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

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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

5 days to save the world! Ofsted and CQC inspections.

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Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

After a long period of waiting, the moment has finally arrived. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have begun inspecting special educational needs services across England.

It was all hands on deck last week when notice of two inspections landed in our inboxes. If you are lucky enough to live in Bolton or Brighton and Hove, you may have been aware that deaf young people and parents in that area have been asked to contribute. For the first two inspections, the method of choice has been online webinars. A webinar is an online meeting anyone can join where the lead inspector will give an overview of why these inspections are taking place and ask a series of questions about how children’s needs are being met and identified in that area.

When notice hits you have five days to take action. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to feedback about services for deaf children and young people in your area. In my opinion, this is your five days to save the world. Your feedback could be crucial at highlighting failings in local services. It could put pressure on local authorities and health services to bring about the changes needed to improve support for deaf children and young people.

We still have our reservations about the process and accessibility but we’ll be working with Ofsted over the coming weeks to ensure that these inspections are as open and effective as possible.

So when that email lands in your inbox, please attend the webinar or ask the lead contact at your local council to pass on your feedback to the lead inspector. You can contact us if you like but please, please take action. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be a hero?!

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Click here for more information on the Inspect the Uninspected campaign or if you discover an inspection in your area, you can tell us about it here.

Welsh Assembly elections – What happened?

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Kate Cubbage, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

On Thursday 5 May 2016, 60 Assembly Members were elected to the National Assembly for Wales.

40 Assembly Members represent constituencies like Bridgend or Wrexham and 20 Assembly Members represent bigger areas called regions, like North Wales or South East Wales.

In the election no political party got more than half of the seats in the Assembly.

Labour 29
Plaid Cymru 12
Conservatives 11
Liberal Democrats 1
UKIP 7

This has made choosing a new First Minister, and therefore a new Welsh Government, very difficult. Although the election happened a week ago, we are still waiting for a Government to be formed.

Assembly Members have until the 2 June 2016 to decide on a First Minister and Government or a new election will be held.

Why is this important?

Whilst some decisions are still made in the UK Parliament or by the UK Government, many important decisions that will impact on deaf children and young people are made by the Welsh Government and National Assembly for Wales including:

The Welsh Government is usually made up of Assembly Members from the party with the most seats in the Assembly. In this election that would be Labour. Sometimes, when A party doesn’t have more than half of the seats in the Assembly they will work with another party to form a coalition. This has happened before at the Welsh Assembly.

Once we have a Welsh Government their job will be to propose policy and laws and it is responsible for making sure that they are put in to practice. You can read more about the work they do on their website.

The National Assembly for Wales is what we call all 60 Members if the Assembly. They represent everyone in Wales. The Assembly’s role is to make the laws for Wales and to make sure that the Welsh Government is doing a good job by scrutinising their work.

What is going to happen?

We don’t know when the new Government will be chosen. However, once a Government is formed we will work hard to influence them to make sure that their policies, laws and any guidance they give to public bodies, like local councils, give the best deal for deaf children, young people and their families.

Regardless of who is in Government, there are 5 issues that our members have told us are most important to them:

  • Additional Learning Needs reform;
  • Emotional and social wellbeing;
  • Curriculum reform and educational attainment;
  • Supporting the development of early communication skills;
  • Getting the educational environment right.

Whilst we wait for our new Government we are continuing to work with civil servants to support changes to the way additional learning needs are identified and planned for. Deafness is an additional learning need.

We are also working with civil servants to influence changes to what is taught in school and how this is examined.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more about the National Assembly for Wales on their website. Once a Government has been chosen you can find out about the Ministers on the Welsh Government’s website.

You can keep up-to-date with what NDCS Cymru Wales is doing to campaign at the Welsh Assembly on our website

If this campaign work is something you would like to get involved with we would love to have your support. Maybe you’d be interested in attending an event, have a story or some information to share or you’d like to write to your AM about the issues listed above. If you are interested in getting involved please email campaigns.wales@ndcs.org.uk

Scottish Election 2016: what do the main parties offer deaf children and their families?

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Katie Rafferty, Policy & Campaigns Manager, Scotland , National Deaf Children’s Society

With less than a week to go until voting takes place on 5 May, we read the five main political parties’ manifestos, and looked at what they offer in relation to education support. What promises will impact on deaf children and their families? Here we provide a brief education round-up.

