Getting the right advice

Martin-Mclean-cropped

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

When I was a boy what I wanted to be when I was older changed regularly – I wanted to be a teacher, then a weather man and then a journalist and then it was a solicitor. As I grew older and had to seriously consider my options at GCSE followed by A-levels, the doubts crept in – would these jobs be suitable for me? Would the communication barrier be too great? ‘Focus on what you are good at’ I was told and I settled on the biological sciences in the end, following in my parents’ footsteps. Working in laboratory should be ok for a deaf person – there will be opportunities there, I thought to myself.

I was right – there were opportunities. After graduating in Genetics, I worked in a lab for a few months but I soon realised that this type of work was not for me. It was not because I was deaf – I know a few deaf scientists and they love their work. I just felt I had not followed my passions and had settled for the safe option.

It was in 1995 that I took my GCSEs and it was only in that year that disability discrimination laws were introduced. Access to Work, a Government scheme which can cover the costs of communication support in employment, was launched at the same time. I did not know anything about Access to Work or about my rights in employment until much later but I wish I had. I might then have had the courage to follow my passions. This is why I believe good careers advice does matter. Sadly, our research tells us too many young people are not getting this.

Last week, the Government launched a careers strategy which aims to make sure young people receive better careers advice in schools and colleges in England. Refreshingly, for a Government policy document, the needs of young people with disabilities were considered at several points within the strategy. The highlights in relation to deaf young people are:

  • Schools and colleges will be expected to use the Gatsby Benchmarks to improve careers provision. One these benchmarks is ‘addressing the needs of each pupil’ – particularly important for deaf young people.
  • Every school or college will have a Careers Leader who will be expected to prioritise careers support for ‘disadvantaged’ young people including young people with disabilities.
  • 20 Careers Hubs will be set up across England that will be focused on groups of young people ‘most in need of targeted support.’
  • The Careers and Enterprise Company and the Gatsby Foundation will work together to set out good practice in supporting young people with disabilities.

The strategy has the potential to make a difference. Unfortunately, it is not backed by much in the way of extra funding which may limit the ability of the new Careers Hubs and Careers Leaders to reach out to significant numbers of young people. Still, it is better than nothing.

The Careers Strategy only applies to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own careers policies and we know there are issues in those countries too. Wherever, you live we expect deaf young people to be getting tailored advice.

If you live or work with deaf young people, you too can play your part. Our website has videos aimed at young people thinking about their futures that you can signpost to. We are also looking at how we can further develop our resources around careers so watch this space! If you have any views about what we could produce – let us know in the comment boxes below.

PS – I did leave the laboratory by the way. 15 years, several roles and two more university degrees later, here I am as an Education and Training Policy Advisor for the National Deaf Children’s Society, a job I much enjoy!

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.

Don’t let deafness be overshadowed

Jen-Jones

Jen Jones, Information Editor CYPF – Information, Membership and Local Groups National Deaf Children’s Society

Up to 40% of deaf children have additional needs. For deaf children with the most complex needs, deafness can be overshadowed by their other difficulties.

Our guide, Supporting the Achievement of hearing impaired children in special schools, is a brilliant resource for staff working with deaf children in special schools. But as we all know, teachers and other school support staff are busy people who might not have the time to read 60 plus pages of (excellent) advice.

So, we decided to create a video to share the top five tips we wanted people to take away from the guide:

1: How to spot a child with hearing loss

2: Know how to manage a deaf child’s hearing technology

3: Create a good listening environment

4: Make sure communication works

5: Promote listening skills

We filmed at Foreland Fields School in Broadstairs on a very cold day in January 2017. Staff and pupils at the school made us very welcome, especially the infant class who loved our cameraman’s beard!

We filmed in three different classrooms (the Total Communication class was one of the most beautifully decorated classrooms I’ve ever seen – with artwork that moved whenever the door opened or closed). We also managed to get some great outside shots – and the pupils didn’t complain once about the freezing conditions. And I mean freezing – the camera batteries kept running down because it was so cold.

You can watch our video on our YouTube channel. Please share it with anyone you think would be interested.

The video was produced with support from the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, and funded as a project by the Department for Education.

Fostering needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

This is part 2 of my blog on the needs of deaf children who are fostered or in local authority care. It outlines a recent project that NDCS has started to identify and support deaf children and young people in this area.

NDCS project

At NDCS we recognised that whilst the numbers of deaf children in care are low it was important to try to identify and raise their needs and those that care or may care for them with local authorities’ planning services. We also needed to include independent fostering agencies who are a significant provider of services used by local authorities to indentify and provide placements for children who require care.

We therefore undertook a project to identify and consult with foster carers of deaf children and deaf children who are in, or have experienced, care.

What foster carers told us

Too often foster carers spoke about a lack of information in preparation of caring for a deaf child by children’s social care and them having to seek out information as they went along. Often social workers, although supportive, were felt to lack an understanding of the child’s needs related to their deafness and how this may impact on their care giving role.

What deaf children and young people told us

In our consultation with deaf children and young people they highlighted the difficulties of having to move from their family and home and the importance of social workers and their carers being able to communicate with them.

New resources

As a first response to our consultation we felt that there was a clear need to provide quick and accessible basic information to foster carers; children’s home workers and fostering social workers around the potential needs of deaf children and young people. Such information is vital to support those crucial first hours and days when a child becomes fostered or goes into alternative placements.

We have therefore produced two new short resources which are available to download from our website and cover the range of topics including communication; hearing aids; sounds and how we hear; and links to further help within NDCS resources.

These are being sent to all UK local authorities and independent fostering agencies and have been welcomed by our consulting foster carers who have said that they wished such information as presented in these resources had been available to them before their placements had started.

Future plans for the project

We hope to follow this up later this year with a resource, produced by deaf young people who are in care, for deaf children when they come into care. We will also continue to encourage local authorities and independent fostering agencies to better plan services to meet the needs of deaf children. One local authority has already recognised their need to improve services and is working with NDCS to provide training on the needs of deaf children to their short and long term foster carers.

I hope to inform you in future blogs as to how this project develops. At NDCS we will continue to campaign for the recognition of deaf children’s needs within social care provision at a local and national level.

Chris Kang-Mullen NDCS Social Care Policy Advisor

Our new resources can be downloaded at

http://www.ndcs.org.uk/family_support/fostering_deaf_children/

For more information on fostering go to

http://www.baaf.org.uk/info/fostering