UK Government supporting deaf children in developing countries

When the global community comes together to tackle a problem – the results can be incredible. Fighting for girls’ education. Fighting the illegal wildlife trade. Taking on modern day slavery. All huge issues, all seeing a concerted global effort to stop them in their tracks.

Joanna Clark, Director

Joanna Clark, Director of Deaf Child Worldwide

The challenges facing disabled people in developing countries are no less great, and Penny Mordaunt is leading the way in breaking down the barriers they face.

Today she launched a far reaching, global strategy, with ambitious aims, and an even more ambitious vision for disabled people in some of the poorest parts of the world.

We know that 90% of disabled children in developing countries never go to school. Among the deaf children we work with at Deaf Child Worldwide, isolation is commonplace, exclusion is driving and entrenching poverty, and business as usual is no longer an option.

But while we celebrate the launch of today’s strategy, we should be under no illusion about how tough the journey ahead will be, and how much innovation, collaboration and ingenuity it will take. Translating this strategy into a practical roadmap for improving the lives of disabled people all over the world will not happen overnight.

But what today does demonstrate is that the human rights of a deaf child, excluded from school and isolated from their family, will now be a priority for the UK Government.

It’s been too long! A call to update 2009 Safeguarding Disabled Children guidance.

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

In 2009, the Government in England published guidance on safeguarding disabled children. Guidance which, when read now, seems a world away from the way social care is delivered, written and even spoken about in 2018.

Since 2009 there have been some significant changes in the area of social care support affecting deaf children across the UK. There have been new laws, including:

• The Equality Act 2010 (UK) which addresses the discrimination faced by certain recognised groups, including disabled people, whether at school or in the community.
• The Children and Families Act 2014 (England) which includes arrangements for services to work together to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.
• The Social Service and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, both changing the way we consider how to support children and adults, focusing on promoting well-being and preventing need in the first place.

Since 2009, The National Deaf Children’s Society has commissioned research and undertaken surveys which confirm the barriers that deaf children face in accessing children’s social care in England. Specialist deaf sensory social workers have been replaced by social workers who now have to work across a huge range of children’s disabilities, leading to a possible ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ situation.

In addition, since 2009, the population of looked after children across the UK has risen from around 80,000 to 94,000. At the same time, funding cuts have led to the Local Government Association saying it will need £2 billion to address the shortfall in funding for children’s services by 2020.

We have also seen the ending of Aiming High for Disabled Children funding and the soon-to-be replacement of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards in England with new, untried ‘Safeguarding Partners’ tasked with leading on safeguarding children in their areas.

Deaf children are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in society. Despite this there is no evidence to support the view that we are safeguarding deaf and disabled children any better than before.

Scotland, however, have recognised this and in 2014 updated its guidance relating to disabled children and brought it in line with their new way of supporting children and families.

Given the significant changes which have taken place in social care over the last almost decade, The National Deaf Children’ Society and The National Working Group on Safeguarding Disabled Children, are calling on the Government to update their guidance on social care. This new guidance will need to support professionals working with disabled children on the front-line, in order to adequately recognise these children’s needs and rights.

It’s a small step but a necessary one in the effort to give deaf and disabled children the same protection from harm that other children have.

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.

Campaign victory on Ofsted SEND inspections

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

Two of the most important things the Government can do to ensure deaf children get the support they need are to ensure: 1) there’s enough funding in the system and 2) local authorities and schools are properly held to account for the support they provide.

Yesterday, the Education Secretary gave a speech which recognised concerns about the first and promised action on the second.

Back in 2016, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission began inspections of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Under this new inspection framework, each local area would be inspected once over a five-year period.

This inevitably raised the question over what would happen after 2021 when the five year period was over and each area had been inspected. How would we know if those areas hadn’t got worse? What ‘incentive’ was there for local authority managers to make sure these services didn’t get deprioritised?

The good news is that the Education Secretary seems to have recognised these concerns and has confirmed he will ask Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission “to design a programme of further local area SEND inspections to follow the current round.” What’s more, he also asked Ofsted to consider further follow-up inspections for those areas where provision has been found to be poor.

