5 things to watch out from the new Government

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

So we have a majority Conservative government! Now the dust has settled on last week’s election results, we’ve looked into our crystal balls and picked out five things to watch out for from our new Government.

1) Education spending. In their manifesto, the Conservatives said they will protect funding for schools on a per pupil basis. This means that, if the number of pupils go up, schools shouldn’t lose out. But it also means that schools might get less money in real terms if inflation goes up. It also means that funding for early years education and post-16 is not protected. So what impact will this have on spending for specialist education services for deaf children? We know from the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign that local authorities have still been cutting services, despite the protection already in place over the past five years. Will that change?

2) Will Ofsted inspections make a difference? We know that Ofsted are planning to inspect local provision for children with special educational needs and that a consultation on how they will do that is due out later this year. What’s not yet certain is the extent to which Ofsted will take a proper, more focused look on how deaf children are doing as part of this. Will Ofsted, for example, inspect specialist education services for deaf children? Indications are that Ofsted are not keen to go into this level of detail. We may need to campaign to make sure they do. We may also need to campaign to make sure that inspections are carried out by inspectors with proper expertise in deafness.

3) Is Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for deaf children under threat? The Conservatives have indicated in the past they would like to look at reforms to DLA for disabled children, having already changed DLA for adults to a new benefit called Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The Conservatives have already pledged to reduce the welfare budget by £12bn, without specifying how they will do that.

4) Audiology services. How can we make sure that audiology services are delivering a good service? Our Listen Up! campaign has found that too many aren’t. Over the past 5 years, it was the government’s policy that audiology services should be accredited under a programme called IQIPs. Yet, to our knowledge, very few have to date. What will happen to those audiology services that don’t get accredited or don’t seek accreditation anytime soon? Will the new Government insist they be closed down or will they just allow poor audiology services to coast along? Will they improve transparency over which audiology services are seeking accreditation?

5) How will the Government halve the disability employment gap? This was one of their manifesto pledges. NDCS believes that many deaf young people will need support from Access to Work to make a successful transition into employment. However, we know that the Government are looking at ways to manage the Access to Work budget, with a new cap to be introduced later this year. Will this make it harder for the Government to support disabled people into employment?

Is there anything else we should be watching out for? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

The NDCS policy and campaigns team will be working to get answers to these questions. You can help us campaign for a world without barriers for every deaf child by joining our cool club, the NDCS campaigns network today.

The impact of mild and moderate deafness in the classroom

Vicki Kirwin, Audiology Specialist, NDCS

Vicki Kirwin, Audiology Specialist, NDCS

New research carried out by The Ear Foundation, with funding from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), is being published today. The research highlights issues that children with mild to moderate deafness encounter, gathered from the views of their parents and Teachers of the Deaf.

I previously blogged about mild deafness when NDCS ran a pilot weekend for families with children with mild deafness, who reported similar feelings to the new report findings. Common themes included lack of understanding of the impact of mild to moderate deafness on family and education and a belief that the terms “mild” and “moderate” are not helpful in describing the potential impact for a lot of children.

This blog provides a reminder of the impact of mild and moderate deafness and explores why this impact is so often overlooked.

Impact of mild deafness

  • A child can usually hear everything that is said to them in a quiet room, but not if there is lots of noise present or they are far away from the speaker.
  • A child would not be able to follow a whispered conversation.
  • Some children with mild deafness use hearing aids.
  • A child with glue ear will usually have mild deafness.
  • A child with mild deafness will miss 25% to 50% of the teacher’s voice in a classroom.
  • The teacher’s voice is typically heard at about 70dB at the front and 40 dB at the back of the class. A child with mild deafness (21-40 dB) will typically not hear anything of the teacher’s voice at the back of the class.

Impact of moderate deafness

  • Most children with moderate deafness use hearing aids.
  • Without their hearing aids, they could hear most of what someone says to them in a quiet room as long as they speak clearly, but could not follow a conversation in a large group, if there is lots of background noise or they are far away from the speaker.
  • A child with moderate loss will miss over 50% of the teacher’s voice in a classroom.

Why is the impact of mild and moderate deafness so often overlooked?
Adults can find it very difficult to understand the impact of mild and moderate deafness on children. This is because any child they meet with a mild and moderate deafness is likely to have clear speech and be able to answer questions asked directly of them. But classrooms are typically noisy and background noise can have a significant impact on speech understanding for a child with mild and moderate deafness. This is because the adult brain is much better at filtering out background noise than a child’s.

Also, the adult brain is very good at filling in the gaps of missed information – speech sounds or parts of words – that weren’t heard. Children with mild and moderate deafness are not able to do this – they lack the knowledge, vocabulary and context to be able to fill in the gaps. This means they miss out on a lot of the new vocabulary and concepts being taught every day at school.

