School’s out!

Parliament broke for summer yesterday (or “rose for recess” as Parliamentary wonks like to put it) and they don’t come back until October. On the one hand, I’m slightly jealous. On the other, I’m slightly relieved. I feel a bit like a teacher who’s spent the last few months watching over a bunch of manic hyperactive children, monitoring closely what they’re up to and what they’re saying and keeping a constant eye out for mischief. I can now breath a sigh of relief that they’ve all gone home for the summer and have a cup of tea.

In their rush to get things done before the summer, there’s been a rush of activity in the corridors of power. Here’s are three examples of things that have been going on in Parliament recently that impact on deaf children:

1) The Special Educational Needs (Information) Bill , which I talked about in an earlier blog, is now set to become law. It quickly passed through the remaining hurdles left in the House of Lords and the Queen has graciously agreed to approve the Bill by giving it her ‘royal assent’. As this is a private member’s bill, put forward by Sharon Hodgson MP, which don’t normally succeed, this is really good news. In requiring the Department to collect and publish more information about children with special educational needs, the Bill will hopefully be a powerful catalyst for change and have a positive impact for deaf children. Top marks for Sharon!

2) John Bercow issued a report about services for children with speech, language and communication needs. Many children who are deaf, for example, may need speech and langauge therapy and/or communication support so this report was a good opportunity to make sure their needs are taken into account. It follows a call for evidence last year where we encouraged parents of deaf children to input thieir views. Nearly 10% of the final responses came from parents or professionals working with deaf children. My esteemed colleague, Angela Deckett, has talked about this on her excellent blog for professionals.

3) Lord Morris asked a parliamentary question (PQ) in the House of Lords about our Big Plans event that we held a while back. A PQ is an opportunity for MPs or Lords to get the Government’s official ‘position’ on something. It also provides us with a quote that we can throw back in the Government’s face when we need to hold them to account on something. Sometimes though, answers can be horribly vague as to border on meaningless. I should know – in my previous job, it was my responsibility to occasionally draft answers to PQs.

Anyhow, below is the PQ and the answer!

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty’s Government: What consideration they have given to the key findings of the National Deaf Children’s Society’s recent survey of the needs and views of deaf children and young people as they affect government departments; and what action they will be taking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): The National Deaf Children’s Society’s report Changing Your World Youth Consultation was launched on 10 June 2008. This said that that young people want to see more mainstreaming of activities for deaf children and young people. The Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Funds which we introduced in 2006 give young people a direct say over activities and facilities in their area. It is a universal programme with a focus on reaching disadvantaged young people including those with disabilities. Young people can participate in three ways: as an applicant for funding: as a grant giver; and as a beneficiary of the activity or facility provided through the programme.

Young people also want more information and advice made available to them. The National Core Offer was launched as part of Aiming High for Disabled Children on 15 May 2008. The National Core Offer is a statement of the standards which families with disabled children can expect across the country from local services. It is concerned mainly with early years, education, youth, social care and health services, but is also relevant for those delivering housing, leisure and transport services.

The core offer will ensure that parents of disabled children are involved in determining provision; have a single assessment of need where possible; are clear what they are entitled to and how to access the service; give disabled children and young people the option of being fully involved in the development of local services and designing their package of care; and are not subject to multiple assessments before services are provided.

Apart from the fact that it got the name of our report wrong and seemed confused about what our event was about, it was useful for us as the Government confirmed that deaf children should be benefitting from two important Government initiatives – the Youth Opportunity Fund and the Core Offer. So if we suspect this isn’t happening anywhere in the country, we can quote the Government’s reply on this to remind them!

So there you have three examples of Parliamentarians making mischief – creating new laws, publishing reports and asking pertinent questions. No more mischief-making until the autumn though (in theory). I will probably miss them in a few weeks…


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