There’s a gaping hole in our ability to support our most vulnerable children

Chris Mullen

Chris Mullen, Social Care Policy Advisor

By 2020, in just 3 years’ time councils will be facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s social care services[1].The figure is eye-watering, but recently a collection of academics, researchers, parliamentarians, practitioners, England’s Children’s Commissioner, but sadly not the new Children’s Minister, gathered at the latest All Party Parliamentary Group on Children to discuss the state of children’s social care services in England. Not one person in the packed committee room disputed this figure, including the Director of the National Children’s Bureau who stated there was a clear crisis in children’s social care funding.

The meeting discussed a survey of 1600 social workers -the vast majority reporting that the bar is becoming higher and higher for children and families to get support by children’s services.[2] It’s hardly surprising.

As my last blog reported, it is only recently that the previous Conservative administration acknowledged the funding crisis in adult social care, with councils now being allowed to raise additional money through ring fenced council tax rises. But why has this not happened in children’s social care?

Is this because children don’t have immediate political power, as ageing or grey voters do, being able to trigger the issuing of P45’s of previous MP’s at the stroke of a pencil at the ballet box? Or is that children’s social care support is perceived by many voters as somehow about undeserving children or that children who receive social care support are in families who should be meeting those children’s needs and not the state?

If in these times of austerity the moral argument has been won to support the needs of our vulnerable elderly population, we must do all we can to persuade our politicians to extend this to children who are equally vulnerable!

Deaf and disabled children are also sometimes supported by children’s social care; but with resources and demand pressures, these children are getting reduced levels of support or are only experiencing social care involvement at the point where preventing abuse and neglect occurs- rather than the safety net support of services to help children and families. Sadly this reinforces the view of those children and families as being undeserving.

This is to be expected where the law is too narrow, and local authorities are not legally required to provide early intervention and early help services to children and families. This is despite mounting evidence showing that if targeted well, these services can prevent more costly state intervention later on[3]. With limited resources, many local authorities are striving to innovate to meet rising demand for services, but ultimately have to intervene to protect children who have suffered significant harm or at risk of immediate harm.

Sometimes when a crisis occurs, new or alternative ways of thinking emerge. In 1946 Britain was broke and devastated by WW2, yet during this time of austerity it took the wisdom of a few to create the NHS which despite its problems, is fiercely supported. We need a similar revolution now. Investing in a safety net of support for all children and families as a democratic right will reap benefits for the whole of society –and that includes those who disagree with such a measure who cannot escape living alongside children and families! And also as a final thought, weren’t we all once children?

Previous Blog

https://ndcscampaigns.com/category/social-care/

[1] https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/councils-face-2-billion-funding-gap-support-vulnerable-children-2020

[2] https://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/2004211/child-protection-thresholds-rising-due-to-budget-pressures

[3] https://www.ncb.org.uk/resources-publications/resources/no-good-options-report-inquiry-childrens-social-care-england

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.

Cast a spell on the inspectors…

Sophia-James-cropped

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?

vwvakh3rlqiqe

New NDCS survey into local authority social care provision for deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen - Social Care Policy Adviser

Christopher Kang-Mullen – Social Care Policy Advicer

NDCS has published a report about the results from a survey of all local authorities in England into the social care arrangements they have in place to consider the needs of deaf children.

Deaf children are recognised in law as ‘disabled children’. This means that local authorities should:

  • provide services to help families bring up disabled children and help them lead lives as non-disabled children do.
  • make sure that the range of services they provide are accessible to disabled children e.g. recreation facilities, childcare provision and children’s centres.
  • provide additional support where felt necessary to disabled children and their families.

This additional support is usually done through assessments by children’s social care teams. For example, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 means that deaf children could benefit from important technology equipment such as vibrating alarm clocks, pagers and altering devices to ensure their safety and promote their developing independence.