Newborn hearing screening does not usually identify mild hearing loss in very young babies because it is designed to pick up greater levels of deafness, and many children develop hearing loss during early childhood. It is important that parents and health professionals are vigilant about the child’s development and refer them to an audiologist at any stage if they are concerned about their hearing or speech development.

Parents’ views should be taken seriously. If they have concerns about a child’s hearing they should be referred for testing without delay.

Once a hearing loss is identified it’s vital a child is offered information, advice and possibly hearing aids or other intervention as soon as possible. It isn’t acceptable that they wait longer because their hearing loss is viewed as being more borderline or not as ‘significant’ as other children’s.

What can be done to help?
The research report calls for more support to parents and young people with mild and moderate deafness. It also calls for teachers to have greater awareness of the impact that mild and moderate deafness can have and for local authorities to ensure that services are sufficiently resourced to provide the necessary support.

NDCS’s website has more information about the resources available to families of children with mild or moderate deafness.

Audiology services for deaf children – a review of the past five years

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Continuing our series of blogs on the upcoming election, this blog takes a look at the government’s record on health and audiology services in England.

What’s changed?

One of the big changes over the past five years has been the Health and Social Care Act 2012. It’s fair to say that this got a rocky ride through Parliament, with some seeing it as another top-down reorganisation of the NHS and others seeing it as necessary to make the NHS more streamlined, less bureaucratic and patient-centred.

In terms of structures, deaf children and their families may not have noticed many changes in terms of where audiology services sit and who does what. But behind the scenes there have been lots of changes in funding and organisational arrangements, leading to uncertainty and confusion over how the changes impact on audiology services.

There have also been changes to how audiology services are checked to ensure that they’re providing a good service. The existing quality assurance programme, which looked at the patient journey from screening of babies for a hearing loss to diagnosis and audiological support and other support, has been scrapped. For audiology services, this has been replaced by an accreditation scheme called Improving Quality in Physiological diagnostic Services (IQIPs). Unfortunately, IQIPs isn’t mandatory and there is a lack of transparency over how has applied for accreditation. This means that parents of deaf children now have less information about the quality of local audiology services.

Are deaf children getting the support they need?

This matters because there are increasing concerns over whether those audiology services are doing everything they should to ensure deaf children get the best possible support. Before the old quality assurance programme was scrapped, it was found that 1 in 3 audiology services were failing to meet basic government standards. We have no real idea whether that has got any better – or worse.

On top of that, NDCS is increasingly being contacted by parents saying that they are noticing cutbacks in audiology, some of which are set out in the NDCS Listen Up! campaign report. These range from having to wait long times for ear moulds or delays in diagnosis, to being denied funding for specialist auditory implants. Even small things, like offering coloured earmoulds are being cutback, even though this can really encourage deaf children to wear their hearing aids and make the most of their hearing.

Deaf awareness

Deaf young people also tell us that deaf awareness in health settings also remains an ongoing issue, as set out in the NDCS My life, My Health report. The good news is that NHS England has started to wrestle with this issue and a new accessible information standard, is expected to be launched next year. As part of this, all NHS settings, including GPs, will be expected to do more to meet the communication needs of deaf people.

As with education, trying to do justice to five years of health policy in a single blog is a challenge and the above does not attempt to cover everything or even to touch on wider changes that impact on all children. Again though, we hope it provides some food for thought though. Let us know what you think about our summary evaluation by leaving a comment below.

Action Plan on Hearing Loss

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

NHS England recently published their ‘Action Plan on Hearing Loss’. What is it and what do we think?

What is the Action Plan on Hearing Loss?

Well, in the words of NHS England ‘The purpose of the document is to encourage action and promote change across all public service sectors and at all levels on how children’s, young people’s, working age adults and older people’s hearing needs can best be met.’

Who is the Plan for?

All public bodies that are responsible for ensuring the needs of deaf children and adults are met, like health authorities, local authorities, and central Government.

Is it statutory guidance?

No, the key actions in the Plan do not have to be followed by law.

What do we think?

We welcome its focus on the need for deaf children to achieve age appropriate language, the commitment to tackling low educational attainment and the focus on mental health. The Plan also recognises the variation in quality in hearing loss services, which is good. However it doesn’t go on to explain in detail how to fix this problem. NHS England do acknowledge that the document ‘is not intended to act as a detailed implementation plan’ but this admission without any further explanation, leaves us wondering if there will ever be a more detailed implementation plan and who will be responsible for it?

How does it match-up to our Listen Up! campaign asks?

