Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Posts Tagged ‘funding’

Debating deaf children’s futures

Posted by Ian Noon on October 13, 2013

After 18 months of campaigning and 50,000+ petition signatures, MPs have agreed that concerns over cuts to funding to support for deaf children are so serious that Parliament should debate them.

Deafness is invariably described as the invisible disability. The needs of deaf children too often get overlooked. Well, not on Thursday. This isn’t going to be a debate in some poky committee room – it will be on the floor of the House of Commons. The needs of deaf children will take centre-stage and the Government will be forced to explain what exactly they are doing to make sure deaf children get the help they need. And the whole world can judge whether this is good enough. This is a big deal, ladies and gentlemen.

The debate is going to be an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the fact that help for deaf children is being cut across the country. The Government say they have protected funding for vulnerable learners yet this protection isn’t being carried through at a local level. 29% of local authorities are cutting services and another 25% are at risk, according to analysis from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).

You might take the Government’s point that this is a matter for local communities. But there’s only so much fire-fighting that parents can do without getting exhausted or neglecting their core job – being Mums and Dads to their deaf child. It’s time for the Government to take action to stop the fires starting in the first place.

There are different ways the Government can do this. It could intervene directly in some of the worse cases and name and shame council bosses that don’t protect funding for vulnerable learners. The Government seems quite happy to tell councils what to do about rubbish collections and council magazines after all.

It could also introduce stronger checks over councils. It could make Ofsted inspect specialist services for deaf children. It’s easy for councils to cut services if they don’t think there are going to be any serious consequences.

The debate is also going to be an opportunity to say that, well actually, before even all of these cuts, in many places the support deaf children were getting wasn’t good enough. Over two thirds of deaf children fail to get 5 good GCSEs. It’s an opportunity to debate openly the fact that:

  • Too many families aren’t getting enough support after their deaf child is born. Where they want to learn sign language, families sometimes have to pay thousands of pounds just to learn to communicate with their own child.
  • Too many deaf children don’t get the specialist support they need in the classroom. They have to learn in poky noisy classrooms without extra help and support.
  • Too many deaf young people don’t get the help they need to prepare for adulthood and independence.

My biggest fear is that the Government will, come Thursday’s debate, do as they’ve done before and just bat away concerns. They’ll point to tiny pots of money given for small projects – not unappreciated but not enough. They’ll point to new laws on special educational needs even though this doesn’t address the fundamental issues deaf children face.

This is why a big turnout from MPs is needed. The more MPs that turn up and say something must be done, the more likely the Government will actually do something substantial. So MPs need to know this debate is important. MPs need to hear from families and deaf people of the individual stories and challenges that deaf children face. MPs need to challenge the Government to do more, much more.

And hopefully then Thursday’s debate will be the start of a lasting change that makes a big difference to deaf children.

To ask your MP to come along on Thursday, you can email him / her via the NDCS website. For more information about the debate, you can also check out NDCS’s Stolen Futures campaign pages. You can email your MP via the

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How I started to lose faith with the Government on deaf children

Posted by Ian Noon on December 16, 2011

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.

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Good news on academies and help for deaf children

Posted by Ian Noon on February 10, 2011

Clearly this blog is very influential and being read by people at the heart of Government. Because within a fortnight of my blog about academies and deaf children, the Government took action to respond to concerns on this. Bucks Fizz all round!

The risk was that deaf children in academies wouldn’t get the help they need because of the way that the silly funding arrangements work. And that specialist support services for deaf children would lose funding.

Clearly, the Government has been listening to these concerns because yesterday they wrote to all local authorities to announce that they would be tweaking the funding arrangements so that specialist support services for children with special educational needs would not lose funding. It’s a short term, one-year, solution, pending a review of academy funding, but still a very welcome one. Here’s the NDCS story on it. A good day for deaf children.

If any Government Ministers are reading this, I also think every deaf person should be given a free I-Phone. Ahem.

