Scottish Election 2016: Employment and welfare

Katie-Rafferty-cropped

Katie Rafferty, Policy & Campaigns Manager, Scotland , National Deaf Children’s Society

The future of jobs and welfare in Scotland has taken centre stage in many of the debates ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Parliament election. How does each of the main parties plan to improve the experience of deaf young people in these two vital areas?

The Scottish Conservative party

  • Commit to halving the disability employment gap and say that the welfare system should support the most vulnerable.
  • They also say we should consider whether Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments should be managed more locally.

The Scottish Green party

  • Recognise that too many people are marginalised in the labour market, including disabled. They also support the devolution and expansion of the Access to Work scheme.
  • They recognise the move from DLA to PIP has disadvantaged thousands of disabled people and they will push for all PIP claims to be granted initially to avoid delays in accessing support.
  • Further information is available on how they believe Scotland can ensure equal opportunities for disabled people.

The Scottish Labour party

  • Commit to supporting those furthest from the labour market, such as disabled people, to get work through being provided with the specialist support they need.
  • They support the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering 30,000 apprenticeships and increasing the number of disabled trainees. In addition, they commit to every part of government offering internships, with places guaranteed for those who are disabled.
  • They also want to create a new agency, Skills Scotland, to deliver inclusive skills training.
  • More information is available in their Disability Manifesto 2016.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Commit to increasing the number of those with disabilities in Modern Apprenticeships.
  • They make no specific commitments with regards to DLA/PIP but more generally to a fairer welfare system.

The Scottish National Party

  • Commits to maintaining the level of disability benefits and making assessment processes fairer.
  • They have pledged to deliver 30 000 apprenticeships, and ensure these are open to all by increasing uptake by disabled people.
  • They believe the DWP’s Work Programme has failed unemployed and disabled people and commit to investing a further £20 million a year into services for those with significant barriers to the labour market.
  • More information is available on what they’ll do for disabled people.

So far over 2700 emails have been sent to local candidates reminding them about the needs of deaf children. Take action today by contacting your future MSPs and help us reach every candidate in Scotland.

Email your candidates

Scottish Election 2016: what do the main parties offer deaf children and their families?

Katie-Rafferty-cropped

Katie Rafferty, Policy & Campaigns Manager, Scotland , National Deaf Children’s Society

With less than a week to go until voting takes place on 5 May, we read the five main political parties’ manifestos, and looked at what they offer in relation to education support. What promises will impact on deaf children and their families? Here we provide a brief education round-up.

How will each party ensure every child gets the support they need to reach their full potential at school?

Most of the parties have a strong focus on closing the education attainment gap in the next term of Scottish Parliament. Below we have set out how each party plans to improve education.

Scottish Conservatives Party

  • Commit to additional funding to follow individual pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN).
  • They also commit to reversing the Named Person legislation and instead setting up a Crisis Family Fund to support vulnerable children.

Scottish Green Party

  • Commit to reducing class sizes as well as protecting ASN teacher posts in recognition of their role in closing the attainment gap for children from different backgrounds.
  • They are against further testing with a focus instead on teacher/pupil ratios.

Scottish Labour Party

  • Will establish a Fair Start Fund, funded through the re-introduction of the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000.
  • This fund will go towards closing the attainment gap as well as generally making sure vulnerable children get the support they need.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Will introduce a 1p increase in income tax to reverse cuts in education and provide greater support.
  • They also propose the introduction of a pupil premium which would attach funding to individual pupils.

Scottish National Party

  • Commit to maintaining teacher numbers and allocating funds directly to Head teachers to allow them to invest resources in ways they consider will have the biggest impact on attainment.
  • They will implement the new National Improvement Framework which they hope will drive up standards for all and help close the attainment gap for pupils from the most and least affluent backgrounds.
  • The SNP is the only party to include a specific commitment to delivering Family Sign Language courses, to help hearing parents communicate with their deaf child.

So far over 2500 emails have been sent to local candidates reminding them about the needs of deaf children. Take action today by contacting your future MSPs and help us reach every candidate in Scotland.

Email your candidates

 

Deaf young people to shape the future of BSL in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

A new Youth National Advisory Group (YNAG) is being set up in Scotland following the successful passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act in October 2015.

The group will be made up of deaf young people who have BSL as their first or preferred language and who are passionate about the future of the language in Scotland.

NDCS, working in partnership with Deaf Action, will help organise and deliver the YNAG. It will offer young people a unique chance to develop new skills and have their views about BSL heard.

The YNAG will explore the issues that matter most to young people and together they will vote for two “champions” to represent the views of deaf young people on the main National Advisory Group. This means that young people will have an equal opportunity to advise Scottish Government and public bodies alongside parents, adults and Deafblind people.

To get involved in the group come along to the Information Day being held at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh on 20 February between 10am and 3pm. Email anne-marie@ndcs.org.uk to register a place. The event is free to attend and travel expenses will be paid.

