Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Working to influence the Children and Families Act

Posted by Ian Noon on March 18, 2014

This blog first appeared in the National Deaf Children’s Society campaigns blog

Last Thursday was a big day – Her Majesty decided to give her “royal assent” to the Children and Families Bill, thus turning it into the ‘Children’s and Families Act’.

This Act sets out a whole new range of laws on special educational needs. A National Deaf Children’s Society FAQ for parents has more information but it’s been described as the biggest shake up of the special educational needs (SEN) system in 30 years and will have big implications for how deaf children are supported. So no pressure on us here at the National Deaf Children’s Society…

We’ve been working to influence these reforms right from the very start. It’s been a long hard slog. There have been many meetings, countless consultations and plenty of parliamentary debates – all to make sure that the needs of deaf children were considered.

Before all of that though, we needed to find out what parents of deaf children thought. We ran a series of focus groups and surveys and then wrote up what parents thought of the proposals. Politicians and civil servants were then reminded repeatedly about what our members want. It really helped bring our arguments to life. 

So what’s been achieved along the way? Some key achievements include:

1)    A review is now taking place into whether Ofsted should have a greater role in inspecting local SEN provision.

2)    It will be harder for local authorities to end support to a young person just because they’ve turned 19. Now local authorities must consider if they’ve achieved the outcomes set for them and not just “have regard to age”.

3)    At one point, parents would be required to undergo mediation with the local authority if they wanted to take any issues to a Tribunal. Now they must consider mediation, but now have the option to say no.

4)    Not every disabled child has ‘SEN’ but many will still need support. This created a risk that some children would fall through the net. The Special Educational Consortium (SEC) and Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) pushed hard for more strategic support from local authorities for both disabled and SEN children.

5)    Recognition of the essential role of Teachers of the Deaf has been kept – for example, the Act requires that Teachers of the Deaf be involved in any statutory assessments of deaf children.

Key to our success has been the way the sector has worked together. The National Deaf Children’s Society has worked closely with our counterparts at RNIB and Sense to raise common issues in relation to children with sensory impairment, as well as with EDCM and SEC.

Not everything has gone our way. Some of the above changes have been hard fought right to the end. Other times, it’s felt like we’ve been banging our heads against brick walls…

And there’s still plenty of work to be done. Whilst the Act provides the overall framework, a lot of the practical requirements will be set out in guidance, called the SEN Code of Practice. We’re expecting this to be published this spring and Westminster will again get the chance to debate this. Also, it’s great that Ofsted are reviewing the SEN inspection framework but we will need to monitor it closely to make sure they take action after this review.

And, of course, all of these changes have to be implemented. Our biggest concern remains that these changes are going to be made in a context of massive spending cuts, as we know from the Stolen Futures campaign. There is the potential for massive upheaval for services for deaf children. The National Deaf Children’s Society’s team of Regional Directors will now be working to influence implementation in each of the 152 local authorities in England and to challenge any cuts where they arise.

Overall, the Bill becoming an Act is a big milestone. It feels like a good moment to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come… and then start to get ready for the next phase of this big SEN shake up. 

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Five random reflections on deaf life at primary school

Posted by Ian Noon on March 11, 2014

I spent most of last week musing on life at primary school. I do love a good amble down memory lane but I had another reason; I had volunteered to give a presentation to parents of deaf children at a National Deaf Children’s Society family weekend. These are weekends for parents to learn more about various issues facing deaf children and to meet other families with the same kind of experiences.

I was mainstream all the way through the system. I loved primary school; I got my education. It’s fair to say I was probably a bit of a swot. I loved getting gold stars and certificates. My best friend now and back then in primary school is the one and same very person and he doesn’t even wonky ears like me. But primary school did come with its challenges and listening to other deaf adults, I get the impression that I wasn’t alone in these kind of experiences.

So without further ado, I present my top five random reflections of times gone by at primary school:

1) Teachers never remembered to turn the microphone on. Every morning I left my microphone on my teacher’s desk. And nearly every morning I would then have to put my hand up as the lesson started to prompt my teacher. Luckily, I was a cocky confident little boy who was happy to do so. And it didn’t stop there; teachers invariably forgot to turn the microphone off. The range on these microphones back then was quite something. I heard all sorts of staff room conversations that I shouldn’t have been listening to. I felt like James Bond Junior sometimes.

