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.


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.







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

5 articles the Campaigns Team has been reading this week

NDCS - Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager, Freedom of Information

Liz Partridge, Campaigns Manager

Every week we’ll be compiling a short list of articles that we’ve noticed in the news and want to share with you. Some of them will be about campaigning and others will be about changes to policy, or relevant policy areas, which may be of interest.

1)    Teachers in England work longer hours than the rest of the world – but not in the classroomRichard Garner, Independent

A major international study by the OECD has revealed that teachers in England work on average 46 hours a week, but only 20 of those are spent in the classroom.

2)    Think-tank highlights ‘staggering’ failings in support for vulnerable children, Derren Hayes, CYP Now

The Centre for Social Justice has claimed that local authorities are carrying out “unscrupulous and illegal” practices to restrict the support they provide to vulnerable children in need of social care and mental health services.

3)    Scottish independence: Plans announced for Scotland’s ‘biggest ever debate’, BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland is to host the biggest televised debate the country has ever seen in the week before the independence referendum. Up to 12,000 first time voters from across Scotland are expected to be in attendance.

4)   Good grammar: r ur children txt mad?, Tom Payne, Telegraph

Fear not! Researchers have discovered that the shorthand that children use on their mobile phones, along with those mistakes that may or may not be deliberate, isn’t harming the way they write.

5)    Cameron apologises over Andy Coulson appointment, BBC News

Following Tuesday’s verdict, Prime Minister David Cameron has apologised for employing Andy Coulson as his director of communications.

Have you seen any articles this week that you liked? Post the link to them in the comments section below and we’ll check them out!

10 things GPs in Wales should do for deaf patients


Elin Wyn, Policy and Campaigns Officer for Wales

Did you know that deaf people in Wales have certain rights when they go to see their doctor?

The NHS in Wales has published a set of Standards on Accessible Communication and Information for People with Sensory Loss. These standards tell GPs and hospitals what they should be doing to make sure deaf people hear and understand everything they need to know about their healthcare needs. This should make it easier for deaf young people to become more independent when they visit the GP. And to make life easier for you here are 10 things GPs in Wales SHOULD be doing to help deaf patients:

1)   Asking patients what communication needs they have.

2)   Setting up a flagging system to record that information on the patient’s paper or computer record.

3)   Checking that the environment encourages effective communication – e.g. checking lighting and background noise

4)   If a patient is referred from the GP to a hospital the GP should also transfer information about their communication needs.

5)   Patients should be able to make appointments in different ways e.g. by email, texting, textphones and websites.

6)   The GP reception and consulting rooms should be fitted with a hearing loop and staff should know how to check they are working.

7)   Reception staff should have arrangements in place to make sure deaf people don’t miss their appointment.

8)   Every patient who needs communication support should have it – and it’s the GP practice that should arrange this and that pays for this support.

9)   All staff should be trained in how to communicate effectively with deaf people

10)   The GP practice should promote the different forms of communication that are available to deaf patients.

These standards are a part of your rights as a deaf young person in Wales. If your GP doesn’t do these things you can complain to the Local Health Board that your GP practice is not sticking to the Standards on Accessible Communication.

For advice for deaf young people on visiting the GP independently have a look at our “My life my health” resources.

5 articles the Campaigns Team has been reading this week

Alex Chitty, Campaigns Assistant at NDCS - Stolen Futures

Alex Chitty, Campaigns Assistant

Every week we’ll be compiling a short list of articles that we’ve noticed in the news and want to share with you. Some of them will be about campaigning and others will be about changes to policy, or relevant policy areas, which may be of interest.

1)    A day in the life of … a deaf children’s family officer, Emma Williams-Daly, Guardian
Emma Williams-Daly, Family Officer at NDCS offers impartial information, advocacy and support to families of deaf children and young people.

2)    Truss: Pupils in poor mental health ‘not troublemakers’, Judith Burns, BBC News
Too many young people with unmet mental health needs are unfairly labelled as troublemakers, says the Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss. The Department for Education has launched guidance to help schools in England spot mental health issues.

3)    The Perfect Storm, Brian Lamb, Campaign Central
Drawing on Oxfam’s recent ‘The Perfect Storm’ campaign, Brian discusses the importance of distinguishing between what is political and what is party political in campaigning. He maintains that the third sector must not allow their contribution to debates concerning the impact of government policies on the groups charities represent to be framed as being an unacceptable activity.

4)    Deprivation Britain: Poverty is getting worse – even among working families, Chris Green, Independent
A recent study shows that the number of impoverished households has more than doubled in the 30 years since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

5)    10 things we’d like to say to teachers, Anonymous, Guardian
Following on from an article we featured last week, parents add their two cents.

Have you spotted any good articles around this week? Leave a comment below to share them with us!

Our audiology survey is launched!

Danni Manzi, Danni Manzi, Deputy Director of Policy and Campaigns NDCS

Danni Manzi, Deputy Director of Policy and Campaigns

Making sure that all deaf children have access to good audiology services is a key priority for the National Deaf Children’s Society.

We want to assess the picture across the UK so yesterday we launched an online survey asking parents of deaf children in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland for their views and experience.

High quality audiology services are absolutely vital for the long term health and wellbeing of deaf children and young people. Good audiology services unlock educational and developmental opportunities that are otherwise denied to the deaf child. At a time when only 43% of deaf children are achieving five good GCSEs (compared to 70% of children with no identified SEN), we must ensure that early and effective diagnosis and intervention is ofJack Riley with hearing aids the highest and most consistent quality.

To help us out and to share your experiences please take no more than 10 minutes to complete our survey. The information you share will help us to get a better picture of what is happening across the UK and enable us to concentrate our efforts in the areas that most need attention. Sharing your story really does matter.

