Live in Wales? Here are 4 reasons why you should take our General Election campaign action

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

NDCS has recently launched a campaign action– the action enables supporters to get in touch with their local general election candidates and make them aware of key issues affecting deaf children.

The core services that deaf children and young people encounter (education, health, social services) fall within the power of the Welsh Assembly and its Assembly Members. The MPs elected on 8 June will sit in Westminster and won’t be part of the Welsh Assembly. Why, then, does our general election action include Wales?

  1. Westminster still has power over some areas that have an impact on deaf children and young people. In particular, laws made in UK parliament about welfare benefits and Access to Work directly affect us in Wales.
  2. MPs are appointed to represent you. As well as attending parliament, they should also spend time meeting their constituents and helping to raise issues that local people draw to their attention. MPs, as well as Assembly Members (AMs) and local councillors, can help make sure that issues with local services are addressed.
  3. Deaf children in England need our help too. It is true that laws made in Westminster around areas such as education, health and social care will be for England only. However, our Welsh MPs are able to contribute to these discussions and hopefully help deaf children in doing so.
  4. Dealing with issues in one area of the UK can help to put pressure on the other nations in the UK to look into the issues too.

Taking part in our online action is really easy to do and should only take a minute. Click here to take part.

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.

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.

General election 2017: Uninspected audiology services

Beccy Forrow Policy and Campaigns Officer

Beccy Forrow, Policy and Campaigns Adviser

Would you send your child to a school that hadn’t been inspected by Ofsted? Would you ride in a car that didn’t conform to industry safety standards? Would you eat in a restaurant that refused to take part in food hygiene inspections? All questions I’d answer no to.

But this is what is being allowed to happen with children’s audiology services in England. Only 15% of services have been inspected and achieved a high enough standard to become ‘accredited’. This leaves the majority of services uninspected – with deaf children, young people and their families having no idea whether they are attending a great service or one that is poor quality and unsafe.

Considering that an NHS report in 2014 found that one third of audiology services were failing to meet critical NHS quality standards, with no incentive to improve, it’s unlikely that many will now be providing a better service. This matters because hearing is critical to a child’s development of language and learning. Early diagnosis and support reduces the risk of delays in language, educational, social and emotional development. But this support needs to be consistently of good quality.

Earlier this year we created an audiology map so that parents could check if their local service had reached a high enough standard to be accredited. However, of 134 services, 40 have so far refused to take part in the inspection scheme at all. Many others have registered for the scheme but not moved closer to an inspection visit over the course of the last few years.

We’re calling on the next Government to make it compulsory for all children’s audiology services in England to take part in the inspections so that parents can be confident that they are fit for purpose. As the inspections cost money and can be time consuming to prepare for, it’s vital that the Government levels the playing field by making the inspections mandatory for all services. Audiology services for deaf children won’t get better on their own.

If any general election candidates come to your door, be sure to ask them about the quality of children’s audiology services. We’ve got some other questions you might like to ask them on our election web page.

General Election 2017. Deaf young people matter.

Martin-Mclean-cropped

Martin McLean, Education and Training Policy Advisor (Post-14), National Deaf Children’s Society

Less than half of young people aged 18-24 are expected to vote on June 8th. Personally, I think this is a tragedy as it means that politicians may be less focused on trying to win young people over because this will not be the key to winning elections. It can be argued that policies on housing, benefits or higher education, for example, might be different if more young people voted.

We at the National Deaf Children’s Society want to make sure that the needs of young people are high on the agenda. We have some key asks for each of the parties to help ensure deaf young people have bright futures. For this year’s general election they are:

    1. Ensure deaf young people receive access to specialist careers advice. Imagine as a deaf young person thinking about what you want to do in the future but you did not know you had rights under the Equality Act or that there was funding for communication support and technology in the workplace (Access to Work). Sadly, this is the reality for many deaf young people and we believe it influences their subject choices at school and college. We want all deaf young people to have access to specialist careers advice so that they are better informed to make choices about their futures.
    2.  Revamp the Access to Work employment support scheme. As a user of the Access to Work I can say I probably could not do my job without it – it pays for the communication support I need to access meetings and training. However, when applying for the first time you will need to very clear about what support and how much of it you need. We don’t believe the application process is friendly for young people and would like to see specialist advice from dedicated champions when they apply for the first time, as well as support that it is flexible and tailored to their needs.
    3. Make it easier for deaf young people to complete apprenticeships. The main political parties are keen on apprenticeships. So are we. High-quality apprenticeships can be a good way of ensuring deaf young people gain vital work experience alongside achieving qualifications. We believe the funding system for additional support on apprenticeships is currently unsatisfactory and needs to be improved and simplified.