2) The Teacher of the Deaf came to visit weekly to check everything was alright. She was great. But she seemed to have an impeccable knack for coming exactly when lessons were getting most interesting. I would always have to sheepishly leave the classroom at inopportune times and then return to loads of questions from my friends as to where I’d been bunking off to.

3) My speech had a bit of work. A lot of work. I didn’t always enjoy it though I think I knew then it was done with good intentions and “for my own good”. But there were times I felt completely demoralised realising again and again that I wasn’t saying something right. And it’s left a legacy of me hating to do any public speaking,  finding myself worrying more about how I’m saying something, rather than what I’m saying and often ending up having a verbal car crash with my words.

4) Break times were sometimes tough. It could be a struggle to work out what my friends were up to. Being spontaneous was a challenge. As a result, I often ended up trying to ‘arrange’ and ‘control’ the fun myself by putting myself in charge. That way I could know what was going on. Unfortunately, it didn’t endear me to my friends and I ended up getting a reputation for being bossy and bolshy.

5) Finally, teachers invariably made assumptions about what I already knew, based on what everyone else already knew. And, invariably, they were mistaken. The classic example on my part is the Lord’s Prayer. I was at a Church of England school so every morning we all had to recite the Lord’s Prayer. For six years I didn’t have a clue what the words were. In fact, it wasn’t until Cliff Richard did that millennium prayer song, that I finally picked it up. Of course, everyone else picked it up just by listening to everyone else. I was too embarrassed to admit I didn’t know. The moral of the story is that gaps in incidental learning means there is loads that deaf children don’t quite pick up. And it turns out apparently that our Farther arts in Heaven, rather than Devon. Who knew?

It’s difficult to be angry or sad about any of the above. Had I not worked through any of the above challenges, I wouldn’t be where I am today. But part of me hope that things are better now, that deaf children are thriving rather than coping.  And that teachers are reading the guidance produced by (shameless plug alert) the National Deaf Children’s Society. I suspect though that there is more work to raise awareness among teachers of the little idiosyncrasies around supporting deaf children in school.

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Has Access to Work become a bureaucratic monster?

Posted by Ian Noon on February 18, 2014

I’ve been picking up lots of chatter recently about Access to Work. Lots of petty new rules suddenly turning up out of nowhere on what communication support can or can’t be booked using Access to Work. Limping Chicken picked up on the trend last year and a recent email from a friend suggests things are getting worse still. This prompts me to tell a story about a little local difficulty I had with Access to Work a few months back. It’s a long story, so get yourself comfortable…

To get the pleasantries out the way, as a policy, Access to Work is great. Can’t live or rather work without it. It provides me with communication support that enables me to attend meetings, speak on the phone and basically do my job. Without that support, I would be severely limited in what work I could do.

So how I do square this with the fact that the people who administer Access to Work are the most petty unhelpful rude obstructive bureaucrats I’ve ever had the displeasure to engage with. The people meant to be helping disabled people into work often seem to be working purposely to make it harder to get the support they need.

My little run in with Access to Work started last summer when I had to renew my claim. The renewals are never enjoyable. They invariably ask lots of random questions like how many meetings I expect to have in the next three years. I don’t even know yet how many meetings I’m going to have next week but anyhow…

This renewal seemed worse than usual. It started off with officials ignoring my renewal claim for 2 months and only getting their act together once my manager started chasing them to find out what was going on. This was all getting me quite nervous since my existing package of support was now due to expire soon.

Things didn’t get better. To cut a long story short, the agreement had to be sent back three times because of errors and rubbish maths. If that was the end of it, then I would not be writing this blog. I suppose that being able to do multiplication on a calculator or know the difference between a sign language interpreter and a speech to text reporter are not totally essential skills for anyone working on Access to Work. But, the worse was still to come.

For reasons unknown, Access to Work apparently required me to split out my renewal into day to day support and one-off support. The one-off support is for funding support that I need to attend party conferences each year which, as a parliamentary officer, is fairly essential for my job. I had naively assumed that the person looking after my claim could deal with both or would at least make it clear how this would be handled. Nope.

When it became clear that the official didn’t seem to be doing anything about the one-off support, I flagged it up. I was told that I needed to talk to the person looking after my claim. Which was puzzling because I thought that’s what she was there to do. I asked if she could let me have the contact details or, better still, forward my email the relevant person.

