General election 2017- Scotland

Lois-Drake-2-cropped

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

On 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister, Theresa May announced a snap election would take place on 8 June 2017. What will your new MPs in Scotland do to ensure deaf children and young people and their families in your area get the support they need?

There has been positive progress lately in Scotland for deaf young people and their families. The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 (BSL Act) was passed which marked an historic moment for deaf people across the country.

The implementation of the new laws is now underway with the draft BSL National Plan open for consultation. However work must continue by closing any existing gaps in support that exist for all deaf children and young people and their families.

Some key facts prospective MPs in Scotland should be aware of:-

  • We estimate there are as many as 3850 deaf children in Scotland today and we believe that, with the right support, they can do anything other children can do;
  • Deafness is not a learning disability, but deaf learners consistently do worse than their hearing peers at school;
  • Teachers of the Deaf are vital for many deaf children but there is regional variation in staffing levels and services are being squeezed with half are due to retire within the next 10 to 15 years;
  • The latest Scottish Government data shows that last year 11.8% of deaf learners left school with no qualifications (compared with 2.6% of all pupils) and 38.7% obtained Highers or Advanced Highers (compared with 59.3% of all pupils). This gap in achievement at school goes on to affect deaf young people’s life chances, with 24.7% going onto university compared with 41.3% of those with no additional support needs;
  • The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and a strong focus on educational attainment all have the potential to drive positive outcomes for deaf children and their families;
  • While this progress should be celebrated, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every deaf child in Scotland gets the support they need from birth – with standards of support variable across Scotland, we need MPs who will champion deaf children in their area!
  • The early years are a critical time for deaf children to develop the language and communication skills they need for life, as outlined in our recent report Getting It Right From the Start;

Will your MP be an advocate for deaf children in your area?

Tell them to email us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk to request a briefing.

NDCS does Disability History Month – Part 1

Brian

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

It’s UK Disability History Month so I thought I’d take the opportunity to outline key events in the history of the National Deaf Children’s Society. Over the past 75 years, tremendous progress has been made in attitudes towards deafness. However, in writing this blog I couldn’t help but think there is still a remarkable similarity between the issues faced by deaf children of the 20th Century and today.

On the 15th December 1944 a group of parents of deaf children met in London because they were concerned over the impact of the Education Act 1944 on their children’s education. They formed the Society of St John of Beverley (who became the patron saint of the “deaf and dumb” in the eleventh century)  whose aim was to “to further provision of full modern education for all deaf children in England as originally accorded to hearing children”.   After a short while it changed its name to the Deaf Children’s Society (DCS).

From these small beginnings developed the National Deaf Children’s Society, serving the UK as well as supporting deaf children in Asia, Africa and South America.  Below I have highlighted some key events in our history between 1944 and 1964.

1944

David Jackson identified as deaf at the age of 6 months. David said his mother tried to cure it by placing brown paper soaked in vinegar on his ears and serving him a diet of fish and carrots. David said “people would try anything in those days”.

1945

DCS establishes a Teacher of the Deaf training bursary scheme and starts a campaign for the training of as many teachers as possible.

1946

DCS proposes that public health services should conduct hearing tests on children at an early age to ensure early identification and support. This campaign was finally won in 2006 when new born hearing screening was fully rolled out across the UK.

DCS publishes its first information leaflet for parents “If your child is deaf” and sets up courses for parents

1947

DCS lobbies the Department for Education to ensure teachers receive a salary while training to be Teachers of the Deaf.

child-and-teacher

1948

DCS links with groups in Glasgow and the Midlands  and then one in the NW of England. Over the next 10 years more and more parent groups are established throughout the UK and establish links with the DCS.

DCS produces a circular on research suggesting a link between German measles in pregnant women and deafness in babies.

1949

The Minster for Education agrees to fund the training of Teachers of the Deaf. The Society’s first campaign win!

At this time around 450 deaf children in London were out of school and in need of a school place.

1950

DCS takes up the case of a young deaf girl who spent years in a mental health institution before she was found to be deaf and not “disturbed”. DCS challenged the way the Ministry of Health identified children with a “mental deficiency”. 

1951

DCS suggests the shortage of school places for deaf children could be alleviated by attaching a class for deaf children to a grammar school. The Friends School in Saffron Walden agreed to be a pilot making the concept of hearing impairment units (specialist classrooms for deaf children attached to mainstream schools) a reality.

Two children learning to use hearing aid equipment

1953

The DCS commences evening courses for parents lasting 6 weeks on topics including supporting deaf children to read and develop speech and language.

