Help us support deaf children and young people

Back in 2014 the Government announced “a landmark moment in improving the lives of children with SEND and their families”. The 2014 Children and Families Act promised reforms that “put children and parents at the heart of the system”

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Steve Haines, Executive Director of Policy and Campaigns, The National Deaf Children’s Society

However, four years on from the reforms, our CEO, Susan Daniels was on Channel 4 sharing the findings from our latest poll of over 1000 parents of deaf children and young people. Only 5% of these parents thought that the system had improved for their children and almost half felt it had got worse.

The next day I joined a roundtable discussion hosted by the Westminster Parliament’s Education Select Committee with six other campaigners for children and young people with special educational need and disabilities. Although we came from different points of view, there was broad ranging consensus that the reforms had failed to deliver on their promise.

Sadly, as the parents of many deaf children and young people know all too well, accessing support is often a lengthy process of assessment, administration and argument and, in the worst cases, having to take cases to court. It all seems a terrible waste of resources that could be providing vital support for deaf children and young people instead.

As our Stolen Futures campaign has shown, funding for local authority services has continued to decline. In our poll of parents, 82 per cent said they did not feel there was enough funding for deaf children’s education in their area. The fact is that reforms without the funding to deliver them doesn’t equal results.

We’ve been campaigning to protect these vital services for deaf children and young people. We know change is possible and, working with local parents, have been successful in many areas in overturning or avoiding local cuts.

But we need the political will to take action. The day after the Select Committee, Susan Daniels, Ian Noon and I met with the Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi MP. We’d been really pleased when he joined our event outside Parliament earlier in the year, so had high hopes. But despite our best efforts and practical suggestions, we could only come away with assurances, rather than action.

It’s a critical time for services for deaf children and young people. We’re at breaking point. So now, more than ever, we need parents and carers, friends, families, and many others to sign up to our campaigns network and to join our fight for deaf children and young people to be able to access the services they need.

Westminster Hall debate on deaf children’s services

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

Deaf children were at the heart of Parliament today when MPs debated the crisis facing deaf children’s services across England. There was lots of passion and commitment in the debate and a wide range of different points were raised, including:

• the pressures that local authority budgets are under – with over a third planning to make cuts to specialist education services for deaf children this year. Whilst government funding may be at a record high, the reality on the ground is clear that it’s not enough
• the need for more flexibility in how SEND funding can be used. Local authorities don’t have the same flexibility they used to have to move funding from schools where needed to respond to growing pressures
• the dramatic decline we’ve seen in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf over recent years, and the need for urgent action to address this. Many MPs spoke of the important role that Teachers of the Deaf play, particularly in the early years.
• importance of meeting the needs of deaf children who use sign language, and the need for the Government to support the development of a new GCSE in British Sign Language
• the need for high expectations for every deaf child, and the scandal that too many deaf children are not achieving their potential, because they’re not getting the right support.

The most powerful moments in the debate came when MPs talked about the experiences of families from their own areas. Peter Aldous MP praised Ann Jillings for her campaign work, whilst noting that she shouldn’t have to fight in the first place for her son Daniel to get the help he needs. Another MP, Darren Jones, talked about Ella, a bright confident deaf young person whose needs were often being overlooked because she seems to be “doing well”. And Emma Lewell-Buck MP spoke sadly about a young person who feels “left out” and “depressed and frustrated” because his school is not providing the support he needs.

We were hoping for positive words and action from the Minister, Nadhim Zahawi. But, while he indicated that funding was being kept “under review”, there was little else for us to go on. Frustratingly, there was a run-through of all the different bits of funding that the Government has in this area. All of this missing the point that a) it’s not enough and b) often this funding is not aimed at front-line staff who support deaf children. For example, there’s still no money out there focused on making sure we have more Teachers of the Deaf coming through the system.

So, the Stolen Futures campaign goes on, and we’ll keep on raising these issues with the Government until they take action.

We’d like to thank all MPs who spoke in today’s debate, especially Jim Fitzpatrick MP who led the debate and continues to champion the needs of deaf children. We’d also like to thank all the deaf young people and families who got in touch with their MP to share their experiences. This debate wouldn’t have been half as powerful without your stories.

PS: You can read the full transcript here.

General election 2017: Meeting the social care needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen – Social Care Policy Adviser

The social care needs of the elderly has been getting a lot of attention during the election – but it’s important to remember the social care needs of disabled children too.

 

Social care covers a wide range of services which councils provide to support and protect disabled children and children in need to live at home and enable them to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally. This can include important services such as family centres, holiday clubs residential respite placements, child protection services and looking after children who for different reasons are not able to live at home safely.

Many deaf children and young people need additional support for their needs to be met and, whilst many families can do this, other families may need some help to ensure this happens.

