students with disabilities. Some universities are leading the way. I recently visited Du Montford University in Leicester and was impressed with their approach:

You have been waiting for it and here is the ‘but’. Does a piece of guidance go far enough? – the Government does not appear to have any stick (e.g. loss of funding) to beat universities with should they decide to ignore this guidance. Also, a couple of practitioners have said to me that they are concerned that some universities see inclusive practice as simply about rolling-out lecture capture technology. See this lecture recording for an explanation of how lecture capturing can benefit disabled students: see this lecture recording – oh wait…..no subtitles! And here lies the issue for many deaf students. Lecture capturing is not going to make a difference and could actually make access worse if more course content and materials move online.

Deaf students are small in number – most university disability advisors might be aware of 2 or 3 deaf students at their institution at most. This means that in general, teaching staff are not in regular contact with deaf students and have little awareness of their needs. This is why the National Deaf Children’s Society has extended our Supporting Achievement resources to higher education. Supporting the Achievement of Deaf Young People in Higher Education aims to provide disability advisors and other higher education staff with the information required to ensure deaf students get the support they need.

I know from experience, having people around who understand the barriers you face and how to communicate with you properly makes a huge difference. For deaf young people starting uni this September, it might help reduce those fresher’s week nerves!

If you are a young person at uni and you have having difficulties because your course is not fully accessible, you can get in touch with our helpline for further advice and guidance: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/family_support/how_ndcs_can_help/support_and_advice/

This blog is mostly relevant to students from England only as the DSA changes have not taken place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, the Supporting Achievement resource is aimed at universities across the whole of the UK.