My experience of Labour party conference…

Erin 1

Erin McKay

Hello, I am Erin and I’m from Wiltshire. I have a hearing loss and wear two hearing aids. I am currently doing A Level History, Philosophy and English Literature. I attended the Labour Party Conference and I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience.

On Sunday 24 September I got on the train to Brighton. It took a little under four hours to get there. I was on my way to the Labour Party conference where I had 8 meetings lined up to talk about three campaigns that the NDCS are doing. They are Listen Up to improve children’s audiology services, Right to Sign, putting British Sign Language (BSL) in schools as a GCSE and PIP’d Off, about Personal Independence Payments, and the difficulties that deaf people have in getting them. I talked about the Right to Sign campaign as it was the one I helped create with the last Youth Advisory Board.

On the Monday, Brighton was quite rainy and we arrived at the hotel at around 10am to get ready for our first meeting, it was with Sharon Hodgson, the MP for Sunderland West. She is the Shadow Minister for Public Health. She was really nice and we talked about Listen Up, Right to Sign and PIP.

Erin and Sharon

While we were talking with her, the next MP arrived – Alex Cunningham of Stockton. He was also really nice. He gave us some ideas of what to do with the campaigns and who to talk to about different bits. He agreed to ask his local hospital to sign up to the inspections for Listen Up!

Our next meeting was with Liz Twist who is the new MP for Blaydon. We talked about Listen Up! and Right to Sign. Afterwards we met Stephanie Peacock who is also a new MP, for Barnsley. She agreed to ask her local hospital to be part of the inspection process and we also talked about Right to Sign and having Teachers of the Deaf in Schools. We then had a break for lunch and walked around the exhibitions.

After lunch, we saw Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. I managed to get my picture taken with both of them. Our next meeting was with Dawn Butler, the MP who signed a question in parliament. We talked to her about Right to Sign, and she seemed surprised to see that I couldn’t sign. She had already done most of what we wanted to ask her to do, and she was happy to talk about other things to help our campaigns. Next was Helen Goodman who had done a lot of work already with the National Deaf Children’s Society and she was very happy to help us. We talked about Right to Sign, Listen Up and PIP.

Erin labour

Our last meeting was with Tracy Brabin, who was friends with Jo Cox, who I wrote a bit about loneliness for. We also talked about Listen Up and Right to Sign. I had a really good time and would like to do it again.

The best bit of my day was seeing the taxi drivers showing their support for the Uber ban in London by beeping their horns. It went on for about 20 minutes and was really loud! I also liked meeting all the different MPs. Top tips from me for conference are: to share – talk to the MPs and ask questions if you don’t understand something; they are ordinary people.

Growing up in a mainstream school

Emily primary

Emily Meacher (aged 4 years) Policy and Campaigns Support Assistant

Jake’s recent blog got me thinking about my own personal experience at primary school, and how I wasn’t alone in these experiences. And so below are some random reflections of my time at Codicote primary school.

 

I was the only deaf kid in school- children used to say to me ‘why are you death?’ and I would have to try and explain at 6 years old how I am deaf and not actually dead.

I used the deaf card (I started young!) to get out of recorder sessions- I couldn’t bear the noise (can anyone?) and felt elated when I was let off.

Children were curious about how my radio aid worked, so the teacher had the bright idea of sending me out into the playground where everyone watched me. The teacher would say something into the aid but I didn’t understand a word. I felt a bit miffed about being sent out whilst the whole class gawped through the window.

I used to take part in school plays, and didn’t hear or understand any of the songs- I would just move my mouth and pretend to go along with it.

I used to go to my friends’ sleepovers and whilst a lot of the kids were up late chatting in the dark, I would be asleep. I would wake up and see the kids playing with my hearing aids, trying to put them into their ears out of curiosity.

I had a best friend Claire, who I am still best friends with to this day whose mother, told Claire she was worried about her hanging out with me- as her voice had started to get ‘lazy’- and that she was starting to sound like me! Of course, Claire didn’t listen thankfully.

Although there were times when I struggled, overall I received good educational support in school and if it wasn’t for the support there, I don’t think I’d have passed the entrance exam (this has now changed -they no longer have an entrance exam) to get into Mary Hare, secondary school. It was at Mary Hare that I developed my deaf identity.

Since my time working at the National Deaf Children’s Society, it pains me to think that some deaf children out there do not get the same support I had growing up. Some deaf children are coping, rather than thriving. This needs to change – we are working hard to challenge proposals to close resource bases and reduce support – one example being in Manchester. Hazel, our Regional Director for the North West and Sally, our Policy and Campaigns Officer fought hard alongside passionate parents, and in the end we managed to reduce the amount of budget cut to the service. Not only that, but we also managed to save one of the two resource bases under threat. Great news!