Thank you.

5 articles the Campaigns Team has been reading this week

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

Jonathan Barnes, Campaigns Assistant

Every week we’ll be compiling a short list of articles that we’ve noticed in the news and want to share with you. Some of them will be about campaigning and others will be about changes to policy, or relevant policy areas, which may be of interest.

1)   The Beckhams learn sign language, Orange News

Victoria Beckham and her husband David are learning sign language with their children so they can communicate with a deaf friend. The stars and their three boys, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, have all been receiving tuition – but Victoria admits their youngest son has been using the regular sessions to learn a number of cheeky expressions.

2)  Shock over plan to cut free NHS hearing aids: Thousands could be denied device under cost-cutting plans, Victoria Fletcher, Daily Mail

Thousands of people who struggle to hear properly could be denied NHS hearing aids under ‘shocking’ cost-cutting plans being considered by health bosses. Under the new proposals, those classed as ‘hard-of-hearing’ would have to wait until they had ‘severe’ hearing loss to qualify for the devices.

3)   ‘Disconnect’ in parents’ careers advice and jobs market, Pippa Stevens, BBC News

There is a “disturbing disconnect” between parents’ traditional careers advice to their children and the needs of the jobs market, research says. One in 10 of 2,000 parents said they would “actively discourage” their kids from digital jobs such as coding.

4)   How my son benefited from accessing his education with skilled sign language support, Limping Chicken

Anonymous post from a parent talking about the importance of the correct support for deaf children in the classroom. It does, however, mention the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign, so definitely worth a read!

5)   10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can’t, The Guardian

An anonymous teacher writes about what he/she would say to parents if he/she could. Fairly self-explanatory.

Have you seen any articles this week that you liked? Post the link to them in the comments section below and we’ll check them out!

10 questions parents ask NDCS about audiology services

Vicki Kirwin Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

Vicki Kirwin, Development Manager (Audiology and Health)

1)    How often should my child be seen by an audiologist?

When children are very young or have complex needs appointments may be as frequently as every three months. As children get older the number of visits will gradually decrease until school age when they should be seen at least once a year. Children who wear hearing aids should be offered regular routine appointments so that their hearing and ears can be checked, hearing aids adjusted if necessary and their progress with the hearing aids monitored.

2)    Help! My child’s hearing aid isn’t working. What can I do?

It might be something very simple that you can fix yourself. Grab your child’s hearing aid care kit and watch this video to help you find the problem. If it still isn’t working contact your child’s audiologist as soon as possible. Faulty hearing aids should be replaced within two days of you notifying audiology of a problem.

3)    Arghhhhh, this whistling is driving me mad! What can I do?

The most common reason for whistling in children’s hearing aids is because they have started to grow out of their earmoulds allowing sound to escape through the gap around the edges of the mould. When this happens children need to have impressions taken for new earmoulds. This video also gives some suggestions on managing feedback.

4)    Can my child choose the colour of their hearing aids?

Yes! NHS hearing aids are available in a range of hair colours that can be used with clear earmoulds to blend in as much as possible or in a range of bright colours to match their favourite colour. Earmoulds are also available in clear with glitter or with pictures or logos inside them. You can also decorate your child’s hearing aids .

5)    I’ve run out of batteries, what should I do?

The NHS will provide a supply of batteries free of charge for your child’s hearing aids or cochlear implant. You may also be able to get replacement batteries from your local health centre or GP surgery, Teacher of the Deaf, or audiology clinic. In an emergency it is possible to purchase batteries for hearing aids from most high street chemists and hearing aid dispensers.

6)    My child has lost their hearing aids, will I have to pay for them?

The NHS provides all hearing aid equipment on a permanent loan basis and it always remains the property of the NHS. The NHS may charge people for the loss or breakage of hearing aids but there are guidelines they have to follow and some people are exempt from charges. For more information on possible charges and insuring NHS equipment either download the NDCS policy on lost hearing equipment and insurance or contact us.

7)    Can I get help with travel costs to the hospital?

You may be entitled to help with your travel costs through the ‘Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme’ (HTCS) if you are under the care of a consultant and receive either Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, are named on a NHS tax exemption certificate or qualify under the NHS low-income scheme. Further information is available here.

8)    When will my child transfer to the adult audiology service?

Some services specify an age to transfer, usually between 16 and 21. Your family should be involved in the decision on when the right time is for them to transfer. You should be offered an appointment with the adult service before the paediatric service discharges you from their care so that you have time to ask any questions or raise any concerns beforehand. Information for young people about moving on to adult services can be found on The Buzz website.

9)    Can I give my opinions or get involved in service improvement?

Yes. All hospital departments have a suggestion box and audiology services will also routinely ask for feedback to find out if their service users are happy with the service provided. Some services also arrange events for children and young people to ask their opinions face-to-face. Most services have a local Children’s Hearing Service Working Group (CHSWG) or similar group and you can get involved in this to give your opinions on the service

10) What can I do if I am unhappy with my audiology service?

The first step should be to speak to your Lead Clinician, Keyworker or the Head of Service and explain your concerns to them. If your concern is a general one or you have suggestions for ways to improve the service provided you could also contact your local Children’s Hearing Service Working Group (CHSWG).

If you want to make a complaint you can contact the hospital PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) who can discuss the situation with the department for you. Every Hospital Trust has a complaints procedure that is available in waiting areas, from their website or you can request it from them directly. Trusts are obliged to reply to you in writing within a specified time. For information on the NHS complaints procedure click here.

You can read more about what you can expect from your child’s audiology service here.

If you have concerns or are having difficulties accessing your audiology service, contact our Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 or email them at helpline@ndcs.org.uk