Posted by Ian Noon on September 20, 2010
I knew this Liberal Democrat conference was going to be different when, within 30 minutes of arrival, I was threatened by a collosal tidal wave of humanity moving towards me, threatening to snuff me out as I ambled through the conference centre. I urgently dodged out of the way into a corner and saw that the cause of this tidal wave of people was made up of a huge bunch of journalists, photographers and lobbyers following the man of the moment and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.
This is my first Liberal Democrat conference with the party in power and the number of people attending is apparently up by around 40%. But in the National Deaf Children’s Society defence, we’ve been coming here every year, asking MPs and other key decision-makers to support NDCS’s campaigns.
My first day up in Liverpool featured some very positive meetings with leading Liberal Democrat figures on education, Dan Rogerson MP and Baroness Walmsley. Both very interested in the Hands up for help! campaign and keen to offer advice and support. Dan, who is MP in North Cornwall, is particularly keen to hear more from Cornish families with deaf children and to work to improve services in Cornwall.
Today was also spent going to fringe meetings trying to track down our top ‘targets’ – Sarah Teather MP, now Education Minister with responsibility for special educational needs, and Paul Burstow MP, Health Minister with responsibility for audiology services. Both are proving hard to track down so tomorrow, I will be refining my stalking skills.
Today was also spent stealing chocolate freebies. Some Credit Crunch Chocolate anyone?
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Campaigns, Cornwall, deaf children, education, Hands up for help, Liberal Democrats, National Deaf Children's Society, NDCS, party conferences | 1 Comment »
Posted by Ian Noon on September 23, 2009
Day two of our Bournemouth Liberal Democrat party conference adventure started with a morning of meetings on the patio of a cliffside hotel in the beautiful morning sunshine. It sounded like perfection at first. Two hours later, we were stumbling off the patio, blinded by the sun and with a deep tan on the half of our face facing the sun.
But the meetings went well. We met Baroness Garden, who works on children and education in the House of Lords for the Lib Dems. I got asked lots of questions about childhood deafness which put me on my toes but was quite nice since it showed an active interest in deafness and a desire to find out more. She was aware of our work to get the law changed on acoustics which was positive. Our message is getting out there before we’ve even come to party conferences…
We also met with Annette Brooke who also asked lots of questions and made a few requests for further information. She raised a new issue – how we do make sure that deaf children who are home educated get the right support from their local authority? A good question and something we’ll be coming back to her on.
There were lot of other charities there all waiting to meet MPs too. At times, it felt a bit like a political form of speed dating with MPs moving between different tables to talk to different charities. All that was missing was a little bell ringing at the half hour mark.
Once that was done, the afternoon was spent stalking MPs and getting their views on our simulation of acoustics in the classroom. One MP said she thought it sounded like a baby listening to the world from the womb!
And then finally, we ended the day with an impressive fringe meeting hosted by Every Disabled Child Matters. This was the best fringe meeting I went to, primarily because it had two young disabled people interrogating two shadow Lib Dem Ministers – David Laws MP (who looks after education) and Steve Webb MP (who looks after benefits) – on what the Lib Dem manifesto will have for disabled children. The highlight for me was when one of the young people was asked if her teachers had low expectations of her. She replied that her teachers told her that she would only ever end up working in a fried chicken takeaway, and how this motivated her to prove her teacher wrong. Her advice to others was simple: don’t give up. She also suggested she did end up working in a fried chicken takeaway, she would get her revenge by spitting in the food! It was a very spunky and inspriring reply.
And that was it. Time for a late night train back to London to reflect on a good two days with the Lib Dems. Now the travelling circus moves to Brighton for the Labour party conference next Sunday…
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: acoustics, Annette Brooke, Baroness Garden, Campaigns, David Laws, deaf chilldren, EDCM, Liberal Democrats, NDCS, party conferences, Steve Webb | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Ian Noon on September 14, 2008
Well, our day one at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Bournemouth has gone well, even though we didn’t really plan to get going until tomorrow.
* Managing to – very briefly – speak with Nick Clegg, the leader of the party, as he walking through the exhibition hall.
* Attending a fringe meeting on inclusion of children with special educational needs, hosted by the Royal National Institute for Deaf people, Treehouse charity for autistic children and the National Union of Teachers. A leading MP, Annette Brooke, came and spoke of her anger that disabled children were being let down by a failure to provide specialist support. My boss, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NDCS, asked the panel whether they thought teachers should be given a statement of entitlements if they work with deaf children – like an entitlement to work in a classroom with good acoustics, specialist support staff with the right qualifications, and with adequate training on working with deaf children. The point seemed to go down well and the NUT seemed keen to follow it up.
* Doing a tour of the exhibition stands and making links with other charities and organisations – including the Royal National Institute for Blind people, CentreForum think tank and the Liberal Democrat Education Association.
* Attending another fringe meeting, run by Every Disabled Child Matters campaign organisation, which managed to attract 3 Liberal Democrat MPs. Reforming Disability Living Allowance benefit was mentioned as a priority by several of these MPs. Families with disabled children shouldn’t be living in poverty as a result of having to care for a disabled child, or buy accessible childcare or buy special equipment. A pertinent point to us given the evidence out there indicating that families with deaf children are also disproportionately in poverty.
The main highlight of the day though had to be seeing celebrity MP, Lembit Opik, in action campaigning for segways to be allowed on the road - by publicly riding it up and down the hill outside the conference centre. If his effort was to prove how safe it is, he probably didn’t count on my Director of Policy and Campaigns getting in the way and nearly being run over by a MP on a segway.
Much busier day tomorrow as Laura comes to town to help us campaign for better education for deaf children.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: deaf children, disabled children, Liberal Democrats, MPs, party conferences, segways | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Ian Noon on September 12, 2008
The party conference beckon ever closer. And like all good parties, I have been spending absolutely ages getting ready for it – though without the prospect of having a sausage on a stick to nibble on at the end of it.
I find myself nervously wondering if the party will go well. But we’re quietly optimistic. For the Liberal Democrat party conference, we’re doing a little experiment by inviting MPs to meet with a local young deaf girl called Laura. At the time of writing, ten MPs, including some senior Liberal Democrat bigwigs, have signed up to hear more about some of the experiences that deaf children face directly from a deaf child herself. One MP can make a powerful difference for us in the Houses of Parliament. So, with ten, we may even be able to change the world for deaf children and do ourselves out of a job.
As well as looking up biographies of all the MPs we’re meeting and sorting out logistical arrangements, we’ve also been thinking carefully about some of the points we’re going to impress on MPs. We want to tailor our messages around the particular interests of the MP but we’re also definitely going to be banging on about NDCS’s campaign to close the gap in attainment between deaf children and their hearing peers and our campaign report Must do better!. Three priority areas for us will be:
* Phonics and deaf children: getting the message out that phonics are inappropriate to many deaf children.
* Specialist support: the lack of skilled staff available to support deaf children in many parts of the UK.
* The need for better data on how deaf children are doing in schools at a local level.
At the risk of sounding like a self-important hyperactive TV news journalist, I’ll be blogging from the party conferences at the heart of the action, giving you regular updates on the top events. So look out for that next week as we head down to the seaside in Bournemouth.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Close the Gap, deaf children, education, Liberal Democrats, party conferences | 1 Comment »