If you want to get involved in campaigns like this, then join with me and the Policy and Campaigns team by signing up to our Campaigns Network here: http://www.ndcs.org.uk/help_us/campaigns/campaign_with_us/campaign_network.html

 

Crossing the Divide

Martin-Mclean-cropped

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

Further education (FE) is getting a lot of attention at the moment and rightly so. The UK has major skills shortages in many sectors and Brexit may mean we are less likely to be able to rely on EU immigration to plug the skills gap. The Education Secretary, Justine Greening, as I type this blog, has just made a speech where she talked about creating ‘an army of skilled young people for British business’. To address skills shortages the Government is creating 15 technical routes and new T-level qualifications in England. Wales is also on the verge of significant post-16 education reform.

FE colleges will play a major role in delivering the new qualifications and with FE colleges being the destination for the majority of deaf young people at 16, investment in the new technical routes will be no bad thing if they lead to clearer pathways to employment.

Recently, a small piece of research was carried out for us by a group of civil servants and corporate sector employees on the transition deaf young people make from FE into employment and the support they receive to do this in FE. We asked them to look at this issue because there is so little data out there on the outcomes of deaf young people who attend FE colleges – are they finding jobs after leaving college and how well prepared are they for entering the job market? We suspected that the support available to them to find work might be quite poor. Sadly, the research confirmed that this is probably the case. The main findings of the group’s research were:

  • 59% of parents of deaf young people stated their child’s college did not help them find any work experience or placement opportunities
  • 39% of parents stated their child had not received any careers support or guidance at college
  • Young people who had received college-supported work experience were more likely to have gone onto employment or further study

Some parents reported negative experiences with their child making the transition to work:

“It was disappointing that on his first visit to the Job Centre, in an effort to find employment, they put him on ESA (Employment Support Allowance) without the necessity to attend support sessions. In other words, he was written off as being unemployable”

“We didn’t know what help was available. Recruitment companies didn’t seem to be interested in helping my daughter get a job and I put this down to her being deaf.”

This type of experiences provide a strong case for deaf young people having access to tailored careers advice at school and college. It is not just about access to careers advice that their hearing course-mates receive. Do young people know that they can benefit from Access to Work? Do they understand their rights under the Equality Act? Are they aware of the organisations that might be able to provide further support when they leave education? We believe schools and colleges have a role in making sure deaf young people receive this type of information.

deaf young person looking for work

It is expected that work experience will be a compulsory part of a T-level – this is welcome and we need to make sure deaf young people receive the support they need on these placements.

FE and skills reform has cross-party support and I believe that better investment in FE will benefit many deaf young people. However, before they embark on any technical routes, we need to fight for deaf young people to have better access to decent careers advice so that they can make properly informed decisions about the career opportunities available to them and understand support that is available in the workplace.

I’m deaf myself and remember leaving education to find work being very daunting. I am sure it is the same many deaf young people finishing education today. Through working together with the FE and skills sector NDCS hopes to make the divide between education and work a lot narrower.

General election 2017: Uninspected audiology services

Beccy Forrow Policy and Campaigns Officer

Beccy Forrow, Policy and Campaigns Adviser

Would you send your child to a school that hadn’t been inspected by Ofsted? Would you ride in a car that didn’t conform to industry safety standards? Would you eat in a restaurant that refused to take part in food hygiene inspections? All questions I’d answer no to.

But this is what is being allowed to happen with children’s audiology services in England. Only 15% of services have been inspected and achieved a high enough standard to become ‘accredited’. This leaves the majority of services uninspected – with deaf children, young people and their families having no idea whether they are attending a great service or one that is poor quality and unsafe.

Considering that an NHS report in 2014 found that one third of audiology services were failing to meet critical NHS quality standards, with no incentive to improve, it’s unlikely that many will now be providing a better service. This matters because hearing is critical to a child’s development of language and learning. Early diagnosis and support reduces the risk of delays in language, educational, social and emotional development. But this support needs to be consistently of good quality.

Earlier this year we created an audiology map so that parents could check if their local service had reached a high enough standard to be accredited. However, of 134 services, 40 have so far refused to take part in the inspection scheme at all. Many others have registered for the scheme but not moved closer to an inspection visit over the course of the last few years.

We’re calling on the next Government to make it compulsory for all children’s audiology services in England to take part in the inspections so that parents can be confident that they are fit for purpose. As the inspections cost money and can be time consuming to prepare for, it’s vital that the Government levels the playing field by making the inspections mandatory for all services. Audiology services for deaf children won’t get better on their own.

If any general election candidates come to your door, be sure to ask them about the quality of children’s audiology services. We’ve got some other questions you might like to ask them on our election web page.

Right to Sign Campaign

Sophia-James-cropped

Sophia James, Senior Participation Officer (Campaigns) National Deaf Children’s Society

After a lively debate at a residential event in 2015, a group of 16 deaf young people voted to campaign about British Sign Language. Now, 18 months later, following our charity’s largest ever consultation of young people, their campaign for a British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE and Scottish National 4/5 in schools has finally launched.