Watch the FAQ video in BSL below:

YNAG pic

Join Scotland’s first British Sign Language National Advisory Group

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

After years of campaigning, the passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015) in September 2015 was a landmark moment in Deaf history in Scotland. As a result of the Act the Scottish Government and public bodies like the NHS are now required to develop British Sign Language (BSL) plans which outline how they will promote and raise awareness of the language.

The Act also requires a National Advisory Group (NAG) to be set up to represent the views of people with BSL as their first or preferred language. The NAG will have the important job of advising the Scottish Government and public bodies on what should be in their plans.

Here’s the top 6 things to know:

  1. Two spaces are reserved on the NAG for families of deaf child who have BSL as their first or preferred language, one of these spaces is for a hearing parent or carer;
  1. Two spaces are also reserved on the NAG for deaf young people aged 10 to 17 (or up to 20 if they have experience of care). However young people will follow a separate application process because a Youth NAG is also going to be set up. Information about this will launch in January;
  1. You do not need to have formal experience of advisory groups to get involved in the NAG, your life experience and ability to represent the views of others in similar circumstances to your own is what counts;
  1. You can submit your application in BSL or English. NDCS (or any other Deaf Sector Partnership organisation) can help you with your application, get in touch with Anne-marie@ndcs.org.uk with any questions;
  1. You can find the application and information pack on the Deaf Sector Partnership website – with full BSL versions. There is also lots of information on Facebook, search for the ‘British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015)’ group to join the discussion;
  1. The deadline for applications to the main NAG is 28 January 2016.

Closing the gap in Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Last year NDCS published the Close the Gap report which highlighted the unacceptable education attainment gap which exists for deaf young people in Scotland. Data published in 2014 showed that almost 10% of deaf school leavers had no qualifications compared with just 1% of pupils with no Additional Support Needs. With the right support deaf young people can achieve just as much as their hearing peers. There is no reason why such a shocking statistic should be the reality facing as many as 3850 deaf children and young people in Scotland today.

A year on from our report’s publication the Scottish Parliament announced an Inquiry into the attainment of pupils with a sensory impairment. This marks real progress and commitment from Scottish Parliament and Government towards closing the education gap for every child.

The Inquiry was solutions-focused and asked: what action can be taken to close the education attainment gap for sensory impaired pupils? Here are our views on what were the most important recommendations highlighted by the Inquiry:

1. Address the challenges affecting the specialist workforce for deaf learners including the consistency of qualifications Teachers of the Deaf have and their ageing profile.
2. Improve early intervention and support in the early years and establish Scottish Government early years standards that can inform care pathways and provision following newborn hearing screening diagnosis.
3. Improve data about deaf children so that local authorities can plan the services they need more effectively.
4. Ensure school buildings are meeting high quality acoustics standards – benefitting all learners, not just those are deaf.
5. Explore how we can use new technology to better support deaf learners, and in some cases centralise learning to offer deaf young people more opportunities and higher quality supports.
6. Support the confidence and resilience of deaf young people to help them prepare to succeed in whatever they do when they leave school.

The Education and Culture Committee are due to publish their Inquiry report in September, and NDCS will be responding to its recommendations then. Watch this space.

For more info contact: campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk

Update! Scottish Parliament debate

Lois Drake

Louis Drake- Policy & Campaigns Assistant

Background:

Last week a debate took place in the Scottish Parliament on Educational Disadvantage and Deaf Children in Scotland, following the submission of a motion by Kenneth Gibson MSP. The motion was supported by 33 MSPs and was debated on 11 December 2014 with 16 MSPs attending.

You can watch the full debate here and read the official report here.

Key themes:

• MSPs congratulated the National Deaf Children’s Society on the work we do to support deaf children and their families and our campaigns to break down barriers experienced by this group.

• It was highlighted that all levels of hearing loss can affect educational attainment (Kenneth Gibson MSP & Liam McArthur), with those having mild hearing impairments consistently scoring under average too.

• The stigma around how we think about young deaf people was discussed with it being reiterated by a number of MSPs that deafness is not a learning disability and that “we have to get away from the perception that deaf children are different. They are not.” (Dennis Robertson MSP).

• Attention was drawn to the lack of qualified teachers of the deaf (ToDs) with it being highlighted that 1/3 of ToDs are underqualified. It was proposed by one MSP that there should be laws in place regarding the minimum level of qualifications of ToDs, with a suggested minimum Level 3 BSL qualification as there is concern the current Level 2 requirement might not be sufficiently advanced. The 6% decrease in numbers of ToDs over the last 3 years was highlighted and ½ of the workforce being due to retire in the next 10 – 15 years described at a potential ‘recruitment nightmare’ (Jayne Baxter MSP). The Minister was also asked to address the problem in regulation and monitoring of ToDs.