No reply. I emailed again a few weeks later. No reply again. Another email. No reply. After the 4th time trying, I got a rather curt email that finally gave me another email address to try.

I emailed the other person. No reply. I emailed again a few weeks later. No reply. You may be able to detect a trend.

By the time I had finally got someone to look at this, the party conferences had been and gone. I had been forced into a position of deciding whether to go to conference and try and get by without communication support or telling my boss I couldn’t do my job or booking the communication support. As Access to Work had funded this kind of support before without question, I went ahead and booked it. I thought I’d be OK. There’s no way Access to Work could reasonably refuse this support, surely?

The claim was turned down. Why? Because I was making a retrospective claim. The fact that they might have had something to do with it being a retrospective claim was not really considered to be a mitigating factor.

Thus began a long complaints process and a million more emails. I tried reasoning with them. No luck. I made a formal complaint. It was not upheld and the reason given, adding insult to injury, was that, as a long-standing user of Access to Work, I should apparently have been aware from the outset that separate renewal claims were needed. Basically it was entirely my own fault.

It was incredibly frustrating. I was having to spend hours working to recover costs that I had reasonably expected would be reimbursed by Access to Work. What made it worse for me was the knowledge that, as I work for a charity, I was using up charitable funds.

I was forced to exhaust the complaints process to the long and bitter end. And only then did I finally get someone to admit that actually Access to Work may have been at fault. And that it wasn’t unreasonable of me to expect that my renewal for one-off support should have been dealt with at the very start. My request for a retrospective claim was finally agreed.

So this story kind of has a happy ending. But I had to fight to get it. I had to deal with curt and obstructive officials. Several times, I pointedly drew attention to the Access to Work customer charter which states that I can expect Access to Work to:

• Have an adviser contact you within 24 hours of getting an application form
• Keep you informed through the process
• Be flexible and responsive
• Be helpful, courteous and professional

I work in campaigns so I know how to write stroppy emails and to navigate a complaints system. Other deaf people, especially young deaf people new to the system, might not be able to or feel confident doing so.

And things now seem to be getting worse with the current trend to new petty and stupid rules coming out of the Department for Work and Pensions on Access to Work, all making it harder for deaf and disabled people to get the support they need.

It’s taken me a few months to write this blog. Partly that’s out of exasperation and frustration that these people actually think it’s acceptable to behave like this with disabled people. I just want to do my job. I am tired of having to fight endless battles with faceless bureaucrats. Even now, after my renewals have been sorted, I still get curt and unhelpful letter from Access to Work querying some issue or another with my claim.

The police were once described as being ‘institutionally racist’. Right now, I feel like Access to Work has turned into a petty bureaucratic monster that’s institutionally hostile to disabled people.

PS If you’re experiencing problems with Access to Work, check out the Deaf AtW website which has lots of helpful information and advice.

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Debating deaf children’s futures

Posted by Ian Noon on October 13, 2013

After 18 months of campaigning and 50,000+ petition signatures, MPs have agreed that concerns over cuts to funding to support for deaf children are so serious that Parliament should debate them.

Deafness is invariably described as the invisible disability. The needs of deaf children too often get overlooked. Well, not on Thursday. This isn’t going to be a debate in some poky committee room – it will be on the floor of the House of Commons. The needs of deaf children will take centre-stage and the Government will be forced to explain what exactly they are doing to make sure deaf children get the help they need. And the whole world can judge whether this is good enough. This is a big deal, ladies and gentlemen.

The debate is going to be an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the fact that help for deaf children is being cut across the country. The Government say they have protected funding for vulnerable learners yet this protection isn’t being carried through at a local level. 29% of local authorities are cutting services and another 25% are at risk, according to analysis from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).

You might take the Government’s point that this is a matter for local communities. But there’s only so much fire-fighting that parents can do without getting exhausted or neglecting their core job – being Mums and Dads to their deaf child. It’s time for the Government to take action to stop the fires starting in the first place.

There are different ways the Government can do this. It could intervene directly in some of the worse cases and name and shame council bosses that don’t protect funding for vulnerable learners. The Government seems quite happy to tell councils what to do about rubbish collections and council magazines after all.

It could also introduce stronger checks over councils. It could make Ofsted inspect specialist services for deaf children. It’s easy for councils to cut services if they don’t think there are going to be any serious consequences.