Our board are campaigning for the Right to Sign and we want you to give your support to this campaign. To explain what the campaign is about, Beth and Aliko have filmed this video.

There are lots of reasons to get behind this campaign and Frankie, from the YAB, explains in her vlog why she thinks it’s a good idea for young people to have access to learning sign language.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Read our report

Sign our petition

There is also a different action for each country in the UK, which you can find here.

So thanks for your support and let’s make the #righttosign a reality in schools.

PIP’d Off Campaign Update – Justin Tomlinson meeting…

Jessica Reeves Campaigns Manager

Jessica Reeves, Campaigns Manager

Last week, after over 800 of our supporters wrote to him, we met with the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson to talk about why people are so PIP’d Off with the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) process. NDCS Chief Executive, Susan Daniels and I met with Justin and representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions to explain how deaf young people are currently missing out on PIP.

We discussed the following issues, which you had raised with us:

YAB member Liam O'Dell meeting with Justin Tomlinson at party Conference

YAB member Liam O’Dell meeting with Justin Tomlinson at party Conference

  • Why so many deaf young people are missing out on PIP because the current guidance fails to recognise the support that many deaf young people require to communicate with their hearing peers
  • How face to face assessments are putting deaf young people at a disadvantage by placing them in unrealistic situations which do not take into account the difficulties that many deaf young people face in the real world, in noisey environments, trying to engage with non deaf aware people
  • The fact that deaf young people currently have to telephone to ask for an application form and how NDCS can help make sure that a digital claim process is available quickly and is accessible to young deaf claimants

The meeting was really productive and Justin was interested to hear about the issues that young deaf people are currently facing and he has said that he is keen to improve the system.

We will now be working with the Department of Work and Pensions to improve the current PIP guidance and improve deaf awareness at assessments.

I want to say a big thank you to all our supporters and Campaigns Network members without which this excellent result would not have been possible.

We will keep you posted!

The Tyranny of the PIP Overlords

James DaviesAnd how I suffered from their wrath…..

My name is James Davies, I am 24 years old. I am a recent cochlear implantee (as of Feb 2013) prior to that I have always worn hearing aids. I live in the South of England in rural Surrey, employed as a Project Engineer for a respectable company.

I started the process of applying to PIP some point late May 2014, I had realised that I needed some form of help as I gained more independence (I was moving out) and needed some financial help. My friends at the time (deaf peers) recommended me to apply for DLA (they didn’t know at that point it was called PIP) and that it was a fairly straightforward process.

So I started my research, in this I found that DLA no longer exists for adults, it was re-named PIP and changed under the new Tory government. Ok I thought, just a new name and system.

First problem I came across was pretty obvious. The only way I could get the application form was contacting them via phone, now obviously I can’t do this at all. So I thought ok I’ll look for an email address since this is the internet age and surely they would have one. NOPE, zero zilch nada… no form of email contact to request an application form is listed.

So thus I contacted a charity in Farnborough called deafPLUS who agreed to phone on my behalf, I had to take some time off work just to make a bloody phone call to claim a FORM! Even that was stressful, due to them asking repeatedly to talk to me (suppose they didn’t realise deafness existed lol) and the woman who helped trying to explain that I could not hear the phone and she was speaking on my behalf. Anyway I managed to get that form request submitted and it came in the post around June 2014.

I read through the booklet that came with questions, It was immediately clear that it was based on a point scoring system to which I thought was detrimental to deaf people like myself. I was already sceptical that I would have any chance of getting this benefit.

The questions are very vague, and not very straightforward. I had no idea what to put, so I put some answers that I guess answered the question more directly. I suppose this was a mistake, I could have answered the question however I wanted, adding more information related to how my deafness effects me in the question they ask.

There was not much information on the internet from deaf people who have applied for PIP (relatively new at the time) for me to use to my advantage.

I felt this form was impossible, none of the questions really help a deaf person to portray their problems and why I feel I am entitled to PIP.

After I had filled it in it felt like had barely answered some of the questions.

I received an answer in November 2014, formally rejecting my application for PIP. I was devastated, I had no chance with this system. My problems in everyday life could not be explained in this restrictive form.

Ironically, the letter stated that I would be phoned up and explained why I hadn’t received the benefit. Huh? Did this guy even read my application? He would have read that I CANNOT use a phone, let alone hear very well….

I cannot remember but I think they phoned me on my mobile, obviously I couldn’t answer the phone. I was at work as well, no one could have possibly picked it up for me, it is my personal matters too.

After that phone call I don’t think I received anything. That was it.

Now I know I could have appealed against the decision but I was so disheartened by the process and I felt I would never win, the questions and acceptance criteria is flawed.

I have since this not tried to reapply, I missed the 1 month appeal time.

I hope to try again with some help.