Closing the gap in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Last year NDCS published the Close the Gap report which highlighted the unacceptable education attainment gap which exists for deaf young people in Scotland. Data published in 2014 showed that almost 10% of deaf school leavers had no qualifications compared with just 1% of pupils with no Additional Support Needs. With the right support deaf young people can achieve just as much as their hearing peers. There is no reason why such a shocking statistic should be the reality facing as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland today.

A year on from our report’s publication the Scottish Parliament announced an Inquiry into the attainment of pupils with a sensory impairment. This marks real progress and commitment from Scottish Parliament and Government towards closing the education gap for every child.

The Inquiry was solutions-focused and asked: what action can be taken to close the education attainment gap for sensory impaired pupils? Here are our views on what were the most important recommendations highlighted by the Inquiry:

1. Address the challenges affecting the specialist workforce for deaf learners including the consistency of qualifications Teachers of the Deaf have and their ageing profile.
2. Improve early intervention and support in the early years and establish Scottish Government early years standards that can inform care pathways and provision following newborn hearing screening diagnosis.
3. Improve data about deaf children so that local authorities can plan the services they need more effectively.
4. Ensure school buildings are meeting high quality acoustics standards – benefitting all learners, not just those are deaf.
5. Explore how we can use new technology to better support deaf learners, and in some cases centralise learning to offer deaf young people more opportunities and higher quality supports.
6. Support the confidence and resilience of deaf young people to help them prepare to succeed in whatever they do when they leave school.

The Education and Culture Committee are due to publish their Inquiry report in September, and NDCS will be responding to its recommendations then. Watch this space.

For more info contact: campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk

NEW Devon CCG abandons plans to ration hearing aids! Four reasons why this decision would have breached the CCG’s statutory duties.

Image of Sarah Collinson, NDCS Regional Director for the South West

Sarah Collinson, Regional Director for the South West

The North East and West (NEW) Devon CCG has confirmed that it has abandoned its decision to ration deaf patients over the age of 18 to just one NHS hearing aid. The policy to restrict hearing aids had been announced in an ‘Urgent and Necessary Measures’ notice issued in December and was intended to affect all adult hearing aid users in the NEW Devon CCG area; the only exceptions would be people with additional sensory disabilities and patients with conditions such as autism ‘where social cues may be particularly important.’

As NDCS supports young deaf people into early adulthood and campaigns for all deaf children and young people to have access to good quality audiology care, the NEW Devon CCG’s moves called for a swift response, not only because it was due to be introduced with immediate effect, but also because other cash-strapped CCGs might be considering similar measures and would be watching the Devon situation closely.

With local campaign action by NDCS members, regional TV news coverage and letters to the CCG and local MPs, we pulled out all the stops to try to convince the CCG to think again. Along with pressure from Ben Bradshaw MP and Action on Hearing Loss, our action seemed to pay off, with the CCG announcing shortly before Christmas that it would suspend the decision to ration hearing aids until the issue had been considered by its Clinical Policy Committee (CPC).

When I discovered that the CCG’s Governance Committee was to look at the issue again in early January, I sent a second letter to the CCG’s Chair outlining our concerns with the proposed policy and highlighting a number of key areas where it would seem to breach the CCG’s statutory duties under the NHS Constitution and the Health and Social Care Act (HSCA). This additional pressure has borne fruit, as just a few days after looking at the issue again, the CCG has announced a complete U-turn, with the rationing of hearing aids now entirely shelved.

In case other CCG’s might have been thinking of restricting adults’ hearing aids in this way, it’s worth highlighting the main reasons why they would be wrong to do so, as I pointed out to the NEW Devon CCG:

  • The CCG is duty-bound under the NHS Constitution and the HSCA to promote equality through the services that it provides and to pay particular attention to groups or sections of society where improvements in health are not keeping pace with the rest of the population. Deaf young adults are already significantly more likely to suffer mental health problems and face higher barriers to education; deaf people are four times more likely to be unemployed that hearing people. Any measure that will compromise their ability to use their hearing as effectively as possible will exacerbate these risks and disadvantage them further.
  • Patients have the right to expect local decisions on funding of treatments to be made rationally following a proper consideration of the evidence. NEW Devon claimed in the Urgent and Necessary Measures notice issued in December that ‘Evidence suggests that correcting hearing in the second ear … is far less cost-effective even though people derive some benefit from it.’ Yet, for 20 years or more, binaural aiding has been universally accepted as the most appropriate and effective treatment for the majority of cases of bilateral hearing loss. Not only would we dispute the apparent cost-savings to be made for the CCG, but we can’t accept that one hearing aid is as good as two. In fact, there is evidence that bilaterally deaf hearing aid users are disadvantaged if they have to rely on one-sided hearing. Hearing with just one ear or one hearing aid leads to problems for the brain processing sounds, understanding speech in background noise and localising the source of a sound.
  • The NHS Constitution also gives patients the right to be given information about the risks of treatment options available. The CCG’s Urgent and Necessary Measures notice didn’t mention the risks of one-sided aiding for people who are deaf in both ears. This would have to be taken into account in any comparative cost-benefit analysis of providing one hearing aid instead of two. Quite apart from the heightened risk of mental health problems and other comorbidities, there is also a risk of monaural aiding of bilaterally deaf people doing harm to the patient by causing non-reversible auditory deprivation to the unaided side. In a significant number of patients, auditory deprivation has been found to be significant and irreversible, and it isn’t possible to predict which patients are likely to be affected in this way.
  • The Health and Social Care Act stipulates that the CCG must make arrangements to ensure that individuals to whom the services are being provided are involved in the development and consideration of proposals where the proposals would have an impact on how services are delivered or the range of health services available. To our knowledge, the CCG conducted no consultation with patients and other stakeholders on possible hearing aid rationing prior to issuing the Urgent and Necessary Measures notice in December. The lack of transparency around the Quality and Equality Impact Assessment that should have been undertaken in advance of making any decisions on this issue  is very worrying, particularly given the substantial negative impacts that hearing aid rationing would have on large numbers of deaf people  across Devon.