The debate is also going to be an opportunity to say that, well actually, before even all of these cuts, in many places the support deaf children were getting wasn’t good enough. Over two thirds of deaf children fail to get 5 good GCSEs. It’s an opportunity to debate openly the fact that:

  • Too many families aren’t getting enough support after their deaf child is born. Where they want to learn sign language, families sometimes have to pay thousands of pounds just to learn to communicate with their own child.
  • Too many deaf children don’t get the specialist support they need in the classroom. They have to learn in poky noisy classrooms without extra help and support.
  • Too many deaf young people don’t get the help they need to prepare for adulthood and independence.

My biggest fear is that the Government will, come Thursday’s debate, do as they’ve done before and just bat away concerns. They’ll point to tiny pots of money given for small projects – not unappreciated but not enough. They’ll point to new laws on special educational needs even though this doesn’t address the fundamental issues deaf children face.

This is why a big turnout from MPs is needed. The more MPs that turn up and say something must be done, the more likely the Government will actually do something substantial. So MPs need to know this debate is important. MPs need to hear from families and deaf people of the individual stories and challenges that deaf children face. MPs need to challenge the Government to do more, much more.

And hopefully then Thursday’s debate will be the start of a lasting change that makes a big difference to deaf children.

To ask your MP to come along on Thursday, you can email him / her via the NDCS website. For more information about the debate, you can also check out NDCS’s Stolen Futures campaign pages. You can email your MP via the

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Pushing the disability ministry to take disabled access seriously

Posted by Ian Noon on July 17, 2013

A minor little campaign victory achieved at NDCS the other week: the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) accepted that deaf people should not be forced to use the phone to make a claim for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit. Usually, I do a little jig and get the Bucks Fizz out when a campaign victory has been achieved. But this was a very small, unsettling one and which left an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

How come? Because the only real concession is that deaf people have been given a postal address that they can write to to ask for a paper form instead.

And why is it an unsettling one? Because it was such a small issue that should absolutely never have been an issue at all. And because it’s revealed some rather interesting things about how the Department for Work and Pensions, which has responsibility for disability issues across Whitehall, seem to approach issues around access for disabled people.

For example, who at DWP thought it was OK to propose that the only way that a disabled person could make a claim was via a telephone?

If an online system is being created, why not wait until this is developed before rolling out the new benefit so that more people can access?

And, the worse one of all for me, who on earth thought it was acceptable to suggest that if a deaf person couldn’t use the phone, it didn’t matter too much because they could ask a family member to call DWP for them?

Something has gone very horribly wrong when the Minister and officials responsible for disability have to be hectored at some length and for some time to take a tiny step to improve access.

Official were seemingly operating in ignorance of the Equality Act 2010 and its central tenets to remove discrimination and promote access for disabled people. Throughout the whole exchange with DWP, it was abundantly clear that the needs and the convenience of their ‘system’ was far more important than the physical access needs of disabled people.

And this is before we’ve got to the raft of spending and welfare cuts that are going to impact on disabled people (and which the Government refuses to assess the impact of – another legal requirement). This was a small issue. But it said big things about the Government’s wider attitude towards disabled people.

I despair. It makes me angry and depressed. But equally it makes me more determined to keep challenging the Government. And I hope others do too.

P.S. If you’re not sure what this new PIP benefit is all about, both the National Deaf Children’s Society and Action on Hearing Loss have recently produced some information resources on PIP for deaf young people, parents and deaf adults.

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Being deaf and dealing with concentration fatigue

Posted by Ian Noon on June 27, 2013

I went to a great conference today. It was riveting and I was hooked on pretty much every word. And then I got home and collapsed on the sofa. I’m not just tired, I’m shattered. I’ve had to turn my ears off to rest in silence and my eyes are burning. I’ve also had about 3 cups of tea just to write this paragraph.

Boo-hoo, so the Noon is tired, so what? True. People go through worse. But I do also think the fact that the impact of deafness doesn’t just manifest itself in communication is ever really that well understood. It’s about the energy involved in lipreading and being attentive all the day long. Processing and constructing meaning out of half-heard words and sentences. Making guesses and figuring out context. And then thinking of something intelligent to say in response to an invariably random question. It’s like doing jigsaws, Suduku and Scrabble all at the same time.

For deaf children and young people, especially, I don’t think this impact is as widely recognised as it should be. Advice to teachers on working with deaf children tends to talk far more about language and communication, rather than concentration fatigue.

