I can’t really pinpoint the moment when it happened. I started with really high hopes. But slowly, I’ve personally been getting more and more exasperated with the Government. The trickle of inconsistencies. Assumptions. And, above all, the lack of urgency on protecting help for deaf children when 1 in 5 councils are making cuts to the vital services on which deaf children rely.
My main gripe is the increasing tendency for the Government to say it’s a “matter for local authorities” to arrange provision for deaf children. That councils are expected by the Government to protect funding for “vulnerable learners”. If deaf children are not getting the help they need from specialist support services for deaf children and/or where massive cuts are taking place, it’s the nasty councils’ fault. Don’t blame the Government.
The Government can’t do everything, obviously. But at the end of the day, where else does the buck stop? The Government has the legal powers to intervene in specialist support services for deaf children. But even when faced with evidence of councils making swingeing cuts to vital services and not following legal processes, it has seemed quite relaxed about the impact on deaf children. Whenever asked to intervene, we hear that the Government can only intervene in “limited circumstances”. What those circumstances are remain a mystery – the Government has refused to be drawn, despite several attempts.
I wouldn’t mind so much if this was a principled approach on not intervening. But it isn’t. Instead, there’s a rather arbitrary way of categorising what’s for local authorities to sort out and when local authorities can’t be trusted. For example, the Government appear quite unapologetic about apparently imposing academies on poor performing schools, regardless of the views of the local community – if this article is anything to go by.
The Government’s main defence is that they have a massive programme of reform underway with the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Green Paper. But many of the proposals will only benefit the quarter of deaf children that have a statement. The proposals come with a lot of risks that haven’t yet been properly assessed or mitigated. Throughout it treats children with special educational needs as a homogeneous group; there’s little in it that is directly focused on the unique needs of deaf children. But most importantly, if so many councils are making cuts, what’s going to be left by the time the Green Paper is implemented?
The article I mentioned earlier includes this quote from a Department for Education spokesperson:
“We can’t just stand by and do nothing when schools are sub-standard year after year.”
It’s a shame they seem content to stand by and do nothing for deaf children when their services are being slashed.