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

19 things I’ve learnt from working at NDCS

Jonathan Barnes - NDCS, articles we’ve been reading this week

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

This is my final week at NDCS. I’m leaving to move to the US and lots of exciting new opportunities there. I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect back on my time working for the best deaf children’s charity out there!

1)    Readers of this blog love listicles! Two of our most popular blog posts are this one and this one. So I thought I’d try and replicate that. If you want to have a go, send your ideas to campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

2)    Lots of facts on deafness – here’s 11 to get you started

3)    We have some great parent campaigners

1

4) The Policy and Campaigns Team rocks at winning internal competitions – from best at fancy dress, to best Christmas decorations and quiz winners, we are undoubtedly the best team!

Trophy

5)   By working together, we can make a difference – I’m particularly proud of getting a commitment from Birmingham Council to protect services for deaf children in 2014/15. We have to keep working to make sure they keep their commitment.

6)    Eating bacon every Friday morning (known in the office, unimaginatively, as Bacon Friday) isn’t particularly healthy…but it is tasty!2

7)    Having Regional Directors in every region of England makes NDCS much more able to challenge cuts at a local level with better knowledge of the area.

8)     I’m a pioneer

9)    No language is as fun to learn as BSL…Layout 1

10)   …And no language is more fun to sing in than sign language!

11)    Parents sharing their stories makes a difference. Last year, thousands of parents shared their story with their MPs to help us secure a debate in parliament.

r_seaman@hotmail.com

12)   Softball. NDCS staff play in the second largest softball league in the UK, the London Charity Softball League. We even reached the final a couple of years ago!Softball

13)   Freedom of Information requests are a great way of finding out what is happening across the country to services for deaf children.

14)   NDCS works internationally – not just in the UK!NDCS Campaigns Blog - DCW Ecuador Exchange

15)   Some great deaf awareness tips from working around deaf staffsuperkids-template (2)

16)   International Lumberjack Day exists.8

17)   NDCS works with thousands of families each year, addressing all levels of deafness

18)   80% of children have experienced glue ear by the age of 10. That’s four in every five children.Jonathan aged two

19)   The staff and volunteers at NDCS all work really hard to make the world that little bit better for deaf children – please continue to support them!

First month’s campaigning at NDCS

Alex Chitty, Campaigns Assistant at NDCS - Stolen Futures

Alex Chitty, Campaigns Assistant

Having just celebrated one month of working for NDCS, it seems like the perfect time to share what my first few weeks have entailed.

A bit about my team
Joining NDCS, an organisation at the forefront of campaigning for deaf children and young people has been a fantastic experience. The team has been hugely welcoming and it has been great getting out and about meeting regional staff and learning more about the excellent campaigning that takes place. Much of this campaigning is driven by dedicated parents of deaf children and young people and has had some brilliant results.

What have I been up to?
A large part of my role is to support local campaigners – and the Stolen Futures campaign more widely at large – so that together we ensure that there is adequate funding for public services for deaf children and their families. So far this has included:

  • Reviewing the Ofsted statements of mainstream schools in several regions of England to see what specific provisions are being made deaf children and children with special educational needs (SEN)
  • Preparing and sending Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to Local Authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups asking for clarification on their budgets for deaf children and young people’s education, social care, and speech and language therapy
  • Highlighting opportunities for parents to participate in council-run consultations and surveys on SEN reform
  • Attending training on the 2010 Equality Act to find out how this piece of legislation can be used to protect and advocate for the rights of children with disabilities and/or SEN

What’s next?
Later this month we will be receiving responses to the FOI requests and from these we will be determining if any cuts to services have taken place or are scheduled to occur. We will then decide what campaigning steps we can take to reverse or stop these changes, so please do keep an eye on our cuts map for updates on your area.

Very excitingly, on 22nd March 2014, I will also be providing some training on ‘How to build effective relationships with local decision-makers and organisations’ at a Yorkshire and the Humber Networking Day.

How you can campaign
If you think campaigning sounds fun and would like to help us create a world without barriers for all deaf children, then why not join our Campaigns Network and lend your voice to our national and local lobbying? It’s a great way for you to find out more about what we are campaigning on and to get involved in some quick and easy actions! Or if you have an issue which you’d like help campaigning on, please do not hesitate to get in touch: campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

Will your local authority protect services for deaf children this year?

NDCS - Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager, Freedom of Information

Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager

This is a very busy time of year for us as we have just sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all councils and local health authorities in England about their services for deaf children and are expecting their responses very soon.

We have done this for the past three years now as part of our Stolen Futures campaign.

The FOI requests ask, among many other things, about councils and health authorities’ budgets for deaf children in education, social care and speech and language therapy services.

The information we get back helps us work out if campaigning action is needed to challenge any cuts to services for deaf children. Last year we discovered that:

  • 29% of local authorities cut specialist education support services for deaf children.
  • One quarter of councils reduced their budget and/or staffing for social care services that deaf children access. The vast majority of local authorities (96%) did not have specialist social care services for deaf children.
  • One quarter of local health authorities reduced their budget and/or staffing for speech and language therapy services for deaf children.

Find out how we’re tackling these cuts to deaf children’s services here.

Cuts map for Stolen Futures

This year we sent our FOI requests on March 3rd and, according to the FOI Act, the authorities then have 20 working days from the date the request is received to respond to our request. We’ll be recording the results on our cuts map, so keep an eye out and get involved in any campaigns in your area.

Not only do we rely on information from councils and health authorities across England, but the information you give us is also invaluable in our fight to protect services for deaf children.

How you can help

Are you experiencing a reduction in support? If so contact us today.
Email: helpline@ndcs.org.uk
Call our freephone helpline number: 0808 800 8880

Keep updated

Join the Campaigns Network to keep up to speed with the latest campaigns news and how you can take action.

Thank you for your support!