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Making sure there’s enough money for help for deaf children

Posted by Ian Noon on September 17, 2010

Well, it’s been a week since I help the National Deaf Children’s Society launch the Hands up for help! campaign report. In that time:

* Over 250 people have contacted their MP in support of the campaign
* It’s been plastered all over BBC London news, reaching millions of viewers
* Over 200 people have joined the Facebook fanpage for the campaign
* Lots of people have also leaving details of their own experiences of help for deaf children on NDCS’s interactive map
* Over 300 people have downloaded the campaign report

Image courtesy of NDCS

The campaign’s key message – that every deaf child deserves a fair chance at school – seems to have hit a chord, among a wide range of people, which is great to see.

So what next? The report makes four recommendations for action and NDCS is going to be lobbying MPs, Ministers, Peers, councillors, local authority decision makers, anyone who will listen, to get them to take action.

The first recommendation is probably the most important. It says:

The Government must ensure adequate funding for specialist support services so all deaf children have a fair chance at school, no matter where they live.

The context behind this isn’t hard to see. We know that massive spending cuts on the way. In the past, local authority budgets have been hit hard. And with deafness being a low incidence, “invisible” disability, budgets for specialist support services have often been seen as an easy target. Anecdotally, there is evidence of vacancies for Teachers of the Deaf being frozen and of loads of local authorities exploring the scope for cuts through SEN “reviews”.

So now NDCS is going to have to make sure deafness isn’t “invisible” in discussions around budget cuts across England.

Have you come across any cuts to services for deaf children where you live? If so, leave a comment below or email NDCS at campaigns@ndcs.org.uk.

I’ll blog about the campaign report’s other recommendations over the next few weeks.

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One year anniversary of NICE report on cochlear implants

Posted by Ian Noon on January 11, 2010



Image courtesy of Maíra Soares

It’s nearly a year now since NICE recommended that all severely to profoundly deaf children should be given the option of a cochlear implant in one or both ears – so now seems a good time to check again that local health boards in England are getting on with it.

The good news is that initial figures suggest that most of them are. Considering it’s a fairly expensive operation, this is no mean achievement. A pat on the back for these people seems well deserved

The bad news is that do appear to be a few malcontents popping up around the country. Whilst I don’t believe for a moment that it really is grim up north, I have to note that one of the worse offenders appears to be the Cheshire area in the North West where NDCS has supporting a family who wanted their deaf son to have a second cochlear implant (having already received one implant). The NICE recommendations allow this – and patients have a legal right to anything recommended by NICE. Despite this, this family were forced to go through lots of pointless bureacratic hoops and make several funding requests before the local health board caved in. Totally not on. The story got covered in their local paper, and hopefully the local health board won’t try it and pull a cheeky one again.

NDCS is keeping an eye out for similiar stories around England, and taking swift action where it does. Please get in touch if you have any specific examples to share, and we’ll get on the case.

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Whatever happened to… the NICE report on cochlear implants?

Posted by Ian Noon on August 19, 2009

As it’s a relatively quiet month, I’ve been spending a lot of time dealing with trains of thought that start with: “Whatever happened to…” Mostly, on work issues but sometimes I have found myself drifting into a reverie about, for example, Ace of Base, purveyers of classic Swedish pop from the 90s.

Anyhow, one work issue that we’ve been checking up on is cochlear implants. Back in January, it was announced that all deaf children for whom it was appropriate would have the right to cochlear implants, following a report from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Three months later, the new rules on this came into effect.

So how’s it gone? Well, if no news is good news, then it seems to have gone reasonably well with most primary care trusts appearing to just get on with it and following the new rules. We’d be interested to know if that’s the experience of others on the ground as well.

Particularly as some localised problems have popped up recently. We’ve become aware of a case in the North West of England where a deaf child has been confirmed as a candidate for a second cochlear implant but the primary care trust have refused to fund it, without giving any clear reasons. NDCS is supporting the parents on this particular case and the campaigns team stands ready to intervene.

Interested to know others views and experiences in this area. And, of course, if there’s anything you want to know whatever happened to, happy to see if I can oblige.

And Ace of Base are still going strong apparently…

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