Government finally agrees to let disabled people have their say on DSA changes

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

The Government in England last week announced a public consultation on proposed changes to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) – which provides support to disabled students at university – after spending the best part of the past year resisting any attempts to engage more widely with disabled students.

Those with long memories will remember the campaign victory that Zanna, a member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, achieved earlier this year, when she took legal action against the Government over its failure to consult with disabled students on changes to DSA.

At the time, the Government agreed it would postpone its changes but didn’t concede that it was ever wrong that it attempted to force these changes through and consult only with selected stakeholders behind closed doors.

Though the legal action never had its day in court, the judge that gave the case permission to proceed commented that she was “not impressed” with the government’s arguments that it had no obligation to consult.

Happily, it now appears as if the Government has seen sense. In a debate last week, the Minister made a passing reference to plans to carry out a public consultation on its proposed changes.

NDCS remains concerns that the proposed changes will mean that deaf students would be more reliant on universities to provide any support they might need. We believe that the changes shouldn’t go ahead until proper safeguards are in place to make sure that no deaf students are abandoned without the support they need. It’s hoped that a public consultation will reveal the scale of these concerns but also hopefully prompt some constructive suggestions on how universities and DSA can better support deaf students.

NDCS remains extremely proud of Zanna, a member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, who had initiated the legal action. She has sent a strong signal to the Government that no changes that affect disabled people should be made without their involvement. It remains a disappointment that it was necessary for Zanna to take legal action to force the Government to listen.

It’s still obviously not quite the end of the story. When the consultation comes out, we’ll need to send a strong signal to the Government that it must ensure that deaf students aren’t disadvantaged by these changes. But the announcement of a public consultation gives us a chance to make the case. It also shows the difference that using the law to protect services can make.

5 things to watch out from the new Government

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

So we have a majority Conservative government! Now the dust has settled on last week’s election results, we’ve looked into our crystal balls and picked out five things to watch out for from our new Government.

1) Education spending. In their manifesto, the Conservatives said they will protect funding for schools on a per pupil basis. This means that, if the number of pupils go up, schools shouldn’t lose out. But it also means that schools might get less money in real terms if inflation goes up. It also means that funding for early years education and post-16 is not protected. So what impact will this have on spending for specialist education services for deaf children? We know from the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign that local authorities have still been cutting services, despite the protection already in place over the past five years. Will that change?

2) Will Ofsted inspections make a difference? We know that Ofsted are planning to inspect local provision for children with special educational needs and that a consultation on how they will do that is due out later this year. What’s not yet certain is the extent to which Ofsted will take a proper, more focused look on how deaf children are doing as part of this. Will Ofsted, for example, inspect specialist education services for deaf children? Indications are that Ofsted are not keen to go into this level of detail. We may need to campaign to make sure they do. We may also need to campaign to make sure that inspections are carried out by inspectors with proper expertise in deafness.

3) Is Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for deaf children under threat? The Conservatives have indicated in the past they would like to look at reforms to DLA for disabled children, having already changed DLA for adults to a new benefit called Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The Conservatives have already pledged to reduce the welfare budget by £12bn, without specifying how they will do that.

4) Audiology services. How can we make sure that audiology services are delivering a good service? Our Listen Up! campaign has found that too many aren’t. Over the past 5 years, it was the government’s policy that audiology services should be accredited under a programme called IQIPs. Yet, to our knowledge, very few have to date. What will happen to those audiology services that don’t get accredited or don’t seek accreditation anytime soon? Will the new Government insist they be closed down or will they just allow poor audiology services to coast along? Will they improve transparency over which audiology services are seeking accreditation?

5) How will the Government halve the disability employment gap? This was one of their manifesto pledges. NDCS believes that many deaf young people will need support from Access to Work to make a successful transition into employment. However, we know that the Government are looking at ways to manage the Access to Work budget, with a new cap to be introduced later this year. Will this make it harder for the Government to support disabled people into employment?

Is there anything else we should be watching out for? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

The NDCS policy and campaigns team will be working to get answers to these questions. You can help us campaign for a world without barriers for every deaf child by joining our cool club, the NDCS campaigns network today.

New NSPCC report into safeguarding deaf and disabled

Christopher Kang-Mullen

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

The NSPCC has just published a report into safeguarding deaf and disabled children. ‘We have the right to be safe’ Protecting Disabled Children from abuse draws on research evidence; consultation with disabled children and young people and a wide range of safeguarding professionals.

Safeguarding disabled children means the actions we take to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.

Recognised in law

The report says that there has been an increasing recognition of the safeguarding needs of deaf and disabled children across the UK by legislation including;

• the UN Conventions of the Rights of the child (1989) and Persons with Disabilities (2009);
• Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and
• The Equality Act 2010.

These have helped improve practice across all services supporting deaf and disabled children but that much more work needs to be done.

What are additional risks to disabled children?

All deaf and disabled children are individuals but the report reminds us of the additional vulnerabilities that deaf and disabled children face which makes them at a greater risk of abuse. This can include:

• a lack of access to those in authority who can communicate with the child and understand that a child is disclosing abuse
• lack of education given to disabled children around sexual health and abuse
• an increased reliance on adult care giving for intimate and personal care needs.

What will help support disabled children?

The report highlights the importance of empowering disabled children through measures such as:

• peer support; where young people are trained to support each other
• safeguarding awareness through PHSE education in school
• developing services in consultation with disabled people.

At NDCS we already have a peer support project called Helping Hands. Working with a number of schools we are training deaf young people to support their deaf peers in order to promote self-esteem and reduce bullying.

Accessible information

The report says that more accessible information on safeguarding issues for disabled children will also help promote their welfare and protect them from harm. The development of NSPCC’s Deaf zone within Childline is an example where information on a number of topics is now available in BSL. It however accepts that there is still further work to make Childline fully accessible to deaf children and young people.

What disabled young people say

Finally perhaps the most powerful comments from the report are from deaf and disabled children and young people themselves who time after time express the importance of communication. As one young person stated;

“Talk to me not my carer!”

NDCS continues to work with NSPCC through the National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children.

The full report can be downloaded here