The first quarterly newsletter for parents was produced. It continues over 50 years later in the form of NDCS’s Families Magazine.

DCS make access to technical training a priority as a step to work. A pilot is established with Regent Street Polytechnic for 4 deaf students.

DCS presses the Ministry of Labour to give disability resettlement officers and youth employment officers full information on the employment of deaf young people.

1954

DCS offers holiday weeks for families in caravans which were very popular.

DCS is concerned about the absence of books for deaf children. It offered £50 to authors to write books and guaranteed the publisher £500 to ensure publication.

1955

Ann William’s daughter was diagnosed as being deaf. Ann said she was told by the consultant that her daughter would never amount to anything and would need to be sent away to a special school which Ann refused to do. She was not given any information on any communication method apart from speech so the family had no choice.

First debate on the Education of Deaf Children in the House of Commons opened by Michael Stewart, Labour MP for Fulham. 

1956

The quarterly newsletter transformed into a magazine for members called “Talk”. 12,000 copies are distributed to families.

The society offers £25 grants to parents to help them pay for their children’s hearing aids.

Deaf Children's Society Talk magazine

1958

Parent groups from all over the country meet and form the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). They challenge the rigid approach to teaching methods for deaf children and reject the prevailing notion that a child who doesn’t speak is a failure: “A deaf child with no means of communication at all reflects a lack of flexibility of our education provision. Any method of teaching deaf children must ensure that each deaf child is given a means of communication” 

1959

NDCS establishes the Commonwealth Society to look into the welfare of deaf children outside the UK. Its first task was to raise funds.

1960

NDCS establishes the Deaf Children’s League of Service, proving volunteering opportunities for deaf children, encouraging them to be self-reliant and help others such as old people.

1963

NDCS responds to equipment requests and loans 38 Auditory Training Units to teachers to help children use their residual hearing. NDCS hoped the loans would convince local authorities to provide the equipment.

NDCS also provides 8 buses for use by local parent groups for deaf children’s excursions. By 1967 there were 17 buses on long term loan. It included one for the Manchester University Survey Team which was conducting research into the social adjustment of deaf teenagers.

250,000 copies of ‘What do you know about deafness’ were circulated as part of a deaf awareness campaign featured in newspapers, radio and TV.

NDCS bus

1964

NDCS’s campaign against the use of the term “deaf and dumb” meets with a measure of success when the Ministry of Health stops using the term “dumb”.

The Queen and Queen mother attend NDCS’s 20th birthday party (a reception at the Mansion House) joined by members of all 29 regional parent groups across the UK.

What happens next?

For what happened next read my blog on 1964 to 1984 to be published next week.

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.

Disability Matters – e-learning to inform and inspire!

Vicki Kirwin Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

Vicki Kirwin Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

“Over 60% of Britons say they are not confident communicating with a child who is deaf”

(Disability Matters Launch Report, Feb 2015)

I recently attended the launch of the new Disability Matters e-learning resource with our CEO Susan Daniels. Disability Matters is a suite of online and group learning modules that aim to tackle the inequalities that disabled children and young people face in their daily lives. It was co-developed with disabled young people and parent carers and the practical tips delivered within the programme are based on real, lived experiences. Through words, pictures and signs, deaf and disabled children, young people and their families challenge learners to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs about disability and explores the practical things people can do that could make a real difference to their health and wellbeing.

So far 27 modules are live with more to come. One of the first live modules is Deaf Communication Matters which was developed by myself and Lucy Read (NDCS Head of Youth Participation). It uses video of several of our former YAB members and material from My Life My Health campaign with them sharing some of the typical barriers they encounter and showing the learner simple steps to take and adjustments to make to overcome those barriers and enable successful interaction with them. The module takes about 20 minutes to complete.

The programme is designed to support organisations, their workers and volunteers across the health, education, social care, criminal justice, travel and leisure, community sectors, as well as friends and extended family, in developing the communication and problem-solving skills required to engage confidently with disabled children and young people.

All resources are FREE and are designed to be easy to use and done at the learners pace.

Have a look at the site, register and have a look through the many modules – there is bound to be something of interest and value to everyone – including communication, advocacy, safeguarding, confidence, relationships, bullying, inclusion, decision making etc. You could complete them all with one 20-40 minutes session a week for a year! But for ease of decision making the system will recommend a shorter list of modules based on their profession or sector selected when registering.

https://www.disabilitymatters.org.uk

Local Offers – have you been consulted?