And some deaf children and young people I meet haven’t been given the space to talk about what impact deafness has on them and to work out strategies to deal with it; like taking regular breaks and being honest to grown ups that they’re tired, without fear they’ll be labelled as lazy. When I was younger, I was a little embarrassed to be so tired all the time. I would force myself to go out and be busy and out there when really all I wanted to do was crawl under the sofa and nap for a hundred years. Nobody ever really told me that this was ‘OK’.

It follows though to when deaf young people grew up and become deaf professionals. It was a long while before I started to openly admit to colleagues that long or successive meetings are the enemy of me and that I would need extended breaks to be able to function later. And to get friends to realise that if I wasn’t saying very much in the pub, it’s probably cos I was too tired to think.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that deaf people can do anything and everything. We can change the world. But we might need a nap and a cuppa tea every once in a while, so don’t judge us.

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Battle lost on welfare cuts for deaf people

Posted by Ian Noon on March 5, 2013

The Department for Work and Pensions’ have succeeded in their plans to replace Disability Living Allowance with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for disabled people over 16. The regulations were debated and voted through by Parliament around a month ago. And now many deaf people will lose out.

A response from the National Deaf Children’s Society is online and sets out their anger and disappointment.

I think what makes me most angry is the way the Government have gone about making this cut without being open about the consequences. Lots of members of the public and a few MPs and peers have raised concerns about the impact of these changes on deaf people. They have all been largely fobbed by the Department for Work and Pensions in several different insidious ways.

For example, the Department have been prone to engage in rhetoric about supporting those “most in need” when asked how deaf people will be affected.

Note the implication that that deafness isn’t that big a deal. If the Department think this, they should come out and say so. They’ve had ample opportunity.

And since when did it become OK for the Department for Work and Pensions to turn disability into some kind of big competition, pitting different groups of disabled people against each other to see who is ‘most’ disabled? I thought the just thing to do was to support everyone who needs help. It’s brazen and shameless divide and rule.

Another example of how the Department have batted away concerns is through refusing to identify how many deaf people will lose out. They say the Department can’t monitor the impact on deaf people. Everyone’s needs need to be looked at individually, they say. I find this curious because the Department can come up with a very specific figure of 608,000 people who will be affected by these changes. That’s 608,000 individuals who have already been judged to not be disabled enough. They can also breakdown figures in terms of who is on different rates of DLA. I rather suspect the Department can work out the differential impact but have made a conscious decision not to do so.

And finally, and probably what annoys me most, is some rather disingenuous use of definitions. For example, the dividing line between those deaf people who will and won’t get PIP is whether they have difficulties understanding basic or complex verbal information without communication support. So if you can’t understand basic information, you qualify. If you can understand basic but not complex you won’t.

When someone says ‘complex’ information, I assume they’re talking about the philosophy of Nietzsche or the budget for the European Commission. In fact, ‘complex’ anything that takes more than a sentence. This isn’t complex information at all – it’s everyday communication. And now deaf people who can understand yes or no but who struggle with everyday communication will lose out. So much for promoting personal independence.

The changes come into force from April. Reassessments for anyone who is currently claiming DLA will start from October – including deaf children who have just turned 16. You can expect a letter in the post. If you currently have a lifetime award, this isn’t going to make a difference, you will still undergo reassessment. In most cases, you will probably be called to a face to face assessment.

It now seems likely that the Department for Work and Pensions will turn their attention to DLA for children. Will the Department attempt to cut support to those children it deems to not disabled enough? If so, they’re going to have a hell of a fight on their hands.

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Is this really the right time to push ahead with special educational needs reform?

Posted by Ian Noon on February 18, 2013

Sad parliamentary geeks of the world, rejoice! The long-expected Children and Families Bill has now been published, setting out, amongst other, wide-ranging proposals for reform to the special educational needs framework. This is likely to result in significant changes to how deaf children and their families are supported and educated. If you’re unfamiliar with what the reforms mean, the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) have produced a FAQ for parents of deaf children.

For much of this year, I’m going to be working on the Bill and briefing politicians what it might mean for deaf children and which bits of the Bill they should support, question, clarify or violently throw their Committee chairs against the wall and revolt against. Who knows, I might end up accidentally changing the law again.

