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.

Right to Sign campaign update: Minister says no


Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research, National Deaf Children’s Society

Earlier this year, the National Deaf Children’s Society Youth Advisory Board, after months of hard work, launched their new Right to Sign campaign, calling for young people to have more opportunities for young people to learn sign language in schools.

They surveyed over 2,000 young people – deaf and hearing – and found that a whopping 92% thought schools should offer British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE. They published a report setting out the results in full and the case for action.

And the response from the Government? No.

Yesterday, when asked if the Department for Education in England would encourage exam boards to offer BSL as a GCSE, the Minister, Nick Gibb, said: “At present, there are no plans to introduce any further GCSEs beyond those to which the Government has already committed.”

To our knowledge, this is the first time the Government has ruled out introducing a BSL GCSE since the campaign was launched. It’s a massive disappointment and a real slap in the face for all of the hard work done so far by the Youth Advisory Board.

It’s hard not to feel angry about the response. It’s simply unfair and unjust that BSL, an official language in the UK used by thousands of people, is being treated in a way which implies it has a lower status and importance than other languages already being taught as GCSEs. It could even be seen as discriminatory to deaf people.

We’re not going to be deterred and will keep pressing the Department for Education in England for action – our briefing sets out some of the arguments we’re using. Two members of the Youth Advisory Board will also be asking MPs to support their campaign when they head to party political conferences later this month.

If you want to show your support for our work, please sign the Youth Advisory Board petition. More information about the different ways you can support the campaign can be found on the Buzz website.


Right to Sign Campaign


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.

Wales: I can fingerspell!


Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas, Policy and Campaigns Officer, Wales

Happy 2017! As all the seasonal festivities come to a close, I often find the first few weeks of January a bit bleak. But we have some good news to kick your January off with a smile….


The deaf young people on our Youth Advisory Board told us that they want more opportunities for people to learn to sign. In light of this, NDCS Cymru has been working with the WJEC to create a new option for Welsh Baccalaureate students across Wales.

The I Can Fingerspell challenge will be open as a Community Challenge option to pupils studying for the foundation level Welsh Baccalaureate. It invites students to learn to fingerspell the alphabet and then pass this knowledge on to younger pupils.

We are very grateful to Leam and Ryan from St Cyres School who helped us to create videos to assist students in learning the English/Welsh fingerspelling alphabet. We would also like to thank our Wales YAB members, Amy and Joab for helping us to come up with the idea for the challenge.


Government finally agrees to let disabled people have their say on DSA changes

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

The Government in England last week announced a public consultation on proposed changes to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) – which provides support to disabled students at university – after spending the best part of the past year resisting any attempts to engage more widely with disabled students.

Those with long memories will remember the campaign victory that Zanna, a member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, achieved earlier this year, when she took legal action against the Government over its failure to consult with disabled students on changes to DSA.

At the time, the Government agreed it would postpone its changes but didn’t concede that it was ever wrong that it attempted to force these changes through and consult only with selected stakeholders behind closed doors.

Though the legal action never had its day in court, the judge that gave the case permission to proceed commented that she was “not impressed” with the government’s arguments that it had no obligation to consult.

Happily, it now appears as if the Government has seen sense. In a debate last week, the Minister made a passing reference to plans to carry out a public consultation on its proposed changes.

NDCS remains concerns that the proposed changes will mean that deaf students would be more reliant on universities to provide any support they might need. We believe that the changes shouldn’t go ahead until proper safeguards are in place to make sure that no deaf students are abandoned without the support they need. It’s hoped that a public consultation will reveal the scale of these concerns but also hopefully prompt some constructive suggestions on how universities and DSA can better support deaf students.

NDCS remains extremely proud of Zanna, a member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, who had initiated the legal action. She has sent a strong signal to the Government that no changes that affect disabled people should be made without their involvement. It remains a disappointment that it was necessary for Zanna to take legal action to force the Government to listen.

It’s still obviously not quite the end of the story. When the consultation comes out, we’ll need to send a strong signal to the Government that it must ensure that deaf students aren’t disadvantaged by these changes. But the announcement of a public consultation gives us a chance to make the case. It also shows the difference that using the law to protect services can make.

Legal action on Disabled Students Allowance

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

A member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, Zanna, has initiated legal action against the Government over proposed changes to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).

Disabled students who need support at university can apply to DSA to help cover the costs of things like note-takers or flashing fire alarms in halls of residence. For many deaf students, this kind of support is vital. Last year though, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced that it plans to cut back DSA in some areas. Instead, universities would be expected to cover the costs.