In short, it doesn’t. Our Listen Up! campaign calls for:

1) action to be taken to improve failing audiology services now
2) mandatory quality assessments to take place through a programme called Improving Quality In Physiological Services (IQIPS) and
3) all information about the quality of children’s audiology services to be published now, so that families know how good their audiology service is.

Unfortunately the Plan doesn’t specify how services should take action to meet even minimum quality standards. It mentions IQIPS only once in an appendix, suggesting it as a way to ensure quality but does not state its use should be mandatory. There is no call to ensure all information about the quality of children’s audiology services undergoing the IQIPS process is published.

What can you do now?

  • Take a look at the full plan to find out more.
  • Take action and email your local health commissioner to find out about the quality of children’s audiology services in your area.

We are continuing our dialogue with NHS England to ensure that all deaf children and young people receive good quality audiology services. Keep an eye out for our next Listen Up! campaign update.


Listen Up! We want to share your videos with NHS England

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

We’re meeting with NHS England on the 5th March to talk about our Listen Up! campaign and we need your help!

If you’re a parent of a deaf child or have used audiology services yourself, we would like you to produce a short video telling NHS England why you think good quality audiology services are so important for deaf children. We’ll then share your videos in our meeting with NHS England.

Having your voice at the meeting will really help to keep the pressure on NHS England to ensure that all children’s audiology services are good quality.

Please send your video to campaigns@ndcs.org.uk by the 4th March next week. We look forward to hearing from you.

You could also share your videos on Twitter, making sure to @NDCS_UK and use the ‪#‎AudiologyStory‬

We thought we’d have a go too, check out our Vine!

Watch this space for updates following our meeting next week.


Disability Matters – e-learning to inform and inspire!

Vicki Kirwin Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

Vicki Kirwin Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

“Over 60% of Britons say they are not confident communicating with a child who is deaf”

(Disability Matters Launch Report, Feb 2015)

I recently attended the launch of the new Disability Matters e-learning resource with our CEO Susan Daniels. Disability Matters is a suite of online and group learning modules that aim to tackle the inequalities that disabled children and young people face in their daily lives. It was co-developed with disabled young people and parent carers and the practical tips delivered within the programme are based on real, lived experiences. Through words, pictures and signs, deaf and disabled children, young people and their families challenge learners to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs about disability and explores the practical things people can do that could make a real difference to their health and wellbeing.

So far 27 modules are live with more to come. One of the first live modules is Deaf Communication Matters which was developed by myself and Lucy Read (NDCS Head of Youth Participation). It uses video of several of our former YAB members and material from My Life My Health campaign with them sharing some of the typical barriers they encounter and showing the learner simple steps to take and adjustments to make to overcome those barriers and enable successful interaction with them. The module takes about 20 minutes to complete.

The programme is designed to support organisations, their workers and volunteers across the health, education, social care, criminal justice, travel and leisure, community sectors, as well as friends and extended family, in developing the communication and problem-solving skills required to engage confidently with disabled children and young people.

All resources are FREE and are designed to be easy to use and done at the learners pace.

Have a look at the site, register and have a look through the many modules – there is bound to be something of interest and value to everyone – including communication, advocacy, safeguarding, confidence, relationships, bullying, inclusion, decision making etc. You could complete them all with one 20-40 minutes session a week for a year! But for ease of decision making the system will recommend a shorter list of modules based on their profession or sector selected when registering.


MP speaks out about deafness!

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

Last night Alison Seabeck MP, a frequent supporter of NDCS, led a short debate on the educational attainment of deaf children and young people in the House of Commons.

In the debate, she spoke about her meeting with a member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, Renee, at party conference and discussed her own experiences as someone with a unilateral hearing loss as well as her support for the Plymouth Deaf Children’s Society.

Following a briefing from NDCS she also raised NDCS’s Listen Up! campaign to improve audiology services, emphasising the importance of quality audiology services she said ‘Good audiology services make a critical contribution to a deaf child’s success in life, as they are responsible for ensuring that a deaf child can use their remaining hearing to the fullest possible extent’

The Education Minister, Edward Timpson, referred to forthcoming changes to how Ofsted will inspect local authority services for children with special educational needs (SEN), stating that ‘Ofsted is now working up the details of the new arrangements’. This follows our campaign victory on this last month.

The Minister went on to reaffirm his commitment to making sure that the requirements of children with SEN are met and that Local Authorities ‘should prioritise vital front-line services for vulnerable children’

We’d like to say a big thank you to Alison for holding the debate and all the MPs who took part for their contributions. Short debates like this are a great way of raising awareness of deafness within Parliament but also of keeping government Ministers on their toes!