• Jenny Marra MSP probed the Minister on this point and asked whether he will put targets in place in order to move steadily towards more teachers being appropriately qualified.

• Lack of national data on numbers of deaf children in Scotland was addressed and that there needs to be accurate and relevant data in place in order to develop good policy (Kenneth Gibson MSP).

• Lack of statutory acoustics guidance was addressed with there being no standards in Scotland and a need to improve school acoustics (Liam McArthur MSP).

• The importance of early years and families was highlighted with a need to look beyond school and think about support families need to provide rich supportive home environments (Dennis Robertson MSP).

• In his closing speech the Minister accepted that an attainment gap exists for young deaf learners which needs to be closed by working together to develop an education system that unlocks the potential of all young people, including those with a hearing impairment. He also accepted that families need the skills to promote the development of language in the early years with the Curriculum for Excellence supporting personalisation. It was accepted that work needs to be done to improve the qualifications of teachers working with deaf children. The debate concluded with the Minister announcing the Scottish Government will be supporting the passage and principles of the BSL Bill.

NDCS view on the debate:

This was a successful debate which highlighted some of the most important issues affecting the education of deaf children. We were really pleased to have MSPs raise crucial issues around early years support, qualifications of teachers, acoustics regulations, as well as the need to promote better deaf awareness and inclusion generally in our schools and communities.

It is positive that the Minister has reiterated that he accepts an attainment gap exists for deaf learners and reaffirmed his commitment to working to close this. We are meeting with the Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages in January and will pick up on these points. Our recommendation remains that Education Scotland carries out an Aspect Review into education provision for deaf learners. We are also pleased to see the Education Committee’s interest in deaf education through both the BSL Bill and its work programme around the attainment gap – we are keen to support this work in any way we can.

For further information contact:

Katie.rafferty@ndcs.org.uk
0141 354 7852

What will happen if Scotland votes No

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

When the Edinburgh Agreement was signed back in 2012 it set the legal precedent for a Scottish Independence Referendum, and set in motion a huge fervour of activity among politicians, civil servants, economists, academics, journalists and civil society – all grappling with the notion of Scottish independence. Huge amounts of time and resources have been invested into developing (and rebuffing) proposals of what independence would look like, what it would mean for Scots, and for the rest of the UK.

But with 30 days to go, polls are persistently indicating that on 18 September Scotland will choose to remain part of the UK. What will happen next if Scotland votes no? This seems to be a crucial, but somewhat ignored question in the debate.

A no vote still presents important opportunities for Scotland and the rest of the UK. Is devo-max, devo-plus or devo-something-else the future for Scotland? We have a Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies: could the future of the UK be a federal state with a new English Parliament? Unfortunately these possibilities have been explored no where nearly enough and questions about what happens if Scotland votes no have been sidelined.

So what do we know about what will happen if Scotland votes no?

1)   Scotland will continue to be governed as it is now. 129 MSPs will continue to exercise their devolved powers at Scottish Parliament in areas such as education, health and social services, housing, local government and the environment. 59 Scottish MPs will continue to exercise their reserved powers at Westminster in areas such as benefits and social security, employment, defence, foreign policy and immigration

2)   The balance of these powers will gradually shift, with more being devolved to Scottish Parliament. We already know that the Scotland Act (2012) is a new piece of legislation which will be implemented from 2016 onwards. This will give the Scottish Parliament a new set of financial powers including a new Scottish rate of income tax and borrowing powers. However the Scottish Government says the Act falls short of full devolved powers.

3)   More powers in tax and social security will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a no vote. This is according to a recent joint declaration signed by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. However Alex Salmond has dismissed the declaration as a “rehash of the same vague promises”.

4)   The detail of each party’s vision for the constitutional future of Scotland will be outlined in their manifestos and put before the people of the UK to choose from at the next general election in May 2015.

5)   Scottish Labour however has already outlined their “positive economical, constitutional and social alternative” to independence in Scotland in the Together we can document. If Scotland votes no and a Labour government is elected they promise a fundamental review of the NHS in Scotland and reforms to childcare with a view to developing a system to rival the best in the world. This would initially provide 25 hours of childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds, and 15 hours a week for half of all 2 year olds.

6)   There is no arrangement for another referendum on independence. The Edinburgh Agreement only makes provision for a referendum to be held by the end of 2014, and it is the view of the Scottish Government that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

7)   From polling data it seems that even if there is a relatively big win for the No vote, there will still be over 1 million people in Scotland who have voted to leave the UK. This will set a demanding precedent for the SNP to be included in future discussions about Scotland’s constitutional future. It will also require a compelling vision from this Scottish Government and the next to ensure we move forward as a country in a unified way.

8)   As mentioned in the last blog, many vital services for deaf children and their families are already devolved to Scottish Government and so much will remain unchanged if we vote to remain in the UK. Our schools, colleges, hospitals, audiology services and social services are designed and delivered locally and a no vote will not change that.