We are relieved at NDCS the restriction on provision of NHS hearing aids has been abandoned in Devon, at least for now. However, we will have to remain vigilant going forward, not only in Devon but also nationally, in case other CCGs seek to address financial shortfalls with similarly crude and potentially harmful rationing measures.

Christmas fun! – CAMPAIGNS NETWORK SURVEY 2014/15

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

The NDCS Policy and Campaigns Team would like to say a big thank you to all the members of the Campaigns Network for all of the thousands of actions that they have taken throughout the year to remove the barriers that deaf children face.

Yesterday the team launched the Campaigns Network Survey! We want to hear what members of the Campaigns Network think of our campaigns activity; how you’ve been involved, how you’d like to get involved and what would improve the Network for you!

The survey is open to all members of the Campaigns Network and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

Team photo - Final 2Complete-the-survey-button-red

The survey closes on 12 January 2015 when we will then collate the results and, based on your feedback, make changes to tailor our campaigns activity to give you the best possible experience and ensure our campaigns have the maximum impact!

Those who complete the survey will also be put into a draw to win a £50 M&S voucher…not bad eh!?

 

The Campaigns Network

The NDCS Campaigns Network is open to anyone and provides it members with regular updates on how they can support NDCS campaigns. This includes social media, lobbying central government and supporting grassroots action. We also provide information on new campaigns, such as our Listen Up! audiology campaign, as well as updates on existing campaigns, such as Stolen Futures.

Campaigning doesn’t take a lot of time or experience and there are quick and easy ways to take part. The more people who get involved in our campaigns, the stronger our voice and the greater our impact!

If you are interested in joining the Campaigns Network and helping NDCS to campaign to remove the barriers that deaf children and young people face, then please click here.

If you have any questions, please contact the Campaigns team at: NDCS.Campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

URGENT: NEW Devon CCG restricting deaf young adults to just one hearing aid!

Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager

Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager

NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has recently made an extremely concerning decision to restrict deaf adults (18 yrs and upwards) to just one hearing aid, meaning they will no longer pay for a second hearing aid for deaf young adults with bilateral hearing loss.

Not only is this decision shocking because of the potential impact it will have on deaf young adults but we also believe this decision has been taken without a full consultation with those the decision will impact on. We are working hard to seek a reversal of this decision, and we hope you can help.

Take action!
If you live in Devon, I urge you to complain to NEW Devon CCG about this. Please note this CCG does commission services in most areas in Devon, but if you live in some parts of South Devon you may want to double check which CCG provides services in your area before complaining. NEW Devon CCG does include both Plymouth and Exeter.

You can email your complaint to: pals.devon@nhs.net or complaints.devon@nhs.net , telephone on 01392 267 665 or 0300 123 1672 or text them for a call back on: 07789 741 099.
You may wish to include the following points in your complaint:
• Reverse this decision immediately
• This decision will have a severe impact on young adults at a critical time in their life when an emphasis should be placed on maximising hearing so that deaf young adults are able to fully access further education and/or early working life.
• I am aware that one of your equality objectives states that you will produce an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) for all changes to new policies and you have said they will publish an EIA within or next to the relevant document on their website. However I cannot find evidence of this EIA. Please can you publish this information immediately as I want to know that deaf young people were properly consulted before this decision was made.

Please do also include your own personal stories as well, if applicable.

When you receive a response please forward it to us at: campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

You could also contact your MP about this issue and ask them to contact NEW Devon CCG about their decision. You can find out who your MP is here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/

We are currently in talks with the CCG and have already achieved some media coverage. We will provide further updates shortly.

We need to take action now to put pressure on the CCG to reverse this shocking decision!

Listen Up! One-third of audiology services are failing deaf children

Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager

Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager

Email-your-MP--red

 Email your MP now and ask them what they are going to do to help ensure that all deaf children receive a good quality audiology service.

It’s shocking isn’t it? One-third of children’s audiology services are failing to meet basic quality standards. But that’s exactly what an NHS report revealed. Today we have launched our #ListenUp! campaign. We are calling on Government and audiology services to listen up! and improve the quality of children’s audiology services.

We really need your help in getting them to listen though so please email your MP now.

LogoWhat else you can do:

  • Visit our web page to find out more about the campaign and read our campaign report.
  • If you are concerned about the quality of your child’s audiology service. Please contact us on the Freephone number 0808 800 8880 or email helpline@ndcs.org.uk.

More actions will be coming in the next few months so keep an eye out and continue to take action!