NDCS campaigns at Labour conference 2009: day 4

Picture3 002On our final day at the Labour party conference, on a day the sun disappeared, we were on the hunt… for someone to take responsibility for building regulations.

Our Sounds good? campaign on school acoustics has got the attention of Ministers and officials at the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), but to get what we want – a requirement for acoustic testing in all new schools – there needs to be a change to the building regulations which govern how school buildings are built. Which is the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).

Sadly, though, having spoken to four Ministers who work at the Department, including the Secretary of State who in theory has overall responsibility for everything in his Department, none of them seemed entirely sure who was responsible for this issue. It was slightly worrying. In the end, one of them agreed to look into it further and get back to us.

Otherwise, the day was spent networking and going to more fringe meetings. Overall, there have been some really interesting fringe meetings over the past week. Some of the highlights include:

* The Every Disabled Child Matters meeting which featured four ministers in total. Our acoustics campaign got a mention when someone else asked about the accessibility of new school buildings. I raised a question about whether Access to Work, to pay for additional help for disabled people in the workplace, should be extended to disabled people doing unpaid internships, to help them get up the career ladder. The answer from the Minister for Disability, Jonathan Shaw, was that he would like to, but there wasn’t really any money for it. So that was that.

* At a NASUWT fringe meeting, we asked a few questions about acoustics. DCSF Minister Vernon Coaker, who used to be a deputy headteacher, asked my boss to “come and see him afterwards”. Fortunately, it was not for a detention or corporal punishment but to convey his desire to see this problem sorted out as soon as possible. He said he would ask officials to update him.

* And at a fringe meeting by Action for Children, with Baroness Morgan, Children’s Minister, in attendence, we again raised the concerns that the social care needs of deaf children are being overlooked.

Overall, it’s been a busy few days getting NDCS mentions here and there, introducing Louis Kissaun to MPs, and raising awareness of the needs of deaf children. Now we’re going to get busy drafting letters and doing all the things we promised MPs that we would do, before the next conference for the Conservatives in Manchester…

Any points you want us to raise at the Conservative conference about deaf children? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Government reshuffle: new faces for NDCS

The summer holidays are officially over with Parliament returning to business this week. But before that, the headteacher, Gordon Brown has been busy this week reshuffling his team of Ministers. And of the three Ministers that worked on the policy areas most key to us, ALL three have now moved on!

Lord Adonis, the Minister responsible for special educational needs at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, has been replaced by Sarah McCarthy-Fry.

Ivan Lewis, the Minister responsible for audiology at the Department of Health, has been replaced by Phil Hope.

And Anne McGuire, Minister for Disability, has been replaced by Jonathan Shaw.

Here are all of the new faces:

You can understand the need for fresh blood, and to rejuvenate policy. But to have the three Ministers we work with most closely go at the same time… At a time, when we just about to meet with one (now cancelled) and had just met with another… Hmm. I was also minded of a recent Action for Children report which set out in detail the amount of policy churn relating to policy towards children, and the impact this has on people working on the ground.

Still, it’s an opportunity as much as anything. We’ll be working to forge new contacts going forward. In fact, we’ve already met, by chance, one of the new Ministers which I’ll be blogging about soon…