Lottery Injection For Scotland’s Deaf Children and Young People

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children's Society

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

Hundreds of deaf children and young people across Scotland will be able to play a fuller role within their families and communities, thanks to a huge £445,202 cash injection of Lottery funding.

The Big Lottery Fund have announced 60 new grants across Scotland totalling £17 million.

The National Deaf Children’s Society will use its £445,202 award for its Scotland wide ‘Everyone Together for Deaf Children’ project, which will offer advice and training to professionals working in the field and will develop the skills and confidence of over 350 children up to the age of eight, and their families.

The project will help to support children like 2 year old Halle Rawlinson from Falkirk who has cochlear implants and uses both sign and speech. Halle’s Mum, Alyson, attended a Family Sign Language (FSL) course through the National Deaf Children’s Society in 2014.

Alyson said:  “Halle was born profoundly deaf, with no immediate prospect of being eligible for implants. So when she was really little we felt a bit at a loss as to what to do to communicate with her and stimulate her development longer term. We had bought some baby sign books which were useful, but limiting as there were often just signs for specific words and objects. We looked into signing courses but there seemed aimed at people wanting to talk to deaf adults or people to become interpreters. Nothing was aimed at hearing parents of under-fives to help us understand how best to communicate with our daughter. It felt as though I was not expected to have to make any adjustments for her deafness.”

Heather Gray, National Deaf Children’s Society Director (Scotland and Northern Ireland) said: “This innovative new project will mark a step change in the early years support available for deaf children and their families in Scotland. The funding will allow us to use an early intervention approach to address the unique barriers deafness can create at a vital point in a child’s life.

“By supporting deaf children, empowering their families and training the professionals that work with them, it will help give deaf children the best start in life. Following the historic passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act (2015), the launch of this project is another fantastic example of how Scotland is leading the way in taking steps to empower the deaf community and help deaf children and young people access their rights.”

Getting to know GIRFEC in BSL

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Getting It Right For Every Child (aka GIRFEC) is the Scottish Government’s approach to making Scotland the best place to grow up for all children and young people. But what does this mean?

To help explain, the ALLIANCE have created five new films on GIRFEC and what this means for children and young people in Scotland. What’s more, the videos are aimed at being as accessible to as many people as possible and are in British Sign Language.

We attended the launch event for the films on 4 November along with other third sector organisations, children, parents and professionals. Speaking at the event was the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, who highlighted that “the Scottish Government is committed to equality for disabled and deaf children in Scotland.”

It is hoped the films will raise awareness and understanding of GIRFEC for children and young people and their families/carers who use BSL. This is especially important because GIRFEC is due to become law in August 2016 through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

All of the films are available on the Alliance website here, or directly from YouTube here.

To find out more contact: campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk.

Date set for final vote on the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

We are excited to announce that the Stage 3 debate and final vote by MSPs on whether to pass the Bill is due to take place in the Scottish Parliament on 17 September. With the Bill on course to become law, here we provide a quick overview.

The Bill aims to raise awareness of BSL and improve access to services for those using the language. It does this by requiring the Scottish Government and other local bodies to publish and implement their own plans on how they will promote the use of the language. It can therefore be considered as an enabling framework to public authorities for the promotion of BSL within their services. The Bill does not outline specific provision authorities must provide. It does, however, set out principles which listed authorities must have regard to. These principles will be contained in the National Plan.

It is our recommendation that the National Plan has a strong focus on child-centred provision and early-intervention, to ensure deaf children are given the best start in life and are supported to reach their full potential. In particular, we recommend that the National Plan addresses:

  1. Closing the education attainment gap experienced by deaf learners;
  2. Minimum levels of qualification in BSL for education practitioners; to ensure deaf learners are supported by Communication Support Workers who are able to accurately interpret what the teacher is saying;
  3. BSL becoming an accredited school qualification and having the same status as other languages;
  4. Improving the availability of Family Sign Language and other family support;
  5. Ensuring aspirations of the Bill are appropriately resourced.

NDCS welcomes the Bill and believes that it could act as a critical step in strengthening the position of the language in Scotland. If passed, the Bill has the potential to support more deaf children and their families to access their right to the support they need.

Action: Does your MSP support the Bill? Email your MSPs and ask them to vote in favour of passing the Bill.

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

Welfare Reform in Scotland: Personal Independence Payments

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

The Welfare Reform Committee at Scottish Parliament is looking for views and experiences of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP). They want to firstly, gain a better understanding about how the new welfare system is affecting people in Scotland. Secondly, they want to use this understanding to inform new social security systems that may be developed in Scotland following further devolution of welfare powers in 2017.

You may be aware of our concerns around the application and assessment processes for deaf young people and PIP which we raised in a previous blog. For example:-

  • There is an expectation for applicants to use the phone when requesting a PIP application form;
  • We have had reports of a lack of deaf awareness at assessment meetings; and
  • We know of deaf young people who have not been granted PIP then had the decision reversed after legal action

Have your say!

What’s your experience of the PIP process? The Committee are looking for individual views and experiences, whether you are a new applicant or changing from DLA to PIP. They are keen to learn about any aspect of your experience of PIP including:-

  • The PIP claim form and the PIP assessment process – including where your assessment took place;
  • The decision made on your PIP claim and payment of PIP.

Why not email your story to the Committee at welfarereform-yoursay@scottish.parliament.uk.

Alternatively, you can share your experiences with us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk.

NDCS will also be submitting a written response to the Committee’s call for evidence which closes on 28 August.  We are hoping to bring together a focus group for young deaf people to share their views and experiences of DLA and PIP to inform our response. If you would like to be part of this group email us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk.

You can also take action and email the UK Government Disability Minister, Justin Tomlinson and ask him to ensure the PIP claim process is accessible to all deaf young people.

We will keep you updated in further blog posts so watch this space!

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