Martin McLean Project Manager I-Sign

Martin McLean Project Manager I-Sign

Over the last couple of months we’ve seen the vast majority of local authorities in England publish their Local Offer. Basically, Local Offers are websites where information is published about services across education, health and social care for children and young people with SEN and disabilities in the local area. The idea behind them is that families and young people have access to information in one place which means they are better informed and have more control about the support they access.

Sounds great so far doesn’t it? However, I have looked at quite a few Local Offers recently and have still yet to find one that would be particularly useful for a parent of a deaf child. Where the Local Offer has a search box typing in ‘deaf’ tends to either:

  1. Come up with nothing or very little at all
  2. List every service known to man under the sun

(Ok, no. 2 is a slight exaggeration) Even if you don’t use a search box function and decide to go through the various menus that exist, it is hard to find any information specific to deafness as services tend not be categorised by type of SEN/disability.

By law, local authorities must consult with parents and young people when developing their Local Offer. How much did they consult with parents of deaf children?

Not much, you might think. Well, thanks to a Freedom of Information request we actually know the answer – 44% of local authorities told us they did not consult with parents of deaf children. Quite often consultation has not been specific to type of disability/SEN but rather a general consultation that may have included parents of deaf children. Families of deaf children are a small group and it could be very easy for their needs to be forgotten if only general consultations are carried out. Only 29% of local authorities consulted directly.

consultedwithparentsofdeafchildren

When it comes to consulting with deaf young people local authorities fare even worse with 68% having carried out no consultation with them. And it shows – I can’t imagine many young people being incentivised to explore their area’s Local Offer – they’d probably find flicking through the Oxford English Dictionary more interesting! Information tends to be very dull and far from ‘youth-friendly’ despite the fact they must be accessible to young people by law.

 

Chart2Consultedwithparentsofdeafchildren

 

 

 

 

We are worried that money and time has been spent on developing Local Offer websites without proper consultation having taken place. However, most local authorities would probably agree at the moment that their Local Offers are not a finished product and need a lot more development before they become useful to families of deaf children. This development should be informed by feedback from parents and young people. NDCS encourages parents and young people to look at their Local Offer and to submit comments to their local authority. E.g. How easy is it to find information? What services are missing? Local authorities are required to publish (anonymously) comments received from families and respond to them. Additionally, they must continue to consult with parents and young people to review and improve their Local Offer. This tends to be done through parent-carer forums and you can find your local forum here: http://www.nnpcf.org.uk/who-we-are/find-your-local-forum/

We would like central government to do more to hold local authorities to account for having poor local offers or failing to consult properly. Local Offers have the potential to be a valuable tool. However, once again, just like the old system; it comes down to parents and young people to take action. We urge you to get involved!

To download NDCS’s guide for families on Local Offers visit: www.ndcs.org.uk/sen

Martin McLean is the Project Manager of the I-Sign project which aims to improve access to BSL for families of deaf children and is developing case studies on local offers and BSL provision. www.ndcs.org.uk/isign

Putting a stop to Bullying

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

This blog post was originally published on The Huffington Post.

School can be tough at times for all children, but for many deaf children and young people it can be particularly hard. On top of the same challenges that everyone faces, such as meeting homework deadlines and working out if that girl or guy fancies you, many deaf children and young people also have to contend with having to work that bit harder to follow and understand what their teacher is saying and keep up with what their mates are chatting about.

Sadly, for some, the risk of bullying can make life at school extra difficult. Research has shown that deaf students are often more vulnerable to bullying than other children. Nearly two thirds of deaf young people reported having been bullied because of their deafness, through an online poll* on the National Deaf Children’s Society’s website for deaf young people – The Buzz.

Sharing a joke with classmates or joining in the break time banter might be taken for granted by hearing people. But it’s thought that the risk of ‘breakdowns’ in social communication, or looking ‘different’ because a child is wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants, can end up marking out deaf children and young people as ‘different’ and hence more vulnerable. Elsewhere, social media offers a great opportunity to overcome communication barriers but comes with its dark side of potentially exposing deaf children and young people to cyberbullying.

I grew up deaf and went to a mainstream school in a small village in Leicestershire. Fortunately I feel very lucky never to have had any major problems with bullying. I could be happy about this but it’s always struck me as unfair – whether a deaf child enjoys school and avoids bullying should not be down to luck.

Everyone – teachers, school staff and parents can help reduce the risk of bullying. The National Deaf Children’s Society has produced a pack of resources to support all those with a responsibility for ensuring the well-being of deaf students, including deaf young people themselves.