Since 2010, there have been significant cuts to council budgets from central government. In March, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s year-long investigation into the state of children’s social care. Their No Good Options report found that 89% of directors of children’s social care services are now struggling to meet their statutory duties to meet disabled and vulnerable children.

Even before the cuts started, we knew that deaf children had been struggling to get social care support. This is because of the demise of specialist sensory social workers and teams. As a result, in too many areas, support is too often only being provided by social workers with no real expertise in deafness or an understanding of the short and long term risks that deafness can pose unless the right support is in place.

As budgets shrink, councils will naturally focus their resources on protecting those children who at the greatest risk of abuse and support those who are cannot remain at home. This will inevitably mean that more disabled and vulnerable children will not get the support they need early on but much later when issues have become far worse.

With limited resources, councils must protect those who are in most need. But we believe that councils must also provide a range of ‘preventative’ community and leisure activities that help disabled and vulnerable children and their families feel supported, valued and able to participate and contribute to their communities as other children and families. As the No Good Options report noted, for every one pound we spend on preventative services we spend four pounds on child protection.

The current focus on the funding of adult social care has ignited a clear debate, showing the challenges that must be addressed. We also want to see politicians and parties also address children’s social care funding, recognising what social care means in its widest sense and the need for early preventative support for deaf children and other disabled and vulnerable children. We call on all political parties to make this goal a reality.

If you agree, please ask the candidates in your area what they will do to support the social care needs of deaf and other disabled children. Take a look at our website for more information and election resources.

“We must all do whatever we can”

Sally Etchells, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

I recently interviewed Caroline and Anthony, members of our campaigns network and also parents to three children, Emily, Jack and Thomas. Thomas is ten months old and profoundly deaf. He also has a very rare condition called CHARGE syndrome which means he has additional needs. I spoke to Caroline and Anthony about why being a part of the campaigns network is important to them. 

 Why did you join the campaigns network? “We need to defend the services that are so vital to Thomas, our family and other deaf children. Thomas cannot tell people himself how much he needs, enjoys or how much he gets from the service so it is up to us to be his voice and to make sure that it is heard”. 

 What have you recently campaigned on? “We found out that Manchester City Council was planning to cut the Sensory Support Service for deaf children so, given how much we rely on this service, we knew we couldn’t stand by and let them do this without a fight.”

 Update: With the help of many parents and local campaigners, we managed to reduce the planned cuts in Manchester. We will now be working closely with the local authority to ensure deaf children in Manchester continue to get the right support.

 What kind of campaigning tactics did you use? “We responded to the council’s consultation and also wrote a letter to the council outlining how our whole family relies on the service. We also wrote to our local MP about the cuts and asked him to reject them on our behalf. He wrote to the council and supported us. Having your local MP on board really does make a difference.”

 What do you get from NDCS? “It is great that we can contact NDCS directly for advice or to answer any questions we have. They have travelled over to Manchester to meet with us and to gather feedback on how the changes affect us”.  

 Why should other people sign up to the network? “It is up to parents to stand up and fight for their children. We cannot allow our deaf children to be disadvantaged either now or in the future as cuts will affect children perpetually. We must all do whatever we can.” 

 Our campaigns network is made up of around 7,000 people who are passionate about campaigning to protect valuable services for deaf children and young people. The network is open to anyone and is completely free to join. Our campaigns network members take action on local and national levels to make sure services for deaf children are defended. Join the campaigns network today to be the first to find out about campaign actions in your area and to receive regular updates from the team:

http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=19&ea.campaign.id=45735&ea.tracking.id=TA

 

 

How to…stop a hearing impairment unit closing

Beccy Forrow Policy and Campaigns Officer

Beccy Forrow, Policy and Campaigns Officer

What would you do if the hearing impairment unit your child attends was in danger of closing? I’m guessing most parents would do something very similar to Wokingham parent Faye Gilbert….

Faye contacted us back in June about the HIU, based at Emmbrook Infant School, closing. Faye’s son Rhys goes to the unit and was really thriving at the school.

Although the council were allowing all the children currently in the unit to stay until they moved on to Junior school, Faye thought it was important that deaf children in the future also have the opportunity to study in an HIU, if that’s what’s best for them.

So, how was the unit saved? Faye did a number of things to persuade the council to change their minds. Most of them aren’t new or difficult but they did need time and persistence to make the difference. But happily anyone can get involved in a campaign like this…

  1. Tell people about the problem and get others that are affected on board – one of the first things Faye did was start a petition on change.org. She got nearly 2,000 supporters to sign the petition – which certainly got the attention of the council and the local media.
  1. Make sure the people who make the decision know about your campaign – the best way to do this is to speak to the media because bad media coverage is rarely ignored by councils. We can help with getting coverage and preparing for an interview but journalists almost always want to speak to someone affected by the changes.pester power
  1. Don’t stop! – decision-makers might assume that you don’t have the stamina to keep going when it looks like the odds are against you, but we all know that pester power works! Email the council and encourage as many people as you can to do the same. It doesn’t take many emails from local people for a council to starting doubting whether they are doing the right thing. Local councillors are elected by local people every four years so they will be nervous about upsetting people by making a bad decision. If you don’t get the response you want, keep writing until you do.

