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?

Katie-Rafferty-cropped

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

Liam (radioshow photo)

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.

An update on Disabled Student Allowances

Martin McLean

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (post-14)

Back in August last year, I wrote about the Government’s plans to make changes to Disabled Student Allowances (DSAs) and our fears on how deaf students might be negatively affected. Six months on, it is time to revisit the situation and see where we are following our campaign.

The Government carried out a public consultation in September. Following the consultation, they announced they were going ahead with their plans to cut DSAs. Our main concern was that funding would no longer be available for manual note-takers who take notes for deaf students in lectures whilst they are lip-reading or following a sign language interpreter. I have some good news to report – the Government has recognised that this could put the education of deaf students at risk and have granted an exemption to the DSA changes for specialist note-takers for deaf or visually impaired students. This is someone who has received training on how to write comprehensive notes for deaf or VI students.

Provided that a DSA assessor makes a recommendation for a deaf student to receive a specialist note-taker, DSA funding will be available.

However, less good news is that there are some deaf students who make use of proof-reading services to ensure they are not unfairly disadvantaged when writing assignments by literacy difficulties. Proof-readers will no longer be funded by DSAs and responsibility for funding of this support now lies with universities.

What if this becomes an issue? The Government has introduced an Exceptional Case Process. Where a DSA assessor has made a recommendation for support that is to be provided by a university (e.g. proof-reading) and the university refuses to put in place this support, the student can apply to the Exceptional Case Process for temporary DSA funding to be put into place whilst a complaint is registered with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA).

We had concerns about the role of the OIA because traditionally it has taken a very long time to reach decisions (In 2014 cases took an average of 207 days to close). However, the Government has assured us the OIA will be expected to close the majority of its cases within 3 months in line with a European directive.

Finally, as well, as the changes to DSAs, the Government is introducing a registration system for providers of support funded through DSAs. We are uncertain as to whether this might mean there will be fewer interpreters and other forms of support available to deaf students.

We will be monitoring the impact of all of the changes and to do this we need your help. If you are a student at university or applying for support from DSAs and you do not have the support you need in place or have any problems, we want to hear about it. Contact our helpline to tell us about your experiences.

We want to say a big thank you to everyone who took part in our DSA campaign. Your campaign actions helped to raise awareness of the potential impact the changes could have had on deaf students and played their part in ensuring that higher education remains accessible.

The changes in Martin’s article affect students applying for DSAs from Student Finance England only. DSAs will remain the same for students applying from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, the Welsh Government is currently considering whether to bring in changes to DSAs for the 2017-18 academic year.

MPs want to hear about your experience of PIP assessments!

 

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

Arthur Thomas Policy & Campaigns Officer

MPs want to hear about your experience of the PIP (personal independence payments) claims process, by this Thursday!

They want to hear:

  • Your experience of the PIP assessment process
  • If you have experienced backlogs
  • About the quality of assessments
  • Any difference between Atos and Capita

As part of our PIP’d Off campaign NDCS are working closely with the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) to campaign to make the PIP claim process accessible and fair. The DBC have set up a survey so that people can submit their experiences  as a group. The closing date for submissions to the PAC inquiry is this Thursday, 28 January 2015, so  lets get cracking!

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You can also tell MPs your story via twitter by tweeting comments to @CommonsPAC on Twitter with the hastag #disability.

If you have any questions, you can contact the NDCS Campaigns Team at: campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

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.