Bullying resource for young people

The resources explain why deaf children might be more at risk from bullying and the simple things that everyone can do to prevent this from happening. For example, my school had lots of deaf awareness training and I was surrounded by a good bunch of friends who understood that I liked being able to chat at lunchtime in a quiet area.

I also had lots of opportunities to develop my speech and language skills and access to some great equipment in the classroom (known as radio aids) which amplified everything and meant that I could usually follow what was going on. I also had lots of work done on my language and communication skills. I like to think also that my parents imbued me with a sense of confidence and assertiveness to ‘own’ my deafness and to stand up for myself if there were ever any problems.

That’s not to say I never had any problems at all. I remember one time that some kids would keep “whispering” to me or covering their mouths when they spoke, knowing that I wouldn’t understand. Fortunately too, my teachers spotted this happening and clamped down on it immediately.

It’s important that everyone is vigilant to the signs that a child might be being bullied, just as some of my teachers were. Many of the signs are the same for deaf children as for all children – such as disruptive behaviour, not wanting to go to school and changes in appearance, for example. But where deaf children and young people are involved, there can be some added considerations. One of the key signs that any child is being bullied is that they become withdrawn and uncommunicative. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a failure to pick up bullying in deaf children because this kind of behaviour is sometimes attributed to their being deaf, rather than as a warning sign of wider problems.

The National Deaf Children’s Society’s new resources include a set of creative colourful postcards that deaf young people can pick up to quickly remind themselves of what they should or shouldn’t do in a difficult situation. Empowering deaf children and young people is absolutely essential. Deaf children and young people may need some help to understand what cyberbullying is and to know what to do if it crops up. We can’t always be there to protect them, but we can give them the tools and confidence to protect themselves.

By taking a few simple steps, we can all minimise the risk of bullying and make sure that deaf children and young people have happy memories and experiences at school and leave as confident adults.

More information on the National Deaf Children’s Society’s resources to prevent and tackle bullying, can be found here.

*The National Deaf Children’s Society commissioned a poll in 2012 on its young people’s website The Buzz, asking deaf young people their views on bullying. The poll received more than 600 respondents.

Why NDCS thinks the new guidance on special educational needs won’t work

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Today, MPs will be considering whether to approve new guidance (known as the SEND Code of Practice) on how children with special educational needs and disabilities are supported. NDCS is taking the difficult decision to recommend that the Code be withdrawn and redrafted.

This isn’t because we don’t share the Government’s objectives or that we hugely disagree with what the new Code contains. Our big concern is what is absent.

The Code fails to set out robust quality assurance arrangements that are necessary to promote service improvements and give parents and other members of the public the information that will enable them to hold their Council to account for the quality of support provided for children. Because of this critical omission we’re not convinced there will be any change for the better.

Parents of deaf children regularly bring to us problems about getting the support their children need to make educational progress. When we look into the problem we find that the main cause is a failing by education services to implement existing laws and guidance

We believe that this is due to the lack of accountability and quality assurance arrangements. In other words, it is possible for local authorities to get away with poor provision without proper checks or anyone calling them to account.

Unless this deficiency is rectified, any potential benefit from the recent legislation on special educational needs will not be realised. England will simply be following in the footsteps of Scotland where significant and similar changes were introduced 10 years ago. Despite these changes, research commissioned by NDCS revealed that parents and professionals don’t think there has been a significant change in the quality of service. This was also confirmed by the Scottish Government’s Doran Review.

We have therefore asked the government to make two important additions to help ensure the reforms have a chance of success:

1)   The Government needs to set out measures of success and ensure data on provision and outcomes for children with special educational needs or disability is published by local authority area. This will help parents know whether their local authority is doing a good or bad job.

2)   Ofsted should inspect quality of local authority services and their performance, helping children and young people with SEND achieve good outcomes. Parents rely on Ofsted inspections to know how well their local school is performing. It is equally important for parents of children with SEND to have an independent assessment of how well local authorities and health services are meeting their children’s needs.

Each year the Government allocates over £5 billion to meet the needs of children and young people with high levels of SEND and we know that even with this, local authorities are struggling to meet needs. Some have to raid other pots of money to make ends meet. This combined with significant changes and raised expectations, means that there must be far greater emphasis on quality assurance and accountability.

It would be a shame to see all of these changes being made at a lot of expense but with little prospect of any real improvement. It’s not too late for the Government to take heed and put in place accountability and quality assurance arrangements that promote the improvement of services and outcomes for every pound that is spent.