In short, it’s going to be a big deal. So before we get into all of that, it’s worth asking a fairly fundamental question: is it sensible to go ahead with these proposals now?

The reason I ask is that the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign has already found that in the two years running up to April 2013, 1 in 3 councils have cut vital services for deaf children. So who is going to be left to implement these reforms?

The reforms are not cost-neutral. That much is clear from the ‘pathfinders’ who have been testing out the reforms. One Teacher of the Deaf working in one of the pathfinder areas told me that the work she had been doing on creating new ‘Education, Health and Care Plans’ involved lengthy meetings with parents and lots of work to co-ordinate with other professionals. This is not to say that the reforms are a bad idea. But it is to question whether they are sustainable in the long-run, without extra investment. However, the Department for Education have been clear that there is no new money on the table.

The big fear is that this reform actually causes so much upheaval that services get worse and deaf children’s education suffers. Parents of deaf children are already a little anxious about what this all means. In a NDCS survey, just 6% of parents of deaf children thought the proposals would mean that deaf children would get better support. 80% of parents who were familiar the reforms said they thought the real aim was to reduce spending. The Department clearly has some work to do to reassure parents.

As the Bill goes through Parliament, NDCS is going to be reinforcing this point: that unless the Department for Education ‘step up’ and intervene where local authorities are making cuts to services, their SEN reforms risk making a bad situation worse.

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Stolen Futures campaign video and why the Government needs to step up

Posted by Ian Noon on February 11, 2013

Image courtesy of NDCS

Well, today was very exciting. The new campaign video for the National Deaf Children’s Society Stolen Futures campaign was released. It features actor Jim Carter (him off Downton Abbey, not the ex-peacenik-President) and my heroine Dame Evelyn Glennie (her banging the drums at the Olympics). And Jim then appeared on Lorraine this morning to tell everyone about the petition. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve always had a secret crush on Lorraine. It’s that husky Scottish voice. Rrrr.

Anyhow, the video is great. Please do watch and see for yourself. But it has a serious side. Vital services for deaf children are still being cut across the UK. Deaf children’s futures are still being stolen. And the Department for Education are still buck passing. The National Deaf Children’s Society still needs 100,000 signatures to force the Department to take responsibility.

“It’s a matter for local authorities,” the Department say.

“We’ve protected funding for vulnerable learners,” they protest.

“Go and have a go at the council bosses, light some firecrackers down the council building,” they haven’t quite said but it lies near the surface.

By April 2013, one in three local authorities will have cut the vital services that deaf children rely on. Is the Department for Education seriously expecting parents from across all those areas or charitable organisations like the National Deaf Children’s Society to be able to hold them all to account? For real?

It’s the Department for Education’s money. It’s their responsibility. They need to sort it.

Hence, the petition to get them to intervene. It’s building momentum. Over 28,500 so far. Share the video with everyone you know to help them see why this is so important. Get them to sign the petition. And then get them to share the video with everyone they know. And that way we can get the Department for Education to finally step up.

Deaf children deserve better than all this buck passing.

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Welfare cuts targeting deaf people?

Posted by Ian Noon on December 17, 2012

Well, it’s official. The Government thinks that deafness is just a ‘minor’ disability. A piffling little thing of no consequence or cost.

Last week, the Government confirmed the arrangements for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people over 16 (DLA is safe for children – for now). In doing so, they confirmed that deaf people will be among those hardest hit. Here’s a National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) story on it.

The older lower rate for DLA is out which will hit a lot of deaf people.

And the criteria has been worded in such a word that basically you have to be a sign language user reliant on interpreters all the time to get even basic standard rate of PIP. Some estimates suggest around 90% of deaf people don’t use sign language as their main form of communication in the home.

To add insult to injury, the entire claim process is predicated on the basis that all disabled people can use the phone to request a form. Forget about such quaint things like webforms or email.

From next April over 600,000 disabled people will start to see their DLA cut or removed. That’s over half a million. And yet the announcements got hardly any coverage.

MPs and Lords will have to approve the changes at some point early in the new year. If you’re angry about the fact the Government doesn’t seem to understand deafness or think that it carries any significant extra costs, then get in touch with your MP and ask him or her to oppose the changes. If you get DLA now, explain to your MP what you use it for and what life would be like if you didn’t get it.

And don’t forget, if the Government thinks they can get away with this, deaf children and their families will be next.

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