How will each party ensure every child gets the support they need to reach their full potential at school?

Most of the parties have a strong focus on closing the education attainment gap in the next term of Scottish Parliament. Below we have set out how each party plans to improve education.

Scottish Conservatives Party

  • Commit to additional funding to follow individual pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN).
  • They also commit to reversing the Named Person legislation and instead setting up a Crisis Family Fund to support vulnerable children.

Scottish Green Party

  • Commit to reducing class sizes as well as protecting ASN teacher posts in recognition of their role in closing the attainment gap for children from different backgrounds.
  • They are against further testing with a focus instead on teacher/pupil ratios.

Scottish Labour Party

  • Will establish a Fair Start Fund, funded through the re-introduction of the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000.
  • This fund will go towards closing the attainment gap as well as generally making sure vulnerable children get the support they need.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Will introduce a 1p increase in income tax to reverse cuts in education and provide greater support.
  • They also propose the introduction of a pupil premium which would attach funding to individual pupils.

Scottish National Party

  • Commit to maintaining teacher numbers and allocating funds directly to Head teachers to allow them to invest resources in ways they consider will have the biggest impact on attainment.
  • They will implement the new National Improvement Framework which they hope will drive up standards for all and help close the attainment gap for pupils from the most and least affluent backgrounds.
  • The SNP is the only party to include a specific commitment to delivering Family Sign Language courses, to help hearing parents communicate with their deaf child.

So far over 2500 emails have been sent to local candidates reminding them about the needs of deaf children. Take action today by contacting your future MSPs and help us reach every candidate in Scotland.

Email your candidates

 

Scottish Parliament Election 2016

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Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Scotland

With the right support deaf children have the same chance to succeed as their hearing peers. Yet too many deaf children still face barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential.

The Scottish Parliament election on Thursday 5 May 2016 is an opportunity to tell your candidates how they can help address these barriers in the future.

Make change happen today by asking your future MSPs to protect and strengthen services for deaf children, and tell them about the amazing things deaf children can do when they get the right support.

Email your candidates

There are other ways you can support our election campaign:

  1. Make some noise! Help us spread the word by telling others to email their candidates too. Why not post about the campaign on Facebook or Twitter using the share buttons? #VoteForDeafChildren
  1. Ask your candidates directly what they will do to support deaf children! Pop along to any election hustings near you and hand over our election briefing.  NDCS are also hosting a hustings for deaf young people on 23 April in Glasgow – do you know any young people who’d like to come?
  1. Don’t forget to vote! The big day is Thursday 5 May 2016.

Keep an eye out for some more blogs coming your way soon about the 2016 Scottish Parliament Election.

Email your candidates

DSAs are important for deaf people – now I know why

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Liam O’Dell former YAB member

I heard about Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) a while ago. My deaf friends would turn to me and talk about all the changes that are happening to DSAs and Personal Independence Payments (PIP). It sounds bad, but for a long time I thought I couldn’t get DSAs, so the changes didn’t bother or affect me. It was only when I spoke to an advisor at my university that I realised how important they are to deaf people across the UK.

For a long time, I didn’t bother applying for DSAs because I thought the support available was just note-takers, interpreters and lip-speakers, which I personally don’t use. It was through that appointment with my university’s Disability service that I realised DSAs can cover more than that – and I was annoyed I hadn’t applied sooner!

After sorting out evidence for my application, an appointment with my DSA assessor was arranged. Although I had no previous experience talking to an assessor, I knew a bit about what it would involve through my work with the NDCS’ Youth Advisory Board (YAB). During my time on the YAB, I remember a lot of people saying how strict they can be with their assessments – but that definitely was not the case for me.

If anything, I think a DSA assessor is more like a lawyer who will fight your corner, but who will also be honest if they think something isn’t going to work. In the end, it was decided that I could benefit from having a palantypist (or ‘speech-to-text reporter), a dictaphone recorder, and someone to help me when listening to audio recordings.

Since then, all my support has been arranged and it’s amazing how much DSAs is helping me. Without this support, I would have had concerns. But, now that I have the allowance in place, this is not an issue. Now I know how DSAs can put the minds of deaf students at rest.