Posted by Ian Noon on December 13, 2011
One of my favourite campaigning organisations, Every Disabled Child Matters, have launched a new campaign action. They are asking people to write to the Prime Minister to give some good news to families with disabled children for Christmas.
In the days before David Cameron was busy pulling hissy fits in Europe, he promised that he would “never do anything that would hurt disabled children.”
This begs the question why the Government is pushing ahead with changes to disability benefits that effectively amount to a 50% cut in help for families with disabled children. As Every Disabled Child Matters explain, currently, low income and out of work families who claim DLA on behalf of their child are entitled to a ‘disability addition’ worth £53.62 per week. Families with a child in receipt of the high rate care component of DLA also receive a ‘top up addition’ worth an additional £21 per week. Proposals under the Universal Credit will see lower benefit ‘additions’ drop by over 50%. It might not seem much but to families already struggling without support, this may push them over the edge.
The worse thing? By the Government’s own admission, this change won’t have any impact on the overall benefit bill. That’s right, the cuts are completely unnecessary.
I’m fast becoming somewhat disillusioned about the widening gap between what the Government say and do on help for deaf and other disabled children. If there’s ever a time for cynicism to be dashed, it’s just before Christmas. So fingers crossed, the Government come up with a better gift for disabled children in the UK today.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: benefits, david cameron, disability living allowance, DLA, EDCM, every disabled child matter, Prime Minister | 1 Comment »
Posted by Ian Noon on August 2, 2011
How many opportunities does a MP get to ask the Prime Minister a question at Prime Minister’s Question Time? Not very often, would be my guess.
Which is why I’m doubly impressed that Malcolm Bruce MP has now asked two questions in three years focusing on deafness and sign language. Malcolm has a deaf daughter and is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness. Even so, to nobble the Prime Minister twice on this in front of everyone at the highest level is pretty dedicated.
Image courtesy of NDCS
The first question was to Gordon Brown in 2008; Malcolm asked if he would meet a delegation of sign language users. Gordon agreed and the meeting led to the government-funded project, called I-Sign. The National Deaf Children’s Society was a part of this and led on a workstream to increase access to family sign language. With 90% of deaf children born to hearing families, many families struggle to learn to communicate with their deaf child. Yet most local authorities offer pretty little support to families wanting to learn family-appropriate signs at convenient times at minimal cost. Through the I-Sign project, NDCS created a family sign language DVD and website and working with others helped to pilot special courses in the North West and South West. Do check out the website – it features a beautiful seaside town that makes me wish I could go and live in my computer.
The pilots are now over. But families still need support. Hence, the return of Malcolm Bruce at Prime Minster’s Question more recently to ask if David Cameron would consider rolling out the pilots to the rest of England.
The reply was once again very positive and encouraging. David described sign language as “incredibly valuable”, said the pilots had been “successful” and said he would ask the Department for Education to meet with Malcolm and another delegation. Bingo.
It will be no mean feat to get the Department for Education to agree to a roll-out. But thanks to Malcolm, the mission has made a promising first start. Will the Department refuse to expand on something the Prime Minister refers to as successful?
Watch this space.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: communication, david cameron, deaf children, family sign language, I sign, Malcolm Bruce, National Deaf Children's Society, NDCS | 2 Comments »
Posted by Ian Noon on April 28, 2010
Lord loves a troublemaker. Yesterday, special educational needs and disability made its first major appearance on the election campaign trail when a father of a disabled son heckled David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party, in front of the TV cameras.
His main point of objection? That the Conservative manifesto states that the party will “end the bias” towards mainstream schools for children with special educational needs and disability. And also stop the closure of special schools. The father argued that there was actually a bias against inclusion in mainstream schools, evidenced by his struggle to get his son into his local mainstream school.
What makes this quite interesting is that David Cameron previously had a disabled son, whilst the Conservative lead on education, Michael Gove, has a deaf sister who attended a special school for the deaf. You’d be hard pressed to come across two senior politicians with such a personal and direct experience of disability.
The Conservatives argue that they’re not in favour of “reversing” the bias or moving towards segregation for disabled children in schools – simply, that they want more parental choice. When Michael Gove was interviewed by three deaf students in January, he said:
“I think for years now we have had this assumption that it’s always better for children who have a hearing impairment or who are living with another disability to be in mainstream school. My view is that there should be a choice. It depends on the child, it depends on the parent, it depends on individual circumstances. And it’s wrong to have a fixed view on this.”
Many would agree that there needs to be choice and flexibility so that the child and parents gets what they need and want. It’s broadly consistent with the Labour party and the Liberal Democrat party’s vision for children with special educational needs. And looking at the National Deaf Children’s Society statement on inclusion, there is a call for a spectrum of provision to ensure that parents of deaf children can, in fact, have this choice.
Nevertheless, the line “ending the bias” has raised a few eyebrows within the charitable sector and the parties do differ in their emphasis and their specific policies fror making sure disabled children are able to fulfil their potential. More widely, it’s fair to say that there are some fairly entrenched views on whether the problem is that local authorities won’t fund places for disabled children in mainstream classrooms, or for special schools, further away. Certainly, many parents of deaf children seem to struggle to get the provision they want, regardless. I suspect, in many areas, there is simply not enough money given to pupils with special educational needs and disability, even though such pupils amount to one in five of the school population.
Despite the lack of answers, it’s good to see this issue getting an airing during the election. Congratulations to Mr. Angry Dad of Disabled Son for making this happen.
To help you make up your own mind, NDCS’s summary of the main three UK party manifestos on deaf children can be found in the manifestos section of the NDCS election web special. Let us know below what you think of what the parties are saying on special educational needs and disability.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Conservative, david cameron, deaf children, disabled children, end the bias, inclusion, Jonathan Bartley, National Deaf Children's Society, NDCS, special educational needs | 6 Comments »