Help us put the needs of deaf young people on the agenda by asking the parliamentary candidates for your area what they would do on the above issues if elected to parliament. Also, if you know any deaf young people over 18, encourage them to register to vote- they do matter!

General election 2017: Getting a high-quality education for deaf children

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

In my own education and in others, I often come across the phrase “he’s coping well”. I hate the phrase. I hate it because it seems to suggest a lower set of expectations for deaf children is perfectly OK and even something to aspire to. Deaf children should not just be coping. They should be thriving, reaching for the top and being the best they can be.

As much as I would like them to, I doubt I can get the next Government to ban the word ‘coping’. But there are still a lot of other things they can do to make sure that deaf children can thrive in education and get the support they need.

Brian has already blogged about the need for the next Government to protect funding for education services for deaf children. We also want the next Government to make sure deaf children have access to a high-quality education. Two things they can do to help achieve this in England are:

  1. Get Ofsted to specifically inspect the quality of education services for deaf children. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have already begun a time-limited inspection programme of local area special educational needs support in England, something we long campaigned for. However, these inspections are looking at all children with special educational needs in a very general sense. Services for deaf children are still receiving very little scrutiny as part of this.

We think this is wrong – why should parents of deaf children get less information than other parents about the quality of support their child is receiving? We also think that local authorities would focus more on making sure deaf children get a good education if they thought Ofsted might rap them over the knuckles if they didn’t. 

  1. Set up a new bursary scheme to recruit Teachers of the Deaf to address the recruitment difficulties experienced in a number of areas. A report earlier this year found that there had been a 12% decline in the number of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in England since 2010. In other words, 1 in 10 Teachers of the Deaf have disappeared in the last 7 years. Separately, we also know that around half of all existing Teachers of the Deaf are expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. Unless action is taken to address this staffing crisis, future deaf children are going to risk having to go to schools that haven’t had any expert advice from Teachers of the Deaf or not getting the specialist attention they need.

If you think deaf children need higher quality support, make sure that candidates standing for election know how important this is to you, and ask them to commit to take action if they are elected. Our website has more information about how you can get involved in the election to make deaf children matter.

Election 2017: Education funding and deaf children

Brian_Gale

Brian Gale, Director, Policy and Campaigns

One of the big election hot potatoes is around education funding, with many parents concerned about possible cuts to the money schools get.

But it’s not just schools that are experiencing challenges – services for deaf children and other children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are also under pressure.

It’s true that the Government have protected, and provided some additional SEND funding. But it’s also clear in many areas that this isn’t enough. Too many local authorities have, or are planning to, cut the vital services upon which deaf children rely.

There are various reasons why the government’s ‘protection’ isn’t enough.

  • It doesn’t take into account inflation or increases in wages and pension contributions, so will still constitute a cut for many local authorities in real terms.
  • It also fails to take into account the fact that the number of children and young people with SEND are rising across the board, including deaf children.
  • More children are being placed in special or residential schools, which will be more expensive to the local authority. There’s been a 19% increase in special school places in the last 5 years.
  • New legal duties and policies means that services are expected to do more to ensure more childcare is available for young children and to support deaf young people over 16. Whilst there are positive intentions behind these changes, the extra funding provided has not been enough to meet their ambitions.

To fund the shortfall during the past 3 years, over 75% of local authorities have had to take more than £300million from school budgets to try to meet their legal obligations to children with SEND. Even that has not been sufficient to stop some children with SEND experiencing cuts to the support they receive.

More worrying is a proposal by the Government to stop local authorities using school budgets to meet the needs of an increasing number of disabled children requiring support. This could leave families facing the prospect of cuts to the support their disabled children receive.

We’ve been monitoring and challenging reductions to spending on deaf children’s education across England for the last seven years as part of our Stolen Futures campaign. Many of the parents we work with will be seeking reassurance that the next Government will do more to protect these vital services.

One way the Government could do this is by putting specialist education support services for children and young people with SEND, such as Teachers of the Deaf, onto a statutory footing. This would mean that local authorities would in future have a legal duty to ensure sufficient specialist support is provided. We think that putting these services on a statutory footing will protect them from funding cuts and help make sure that deaf children get the support they need to get a good education.

Do you agree? If so, ask the people standing for election in your area what they will do to protect services for deaf children if they get elected. Will they commit to support a new legal duty on local authorities to provide specialist education services for children and young people with SEND?

Find out more about our election work on our website.