Help us support deaf children and young people

Back in 2014 the Government announced “a landmark moment in improving the lives of children with SEND and their families”. The 2014 Children and Families Act promised reforms that “put children and parents at the heart of the system”

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Steve Haines, Executive Director of Policy and Campaigns, The National Deaf Children’s Society

However, four years on from the reforms, our CEO, Susan Daniels was on Channel 4 sharing the findings from our latest poll of over 1000 parents of deaf children and young people. Only 5% of these parents thought that the system had improved for their children and almost half felt it had got worse.

The next day I joined a roundtable discussion hosted by the Westminster Parliament’s Education Select Committee with six other campaigners for children and young people with special educational need and disabilities. Although we came from different points of view, there was broad ranging consensus that the reforms had failed to deliver on their promise.

Sadly, as the parents of many deaf children and young people know all too well, accessing support is often a lengthy process of assessment, administration and argument and, in the worst cases, having to take cases to court. It all seems a terrible waste of resources that could be providing vital support for deaf children and young people instead.

As our Stolen Futures campaign has shown, funding for local authority services has continued to decline. In our poll of parents, 82 per cent said they did not feel there was enough funding for deaf children’s education in their area. The fact is that reforms without the funding to deliver them doesn’t equal results.

We’ve been campaigning to protect these vital services for deaf children and young people. We know change is possible and, working with local parents, have been successful in many areas in overturning or avoiding local cuts.

But we need the political will to take action. The day after the Select Committee, Susan Daniels, Ian Noon and I met with the Children and Families Minister, Nadhim Zahawi MP. We’d been really pleased when he joined our event outside Parliament earlier in the year, so had high hopes. But despite our best efforts and practical suggestions, we could only come away with assurances, rather than action.

It’s a critical time for services for deaf children and young people. We’re at breaking point. So now, more than ever, we need parents and carers, friends, families, and many others to sign up to our campaigns network and to join our fight for deaf children and young people to be able to access the services they need.

Disability Matters – e-learning to inform and inspire!

Vicki Kirwin Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

Vicki Kirwin Development Manager (Audiology & Health)

“Over 60% of Britons say they are not confident communicating with a child who is deaf”

(Disability Matters Launch Report, Feb 2015)

I recently attended the launch of the new Disability Matters e-learning resource with our CEO Susan Daniels. Disability Matters is a suite of online and group learning modules that aim to tackle the inequalities that disabled children and young people face in their daily lives. It was co-developed with disabled young people and parent carers and the practical tips delivered within the programme are based on real, lived experiences. Through words, pictures and signs, deaf and disabled children, young people and their families challenge learners to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs about disability and explores the practical things people can do that could make a real difference to their health and wellbeing.

So far 27 modules are live with more to come. One of the first live modules is Deaf Communication Matters which was developed by myself and Lucy Read (NDCS Head of Youth Participation). It uses video of several of our former YAB members and material from My Life My Health campaign with them sharing some of the typical barriers they encounter and showing the learner simple steps to take and adjustments to make to overcome those barriers and enable successful interaction with them. The module takes about 20 minutes to complete.

The programme is designed to support organisations, their workers and volunteers across the health, education, social care, criminal justice, travel and leisure, community sectors, as well as friends and extended family, in developing the communication and problem-solving skills required to engage confidently with disabled children and young people.

All resources are FREE and are designed to be easy to use and done at the learners pace.

Have a look at the site, register and have a look through the many modules – there is bound to be something of interest and value to everyone – including communication, advocacy, safeguarding, confidence, relationships, bullying, inclusion, decision making etc. You could complete them all with one 20-40 minutes session a week for a year! But for ease of decision making the system will recommend a shorter list of modules based on their profession or sector selected when registering.

https://www.disabilitymatters.org.uk

Deaf children are being failed by the education system

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive

Imagine a world where nearly two thirds of children were leaving school without getting good GCSEs. Parents would rightly be furious that their child hadn’t got the right support at school. There would be outrage and a clamour for urgent action.

But when it comes to deaf children, this is the reality that we face. The latest figures from the government, published today show that just 36% of deaf children achieved the government’s benchmark for GCSE success, compared to 65% of their hearing friends.

This is happening despite the fact that deafness is not in itself a learning disability. At the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), we strongly believe that, providing that the right support is provided from the start, deaf children can achieve just as well as anyone else.

But in too many areas that support is being denied to deaf children. We regularly hear from families who are concerned and anxious for their child’s future. For example, a mother of 16-year-old Jodie told us:

“Jodie has never received any kind of formal support with her education. Time and again I’ve raised concerns and begged for help, knowing how badly she was struggling and failing to keep up with her classmates and that when crunch time came she’d be falling off the edge of a cliff.

“If Jodie had received the extra help that I was fighting for, who knows what she could have achieved and where life could have taken her.”

That so many deaf children are being set up to fail is a tragedy. But worse still, is the very real possibility that in coming years, the situation will get worse, not better. Recent government initiatives to support children with special educational needs and disabilities will come to nothing if we don’t recognise the realities on the ground.

For example, a recent report issued by NDCS on behalf of the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (Cride) raises serious concerns that deaf children will have less access to specialist support in future years. It found that the number of specialist Teachers of the Deaf – who provide expert support to deaf children – is actually going down, falling below 1,000 for the first time last year. A retirement crisis is also looming – over half of all Teachers of the Deaf are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

All of this is happening at a time when local authorities are cutting back on the support that deaf children need, leaving families desperate for support and worried for their child’s future.

It’s heart-breaking to see deaf children like Jodie being failed because they haven’t received the right support. But unless we see urgent action from the Government to address these failing local authorities, we are likely to hear more stories of heartbreak from parents of deaf children.

This is not the future that any parent wants for their child.

This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.