The inspections aren’t perfect. On our side, we’d like to see much more focus on education support for deaf children. In fact we’ve been asking the Department and Ofsted to consider introducing new additional ad-hoc inspections of specific SEND services, including those for deaf children, to run alongside the existing local area inspections. But the inspections are still a vast improvement on the zero accountability that we had before. And the fact the inspections are likely to continue beyond 2021 is good news and a campaign victory.

Elsewhere, the Minister recognised that SEND budgets are under pressure and that he was “listening”. There was also an explicit recognition that one of the pressures on the SEND budgets is a shift of children moving from mainstream to specialist provision.

It’s important that deaf children are able to go to special schools if it’s right for them. At the same time, they should be able to get the support they need in mainstream schools too – and in reality, most deaf children will attend their local mainstream school. As the Minister said: “SEND pupils are not someone else’s problem. Every school is a school for pupils with SEND.”

To address this, we’re calling on the Government to look at the ring-fence on the schools budget. Currently, the ring-fence means that local authorities are unable to move funding from the schools budget to the high needs block (which covers SEND funding) in response to the growing funding pressures that the Minister highlighted.

We’re also calling on the Minister to take a closer look at the specialist SEND workforce. In relation to deaf children, Teachers of the Deaf play a key role in ensuring mainstream schools know what to do to support deaf children. It stands to reason that a 14% reduction in the numbers of Teachers of the Deaf over the last 7 years will impact on the quality of support they can provide to schools. Urgent action is needed to address this staffing crisis, and the Department can start by introducing a bursary scheme to fund the training costs to become a Teacher of the Deaf.

The Minister stated that SEND is a huge priority for his Department and that we need “High ambitions, high expectations for every child”. His speech and announcement on Ofsted are both welcome news – but there’s still more to be done.

Changing Technology: How we help you keep pace

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Kim Hagen, Technology Research Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

I recently came across an old survey we ran in 1984. One of its main conclusions was that parents felt they had limited access to easily understood information about technology. Using technology can be quite daunting at the best of times, and it’s especially hard to see its benefits if you don’t have all the relevant information!

We’ve worked hard in the past decades to ensure families have the information they need to make an informed choice on the right technology to support their child. We cover technology in our events for families and parents of deaf children. Our Roadshow bus delivers technology sessions to schools around the UK. We sent out 1,866 copies of our ‘How Technology Can Help’ and ‘How Radio Aids Can Help’ booklets last year. We continue to campaign for better provision of technology to deaf children and young people; last year, we published research on the benefits of using radio aids in the early years at home. And let’s not forget our Blue Peter Technology Loan Service that went live in the mid-1980s. The name has since changed to the Technology Test Drive, but the principle is still the same: a free-of-charge technology loan service offering deaf children and young people, their families and the professionals working with them the opportunity to borrow products and try them out in their own environment.

We have close to 100 different kinds of products on our Technology Test Drive. Technology is constantly evolving and children want to be seen with the latest tech. That’s why we continuously update our stock. And we recently launched the Borrow to Buy scheme in which our members can borrow all the latest Phonak Roger radio aids, soundfield systems and accessories. But remember: despite the changes in technology the fundamental principles of how technology can benefit deaf children don’t change that much. A few examples:

• Amplified headphones can help young children listen to videos on an iPad and develop their vocabulary.
• Alarm clocks with a vibrating pad can help young children learn to tell the time and older children to get up on their own and be more independent.
• Radio aids can help your child make the most out of education and fulfil their true potential.
• Streamers can be a great way for deaf young people to make phone calls on their own, taking control of their lives and embracing responsibilities.
• Direct input leads can be used to listen to music. They look similar to the in-ear headphones a teenager’s peers may have, making them fit in and helping to develop their social identity.

The summer holidays are nearly here. Many of us might even have a break from our everyday hectic lives. Why not take this time as an opportunity to try out technology with your child? Access our Technology Test Drive, put in a request, and… happy testing!