This survey has found that:

  • many social care disabled children’s teams have high thresholds to access their teams and so will only assess disabled children with more than one disability.
  • many disability social care teams do not have any clear arrangements in place to consider the social care needs of deaf children. They often assume that education services are expected to provide all the support to deaf children need.
  • only 16 % of local authority social care teams have a designated worker for deaf children.
  • 49 % of social care teams said their eligibility criteria did not include any specific reference to deaf children or sensory impairment.
  • deaf children’s social care  needs are recognised best where there are either designated social care workers with deaf children or where eligibility criteria to access children’s social care teams clearly includes deaf children.

Where necessary after an assessment social care support might include:

  • access for parents and extended family members to learn sign language where felt necessary to meet their child’s communication;
  • vibrating alarm clock or door alert system to help a deaf child/young person become more independent as they get older.
  • costs of transport to enable a deaf child to attend a short break activity to socialise with other deaf children; or
  • providing a communication support worker for a deaf child to access a mainstream activity e.g scouts. (such support could come via direct payments by children’s social care or part of an personal budget for those children who have Education Health and Care plans).

While health and education are key services involved with deaf children and families, social care should therefore be offered to families to ensure that they can support their deaf child at home as early as possible.

NDCS will now be taking action through our network of English regional directors seeking to challenge and work with local authorities to ensure they make arrangements to consider the social care needs of deaf children and their families.

The full report can be accessed at: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/professional_support/our_resources/social_care.html

More information on social care rights can be accessed at: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/family_support/positive_parenting_families/social_care.html

If you would like any advice accessing support from children’s social care services contact the NDCS Freephone Helpline at 0808 800 8880 or email helpline@ndcs.org.uk.

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

Fostering needs of deaf children

Christopher Kang-Mullen

Christopher Kang-Mullen, Social Care Policy Adviser

In this first part of a two part blog I will discuss the needs of deaf children and young people who become ‘looked after’ or go into local authority care.

When alternative care is necessary

In very extreme circumstances when it is felt that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm due to the care given by their parents or carers a child may require the local authority to place them in alternative care. This could be with extended family or relatives; foster carers or in children’s homes.

In the UK there are 92,000 children in care and the majority of these children are in foster placements.

Such arrangements can be temporary where it’s felt that parents/carers will be able to meet their children’s needs, or it could be longer term. For very young children where it is felt that they clearly cannot return home the adoption route must be considered.

 The experience for the child

Leaving home, where a child may have experienced long term abuse or neglect will still be a traumatic experience for any child. They will have to break routines and disrupt attachments to parents or carers, family members and friends. In some instances a child may have to move away from a school they attended and the community they live in.

A child will inevitably try to give meaning to such events and for a deaf child who may have limited language and or access to communication this will likely increase the stress they experience. In such situations the need for a social worker who can communicate effectively with the child and ensure their language needs and potentially deaf cultural needs are fully considered in the placements sought is crucial. If not, further damage is likely to the child’s emotional health and well-being.

The challenge of meeting deaf children’s needs in care

There are a number of factors which make it difficult to recognise and plan for the needs of deaf children when they come into care. These include;

  •  the statistical data requirements on local authorities in most UK countries does not require the types of disability to be specified and therefore total numbers of deaf children in care are unknown
  • there are very few specialist social work teams and social work posts for deaf children. An NDCS soon to be published survey of social care provision in English local authorities confirms this
  • many local authorities do not recognise the possible social care needs of deaf children and that they are ‘children in need’ within UK law.
  • deafness is a low incidence disability and being deaf does not necessarily mean every child must require social care support to meet their needs. This will be dependent on the resources within the family; other children’s services.

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 highlight their needs and those that care or may care for them with local authorities planning services.

In the next blog I will explain about our NDCS project to raise awareness of deaf children in care.

For more information on fostering go to:

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

Chris Kang-Mullen NDCS Social Care Policy Advisor

 

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.

consultedwithparentsofdeafchildren

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.

 

Chart2Consultedwithparentsofdeafchildren

 

 

 

 

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