Campaigning for deaf children at the moment basically means fighting cuts and saving services. Which is quite demoralising. And it also means a lot of the time, for various reasons, I can’t really talk about what I’m up to. I’m bursting with outrageous information that I’ve got to keep confidential.
Well, today, that changed when I helped the National Deaf Children’s Society launch one of it’s first local campaigns against cuts, in Stoke on Trent in the West Midlands.
Where do I start with Stoke on Trent? The fact that the local authority has effectively halved the number of Teachers of the Deaf in the space of 14 months? Or the local authority’s continued assertion that this isn’t going to have an impact on the service they offer to deaf children, relying on this support? With nothing to back up such an assertion?
Hello? All deaf children in Stoke on Trent are going to get the same level of support with half the number of expert specialist staff? If I were living in Stoke on Trent, I would be writing to the council if they minded if I only paid half my council tax this year – it’s not going to have an impact is it, they can still offer the same service?
Actually far worse than this is the failure by the council to tell parents of deaf children what’s going on. A general consultation on overall funding plans came out last year. But it didn’t say anything specific about proposals to cut the number of Teachers of the Deaf. And the consultation wasn’t directly or proactively aimed at parents of deaf children. Most parents in the area I’ve spoken to had no idea what was going on. Proper and full consultation isn’t just a nice thing to do to keep people involved, it’s a legal requirement. And I would personally say that Stoke on Trent are really open to legal challenge on this.
The fear is that this is happening across the country. There are still a lot of local authorities in which NDCS haven’t yet been told what’s going on.
Luckily, there’s a fantastic group of parents in Stoke on Trent who are geared up to fight the cuts. They got themselves in the local paper today and have been busy making a noise. NDCS has helping them with their campaign to reinstate the posts that have done and prevent any further redundancies. There’s a special section on the NDCS web for their campaign. Fingers crossed, the council will realise that these kinds of cuts WILL have an impact, the lost posts must be reinstated and they can’t get away with making these kind of changes to services for deaf children without telling anyone.