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.

Problems with PIP

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

We are becoming increasingly concerned about the experiences of deaf young people trying to claim the benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Our concerns:

It is quite extraordinary that the application process for a benefit that is designed to help people with a disability is not accessible for all those with a disability, such as some deaf young people. It makes a massive assumption that everyone has a phone and can use a telephone to make a request for an application. Yes, you read that right, deaf young people are expected to call up for an application form, or if they are unable to do so, ask a family member to call on their behalf. Talk about stripping a young person’s independence from them at the very outset! There is a textphone option but to be honest the likelihood of anyone under 30 owning a textphone is very remote! Alternative, ways of applying for the benefit such as via email or the website are not promoted or encouraged. It is shocking that deaf young people are having to hurdle…or maybe it’s more appropriate to say ‘pole vault’ their way over barriers that should not be there in the first place. And this is before they’ve even made it to their assessment!

  • You need a BSL interpreter at the assessment? They might forget to book it and ask you to continue with the assessment anyway!

We are aware of a case where communication support was not provided at an assessment, despite it being requested and that request agreed to. When it was clear the communication support had not been arranged, the assessor suggested the meeting go on without it! This demonstrates an extreme lack of deaf awareness which could jeopardise the chances of the deaf young person being awarded PIP and which causes considerable stress to the deaf young person involved.

  • If you are deaf you may not qualify for PIP but if you go to the effort of taking legal action against this decision, they might change their minds and apologise!

We are aware of a number of cases where an assessor and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has determined that a deaf young person is ineligible for PIP. The deaf young people in these cases have had to take legal action about the decisions. In one case the decision was reversed, the deaf young person was awarded PIP and the DWP apologised to the deaf young person and their family. The other case is currently ongoing. These cases have placed a great deal of stress on the deaf young people involved.

What we are doing about it
We are currently asking the Government what they are doing to improve the experiences for deaf young people in this process and continue to work with deaf young people to challenge any decisions where appropriate.

Share your story
If you are a deaf young person aged between 16 and 25 and have experienced difficulties claiming PIP, please let us know about it – email campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

Cuts to disability benefits? We’re watching the Budget

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

The National Deaf Children’s Society alongside Blind Children UK, Sense and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) are very concerned about potential cuts to disability benefits ahead of the budget statement on the 8th July.

We know that the UK Government wants to save £12 billion from the welfare bill. We are really worried about the impact this will have on families with children with sensory impairments, many of whom rely on disability benefits to help them meet the additional costs of raising a child with a disability. We are asking you to take action and call on the Government to protect benefits for children with sensory impairments.

What the Prime Minister has said

Stephen Timms MP recently asked the Prime Minister if he would ‘confirm the commitment he made during the election that there will be no cuts in the benefits paid to disabled people.’

The Prime Minister’s response was as follows:
What we have actually done is to increase the benefits paid to disabled people by bringing in the personal independence payment, which is more generous to those who are most disabled. May I say how much I enjoyed meeting the right hon. Gentleman during the general election when we both addressed the Festival of Life in the ExCeL centre in his constituency? I do not know about him, but it is certainly the only time in my life that I have talked to 45,000 people at the same time, and I suspect the same goes for him.”

We are extremely worried that the Prime Minister did not confirm his previous commitment that there will be no cuts to benefits for disabled people. We are also aware that Personal Independence Payments (the benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance for 16 – 65 year olds) has not been more generous for young people with sensory impairments and in many cases has been removed altogether.

Now is the time to take action.

Take action

It is vital to take action now before the budget statement on the 8th July. Email your MP to ask the Chancellor to ensure benefits for children with sensory impairments are protected in the upcoming budget!