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.”

Deaf young people to shape the future of BSL in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

A new Youth National Advisory Group (YNAG) is being set up in Scotland following the successful passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act in October 2015.

The group will be made up of deaf young people who have BSL as their first or preferred language and who are passionate about the future of the language in Scotland.

NDCS, working in partnership with Deaf Action, will help organise and deliver the YNAG. It will offer young people a unique chance to develop new skills and have their views about BSL heard.

The YNAG will explore the issues that matter most to young people and together they will vote for two “champions” to represent the views of deaf young people on the main National Advisory Group. This means that young people will have an equal opportunity to advise Scottish Government and public bodies alongside parents, adults and Deafblind people.

To get involved in the group come along to the Information Day being held at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh on 20 February between 10am and 3pm. Email anne-marie@ndcs.org.uk to register a place. The event is free to attend and travel expenses will be paid.

Watch the FAQ video in BSL below:

YNAG pic

Join Scotland’s first British Sign Language National Advisory Group

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

After years of campaigning, the passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015) in September 2015 was a landmark moment in Deaf history in Scotland. As a result of the Act the Scottish Government and public bodies like the NHS are now required to develop British Sign Language (BSL) plans which outline how they will promote and raise awareness of the language.

The Act also requires a National Advisory Group (NAG) to be set up to represent the views of people with BSL as their first or preferred language. The NAG will have the important job of advising the Scottish Government and public bodies on what should be in their plans.

Here’s the top 6 things to know:

  1. Two spaces are reserved on the NAG for families of deaf child who have BSL as their first or preferred language, one of these spaces is for a hearing parent or carer;
  1. Two spaces are also reserved on the NAG for deaf young people aged 10 to 17 (or up to 20 if they have experience of care). However young people will follow a separate application process because a Youth NAG is also going to be set up. Information about this will launch in January;
  1. You do not need to have formal experience of advisory groups to get involved in the NAG, your life experience and ability to represent the views of others in similar circumstances to your own is what counts;
  1. You can submit your application in BSL or English. NDCS (or any other Deaf Sector Partnership organisation) can help you with your application, get in touch with Anne-marie@ndcs.org.uk with any questions;
  1. You can find the application and information pack on the Deaf Sector Partnership website – with full BSL versions. There is also lots of information on Facebook, search for the ‘British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015)’ group to join the discussion;
  1. The deadline for applications to the main NAG is 28 January 2016.

Getting to know GIRFEC in BSL

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Getting It Right For Every Child (aka GIRFEC) is the Scottish Government’s approach to making Scotland the best place to grow up for all children and young people. But what does this mean?

To help explain, the ALLIANCE have created five new films on GIRFEC and what this means for children and young people in Scotland. What’s more, the videos are aimed at being as accessible to as many people as possible and are in British Sign Language.

We attended the launch event for the films on 4 November along with other third sector organisations, children, parents and professionals. Speaking at the event was the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, who highlighted that “the Scottish Government is committed to equality for disabled and deaf children in Scotland.”

It is hoped the films will raise awareness and understanding of GIRFEC for children and young people and their families/carers who use BSL. This is especially important because GIRFEC is due to become law in August 2016 through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

All of the films are available on the Alliance website here, or directly from YouTube here.

To find out more contact: campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk.

New legislation marks historic moment for deaf community in Scotland

Heather Gray

Heather Gray, National Deaf Children’s Society Director (Scotland & Northern Ireland)

What does the newly passed British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill mean for deaf children and their families? Heather Gray, Director for NDCS Scotland and Northern Ireland blogged for Third Force News last week and shared her views…

The Scottish Parliament is to be congratulated on voting to pass the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill into law last week on Thursday 17 September 2015.

The passage of the Bill marks an historic moment for the entire deaf community across Scotland, many of whom have British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language.

By ensuring public authorities promote and raise awareness of BSL, the Bill –  the first of its kind in the UK – will help to embed the language more fully into Scottish society and culture.  And the provision for BSL users to be consulted on the development of public bodies’ BSL plans should stimulate real debate about how best to meet their needs.

The National Deaf Children’s Society hopes this ground-breaking legislation will become a foundation for the promotion of the language in Scotland long into the future. We strongly believe that if fully implemented the Bill will ultimately help create more choices and opportunities for deaf children and young people and help them achieve their full potential.

There are as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland. While there is a lack of national data about their language preferences, a survey of local authorities suggests around 15% use sign language in some way.

There can be real challenges in meeting the unique needs these deaf children and young people who use British Sign Language. With only around 80 qualified interpreters across Scotland and a lack of a robust qualifications framework, consistent access to high quality communication support can be challenging.

The Scottish Government is to be commended for its acknowledgement of these challenges in its support for the Bill and its investment in online translation service Contact Scotland. The challenge is now for them to set out an ambitious National Plan that will drive progress for deaf children and their families.

Deaf young people and their families have told us what they think should be in the National BSL Plan, including:

  • Closing the education attainment gap for deaf learners, as highlighted in the recent Inquiry undertaken by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee;
  • Establishing and regulating a qualifications framework for communication support in education;
  • Establishing BSL as an accredited school qualification within the modern languages curriculum, via the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework;
  • Improving the availability of early years support, so that deaf children have the best start in life.  This includes improving the availability of family Sign Language courses, which help hearing parents communicate with their deaf child.

Achieving real inclusion for the deaf community will take time, investment and strong national and local leadership. However, the BSL Bill is a welcome significant step forward in this journey. It provides us with an enabling framework that could ultimately lead to more effective service provision, better opportunities, and improved life chances for deaf children and young people across Scotland.