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.

Cast a spell on the inspectors…

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Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

With the evenings darkening as winter creeps in, the inspectors aren’t wasting any time. Round two of the Ofsted and CQC inspections into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has kicked off faster than a Boxing Day sale (yes, the shops already have their Christmas stock in). Feeling the need for speed, the inspectors have visited five local areas in the first month.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Herefordshire, Bexley, Hartlepool, Plymouth or Surrey, you’ve already had a visit. We’re curious to know if you had any idea the inspections were taking place? Did you get involved? Give your feedback here.

Cast your spell

 If your area hasn’t been visited yet, you still have the chance to talk to inspectors about the support you get locally. All towns and cities will be inspected within the next five years, so don’t miss your opportunity to cast a spell. To find out more about what you need to do, check out The Buzz if you’re under 18 or have a look at our website.

 Trick or Treat

Reports from the first set of inspections were released over the summer holidays. Initially, in our view, the reports consisted of broad, general statements about SEND services across education, health and social care. Only four out of the seven reports released gave any specific mention of deafness, and even then, these were rarely detailed references to services.

That said, there are certainly some treats in these reports; they are the first ever focused reports into SEND services at a local level. In some reports, the inspectors have demonstrated they are listening to parents of deaf children and flagging up their concerns. Ofsted and the CQC are also making efforts to alert people to the fact these inspections are taking place on social media.

With Halloween fast approaching and reports soon to be released, it’s worth asking the question – will this next set of reports hold more tricks or treats for deaf children and young people?

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5 days to save the world! Ofsted and CQC inspections.

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Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

After a long period of waiting, the moment has finally arrived. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have begun inspecting special educational needs services across England.

It was all hands on deck last week when notice of two inspections landed in our inboxes. If you are lucky enough to live in Bolton or Brighton and Hove, you may have been aware that deaf young people and parents in that area have been asked to contribute. For the first two inspections, the method of choice has been online webinars. A webinar is an online meeting anyone can join where the lead inspector will give an overview of why these inspections are taking place and ask a series of questions about how children’s needs are being met and identified in that area.

When notice hits you have five days to take action. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to feedback about services for deaf children and young people in your area. In my opinion, this is your five days to save the world. Your feedback could be crucial at highlighting failings in local services. It could put pressure on local authorities and health services to bring about the changes needed to improve support for deaf children and young people.

We still have our reservations about the process and accessibility but we’ll be working with Ofsted over the coming weeks to ensure that these inspections are as open and effective as possible.

So when that email lands in your inbox, please attend the webinar or ask the lead contact at your local council to pass on your feedback to the lead inspector. You can contact us if you like but please, please take action. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be a hero?!

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Click here for more information on the Inspect the Uninspected campaign or if you discover an inspection in your area, you can tell us about it here.