£4 million cuts – deaf children’s services at crisis point

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Jess Reeves, Campaigns Manager, National Deaf Children’s Society

Enough is enough. The Government must step up and support deaf children.

One third of councils in England are cutting a total of £4million from their budgets for deaf children’s education.

This comes at the same time as numbers of Teachers of the Deaf are falling and numbers of deaf children are rising. Research published earlier this year shows a ten percent drop in the number of these highly specialised teachers since 2014 and an 11% rise in the number of deaf children from 2016 to 2017. Over half of the remaining teachers are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

Is it any wonder then that despite the Government’s major reform of the special educational needs system in England, two thirds of deaf children are still failing to achieve the key target of a ‘good’ grade 5 in GCSE English and Maths? We know that deaf children who get the right support in their education can do just as well as their hearing friends. This is why the Government must step in to prevent this mounting crisis. We are calling on them to:

• meet with us to discuss this as a matter of urgency
• ensure central government funding keeps pace with the rise in demand for support for deaf children’s education
• take action to train up the next generation of Teachers of the Deaf.

You can help
Contact your MP today and ask them to email Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi encouraging him to meet us to discuss this.

Find out more
To see what we know about education services for deaf children in your area please visit our online interactive map.
Interested in the research and data mentioned above? Check out the data page on our website.

Seven things we’ve learnt from the latest CRIDE report

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

Last week, the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) published the latest results for England from its annual survey of education services for deaf children. Though it has its limitations, it’s one of the best sources of data out there on deaf children and the report managed to attract a fair bit of media coverage (including in the Huffington Post and the Guardian). In this blog, I set out my own personal take on seven key findings from the report

1. There are more deaf children

Or, at least, there are more deaf children that local authorities know about. There are now at least 45,631 deaf children in England, a reported 11% increase over the previous year. It’s difficult to be sure whether this is because there are genuinely more deaf children and/or whether local authorities are getting better at identifying those that live in their area.

2. There are fewer Teachers of the Deaf

In 2017, we saw a 2% decline in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in England. Since 2011, we’ve seen a whopping 14% decline. These figures don’t take into account the number of trainee Teachers of the Deaf or Teachers of the Deaf in special schools – but it’s still clear there has been a significant long-term decline. Despite this, government action to address this has not been forthcoming.

3. There’s a looming retirement crunch

Over half of all visiting Teachers of the Deaf are over the age of 50, meaning they’re likely to retire in the next ten to fifteen years. Combined with the long-term decline in numbers of Teachers of the Deaf, this could have a disastrous effect on deaf children, unless urgent action is taken by the Government.

4. Deaf children continue to be a diverse bunch

We know, for example, that 7% of deaf children have at least one cochlear implant, 14% use English as an additional spoken language at home while 22% have an additional special educational need. There can be a huge variety of need within deaf children which has important implications for Teacher of the Deaf training.

5. We still have an incomplete picture on post-16

It’s clear that local authorities continue to struggle in identifying deaf young people post-16, despite the introduction of a new 0 to 25 special educational needs framework in 2014 in England. For example, local authorities told us that 1,356 deaf young people left school in 2016. This is far less than we’d expect, based on what we know about the number of secondary aged pupils.

6. We know a bit more about the use of sign language in education

We already knew, from previous CRIDE surveys, that around 10% of all deaf children used sign language in education in some form. For the first time, instead of asking about all children, CRIDE asked about those who are severely or profoundly deaf. This revealed that, of this group, 29% use sign language in education, of which 8% use British Sign Language. It’s important to note that this doesn’t tell us about how much sign language is being used outside of school.

7. Government statistics on deaf children are still flawed

We know from CRIDE that there are over 45,000 deaf children across England. However, if we were to look at government figures, we’d be missing a large chunk of this group, around 42% of all deaf children. We’re calling on the Government to get better at collecting data on all deaf children.

There are still more stats yet to come – expect reports on deaf children in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the next month.