Although we supported Faye to win her campaign we can only ever do so much. We always need families of deaf children on board with any campaign and usually decision-makers give more weight to the views of deaf children and their families. There are a few things we can help local campaigners with:

  • emailing local parents to tell them about the issue to amplify your voice
  • joining campaigners at council meetings and help you to prepare for meetings
  • working out when key decisions will be made and who can influence the decision
  • writing letters to the council about their legal responsibilities to deaf children
  • helping you to get media coverage and to prepare for an interview
  • finding evidence about the progress made by deaf children in the local area to add weight to you arguments.

But…we can only do this if parents and those working with deaf children tell us about problems or concerns as early as possible. You can email campaigns@ndcs.org.uk or call our helpline on 0808 800 8880 – with any information that you think is worrying.

Cuts to disability benefits? We’re watching the Budget

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

The National Deaf Children’s Society alongside Blind Children UK, Sense and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) are very concerned about potential cuts to disability benefits ahead of the budget statement on the 8th July.

We know that the UK Government wants to save £12 billion from the welfare bill. We are really worried about the impact this will have on families with children with sensory impairments, many of whom rely on disability benefits to help them meet the additional costs of raising a child with a disability. We are asking you to take action and call on the Government to protect benefits for children with sensory impairments.

What the Prime Minister has said

Stephen Timms MP recently asked the Prime Minister if he would ‘confirm the commitment he made during the election that there will be no cuts in the benefits paid to disabled people.’

The Prime Minister’s response was as follows:
What we have actually done is to increase the benefits paid to disabled people by bringing in the personal independence payment, which is more generous to those who are most disabled. May I say how much I enjoyed meeting the right hon. Gentleman during the general election when we both addressed the Festival of Life in the ExCeL centre in his constituency? I do not know about him, but it is certainly the only time in my life that I have talked to 45,000 people at the same time, and I suspect the same goes for him.”

We are extremely worried that the Prime Minister did not confirm his previous commitment that there will be no cuts to benefits for disabled people. We are also aware that Personal Independence Payments (the benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance for 16 – 65 year olds) has not been more generous for young people with sensory impairments and in many cases has been removed altogether.

Now is the time to take action.

Take action

It is vital to take action now before the budget statement on the 8th July. Email your MP to ask the Chancellor to ensure benefits for children with sensory impairments are protected in the upcoming budget!

5 things we’ve recently learnt about deaf children and Teachers of the Deaf in the UK from the CRIDE report

KMcQuaid photo

Kelsey McQuaid, Projects Officer

Every year the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE), survey local authorities to find out about education provision for deaf children across the UK. CRIDE was developed in 2010 in conjunction with NDCS, National Sensory Impairment Partnership (NatSIP), British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD), academic institutions, special schools and Heads of Services.

Here are five things we’ve learnt from the most recent report:

  1. There are at least 48,125 deaf children in the UK. This is an increase of 16% since 2011 and 7% since 2013. There could be a number of reasons for this increase, such as changes in demography, an increase in the number of deaf children or perhaps services have become better at recording information about deaf children.
  2. The number of Teachers of the Deaf has decreased from 1,488 in 2013 to 1,433 in 2014, a 3% decline. In England, the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf has fallen below 1,000 for the first time. CRIDE is especially concerned that the number of Teachers of the Deaf is decreasing given that there is also a suggested increase in the number of deaf children.
  3. Only 9% of Teachers of the Deaf had a level 3 qualification in British Sign Language (BSL), which is usually required as the minimum for anyone working directly with deaf children who communicate in BSL.
  4. 5% of Teachers of the Deaf in resource provisions are not qualified as Teachers of the Deaf nor are in training to become one. In England, this would be regarded as unlawful – the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice states that teachers of classes of deaf children should be qualified Teachers of the Deaf.
  5. Many Teachers of the Deaf may be retiring in coming years. We found that over 530 Teachers of the Deaf are due to retire in the next 10 to15 years, amounting to 51% of qualified Teachers of the Deaf. CRIDE is concerned that there are not enough new Teachers of the Deaf to replace those about to retire.

NDCS will continue to use the data collected from CRIDE to provide an evidence base for our campaigns and to lobby politicians for change so that our vision of a world without barriers for every deaf child can be realised.

For more information about the CRIDE survey and the results, go to www.ndcs.org.uk/CRIDE