NDCS has opposed these changes from the start because it’s not clear that universities can or will pick up the costs. We feel it was wrong for the Government to push ahead with these changes without being clear how it would make sure that universities have adequate funding and are transparent about what they will or won’t offer. The changes threaten to leave disabled students at risk of having to go without the support they need, without giving them any real new legal rights to do anything about this.

When the Government makes major changes like this, they are expected to do so fairly and to consult widely and openly on whether their proposals are a good idea at all or if there any ways to manage the risks. The Government hasn’t done this in the relation to the proposed cuts to DSA.

NDCS has produced a witness statement explaining how we feel that BIS has failed to deal with the process properly. Some of our key concerns include:

  • There has been no open and public consultation. Whilst various papers have been produced along the way, they haven’t been accessible to disabled young people or publicised widely.
  • The decision-making process has been messy and unclear. The Government say that their changes are proposals only – but much of what they say suggests that they have already made their mind up.

This means that for disabled young people like Zanna, it has been extremely hard to get involved and to have their say on something that will affect them in the future. Irwin Mitchell solicitors and Zanna’s barristers Ian Wise QC and Steve Broach from Monckton Chambers agree and will be supporting Zanna in arguing that the Government has acted unlawfully.

NDCS is really proud of Zanna for standing up for deaf and disabled young people in this way. Whatever happens, Zanna will have sent a signal that the Government cannot ignore the views of disabled young people.

We’ll keep you updated on how the legal action progresses and what final changes are made to DSA.

Renée, Kathryn and Amy tell MPs to Listen Up!

NDCS, Sam Aldridge

Sam Aldridge, Campaigns Officer

Three members of the NDCS Youth Advisory Board are attending the Autumn political party conferences with the NDCS Policy and Campaigns team this year. They’ll be meeting with MPs to discuss what they can do to improve things for deaf children and young people. After their Party Conference training day, Renée, Kathryn and Amy blogged about their thoughts ahead of conference on the NDCS Buzz website, here’s what they said:

Renée will be going to the Labour Party Conference in Manchester

If I could change one thing for deaf young people it would be…more communication techniques as more people are becoming deaf/having hearing loss need to communicate properly.Renee

Hi, my name is Renee. I’m 16 years old and am profoundly deaf with two cochlear implants. I am one of the YAB members. I’ve been involved since March 2014 and will be going to Glasgow in September for our YAB residential weekend!  I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be awesome! Once the residential weekend is finished, I’ll be going to the Labour Party Conference in Manchester.

On the 15th August, NDCS planned a training day for 3 members of the YAB (including me) to give us an idea of what party conference is going to be like – how to talk to MPs, and how to persuade them and get their attention. We also got to experience what some MPs might be like (some could be nice, but some could be bad!). It was good to learn how to act if they don’t listen. We did some fun activities too!

We also talked about what issues young deaf people have today and discussed how we could solve them to make life better and easier for young deaf people.

I really cannot wait to the day of the party conference and hope I meet some new, interesting people!

Kathryn will be going to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

If I could change one thing for deaf young people it would be…Ofsted to inspect deaf support and  to ensure support not cut.Kathryn

I’m Kathryn, or Kat as my deaf friends like to call me. I’m 18 years old and I come from a quaint city called Worcester.

I was selected alongside 17 other young deaf people to join the YAB. The aim of the board is to allow us to gain more independence, make new friends, and to find an issue that we all feel strongly about and produce a campaign – so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with that.

At the end of September, I am going to the Conservative Party Conference. To prepare for this, I attended NDCS’ party conference training day in London. I had a brilliant day – it was really fun, but I also learnt a lot too! I learnt about different roles that people have within politics and Parliament. I also learnt about NDCS’ different campaigns, and how to get the best out of the MP’s and the day overall. It was lovely to see Amy and Renee again!

I’m really looking forward to the party conference, but I must admit I’m a little bit nervous because, even though I know what’s happening, I don’t really know what to expect until I get there. It’s a whole new adventure for me. But I do know it’s going to be an amazing adventure and I can’t wait to tell you all about it after!

Amy will be going to the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Glasgow

If I could change one thing for deaf young people it would be…for them to be able to achieve their dream like any other person – achieving degrees first then becoming what they would love to be with their degree.


My name is Amy. I’m fifteen years old and live in Scotland. I joined the YAB because I want to improve the lives of deaf young people like me, things like improving subtitles in the cinema.

I’m going to the Liberal Democrat Party Conference on the 6th of October in Glasgow. I’m looking forward to talking to the MPs about how they have the power to improve our lives in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom too.

In the summer, I went to London to get training for the Party Conference. It was great learning about how to act with different people – the Prime Minister, MPs etc. I learned a lot and have benefited from it for future use!

Look out for our blog posts from the conferences sharing what we’ve discussed with the MPs we meet and what Renée, Kathryn and Amy thought of their first conference!