Stolen Futures campaign video and why the Government needs to step up

Image courtesy of NDCS

Well, today was very exciting. The new campaign video for the National Deaf Children’s Society Stolen Futures campaign was released. It features actor Jim Carter (him off Downton Abbey, not the ex-peacenik-President) and my heroine Dame Evelyn Glennie (her banging the drums at the Olympics). And Jim then appeared on Lorraine this morning to tell everyone about the petition. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve always had a secret crush on Lorraine. It’s that husky Scottish voice. Rrrr.

Anyhow, the video is great. Please do watch and see for yourself. But it has a serious side. Vital services for deaf children are still being cut across the UK. Deaf children’s futures are still being stolen. And the Department for Education are still buck passing. The National Deaf Children’s Society still needs 100,000 signatures to force the Department to take responsibility.

“It’s a matter for local authorities,” the Department say.

“We’ve protected funding for vulnerable learners,” they protest.

“Go and have a go at the council bosses, light some firecrackers down the council building,” they haven’t quite said but it lies near the surface.

By April 2013, one in three local authorities will have cut the vital services that deaf children rely on. Is the Department for Education seriously expecting parents from across all those areas or charitable organisations like the National Deaf Children’s Society to be able to hold them all to account? For real?

It’s the Department for Education’s money. It’s their responsibility. They need to sort it.

Hence, the petition to get them to intervene. It’s building momentum. Over 28,500 so far. Share the video with everyone you know to help them see why this is so important. Get them to sign the petition. And then get them to share the video with everyone they know. And that way we can get the Department for Education to finally step up.

Deaf children deserve better than all this buck passing.

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Stop what you’re doing, sign a petition and help stop cuts to deaf children’s services

My colleague Jenny caught me talking to myself the other day. I simply reminded her about the importance of internal communications in our office. And in the best spirit of internal communication, I am going to interview myself in this blog. I think I’m sitting comfortably, so here we go.

Hello! Do you have 5 minutes to sign a petition? 

God, not another pointless pontificating petition for socialist eco-warrior peaceniks to sign…

No, no, no – this is a petition to help save services for deaf children. 1 in 4 councils are cutting vital services for deaf children like Teachers of the Deaf, communication support workers, audiologists, social workers, speech and language therapists. NDCS’s Stolen Futures report sets out the full scale of cuts across England.

Yeah, yeah, all very sad, boo hoo, but cuts are taking place everywhere, innit?

Yeah, but are things really so bad that we have to start cutting help for deaf children, some of the most vulnerable children in society. To force deaf children to sit in classrooms missing what’s being said and falling further and further behind because their Teacher of the Deaf isn’t able to come in anymore? Is that how we think we should treat deaf children?

Er, yes, that’s bad but…

Hang on dear, there’s more. Imagine you’re a Mum who’s just found out that your child is deaf. You know nothing about deafness. 9 out of 10 parents don’t. You need someone to explain what deafness is, how you can teach your child to develop language and communication, and help you navigate all the other services out there. You need someone to give you hope.

Yeah, OK, it’s pretty immoral and something needs to be done, but a petition, yeah? Hardly going to change the world…

But if this petition gets 100,000 signatures, Parliament will hold a debate on the petition.

A debate? Snooze… I thought we were trying to stop the cuts? How is a debate going to change things?

A debate is still a big deal. Very few petitions hit the 100,000 mark so those that do get noticed. Government Ministers will have to explain themselves in front of everyone and answer some tough searching questions about what’s happening to deaf kids. Even if nothing happens immediately, it’s going to put them under huge amounts of pressure to do something. Plus, it will send a really strong signal that people care about deaf children. That people think the Government and councils should have some basic decency and not abandon deaf children.

But what’s the point of asking Westminster to do anything? The local councils are the bad guys right? Why can’t you just keep fighting them locally like you’ve been doing already? Take them to court and flog ’em? 

True, dat. It is the councils making cuts. But the Government holds the big purse strings. And they have real powers of direction over councils. There’s 152 councils in England. As much as they would like to and as much as they can try to, organisations like NDCS can’t fight the local cuts everywhere. Central Government can, should and needs to intervene.

100,000 signatures though? Impossible. Do you want me to raise the Titanic while I’m at it? 

Impossible? It’s said that everyone in the world is connected through six people. Around 500 people read my last blog last week. You all have friends, right? You also have colleagues, social groups that you’re involved in? If you sign it, then get 10 people to sign the petition and then they too get 10 people to sign it, we’re half way there already.

And I suppose when you get to  halfway other people will start to notice and say to themselves, actually yeah, this is a pretty appalling way to treat some of the most vulnerable children in society.

Absolutely. Aren’t you a clever clogs. And think what a signal it would send if the needs of deaf children reach the top of the agenda. Councils and Government would seriously think twice about ever doing anything to mess with people who care about deaf children and other disabled children.

Alright then, I’ll sign the bloody thing. Er, and how do I do that? 

Easy. Go to this website. Add your details. Click send. Then wait for an email to confirm you’re not some lunatic spambot and click on the link in the email. And you’re done. Then email everyone you know and get them all fired up. Sorted.

I’ll do my best. I’m still just 1 person though. Can I really make a difference?

Yes. If enough people take small steps to stand up to an injustice, big things can happen.

Deaf children are some of the most vulnerable children in society. If we don’t stand up for their rights and stop the cuts, then who will?

Stopping Stoke from slashing services for deaf children

A combination of holidays and post-holiday work mean I haven’t been blogging for a while. But I think I might break the silence to give an update on the Save Services for Deaf Children campaign in Stoke on Trent. Stoke has been one of the big battlegrounds from the start. 2 years ago, they had 8 Teachers of the Deaf. When deaf children start school again in September, there will just be 4. Despite this, the council still maintain the fiction that their changes will improve matters for deaf children in Stoke.

A few campaign tactics from the start have been bearing fruit recently. NDCS set up a petition early on and which attracted nearly 600 signatures. As a result, NDCS was asked to speak before the whole council last week. By all accounts, this had a big impact. One councillor wrote in to NDCS to say it was a “very moving, reasoned and inspiring speech”. The speech got a round of applause and was covered in the respected local paper too.

Encouragingly, the petition has now been unanimously referred to a scrutiny committee within the council which will look again at the decision. Though I’m not holding my breath, the hope is that the council will finally realise they cannot slash the service for deaf children in Stoke by half without it having a devastating impact on deaf children.

The moral of the blog though? Even doing a simple thing like creating and signing a petition can have a big impact in saving services.

Downing St petition on Government’s failure to ensure equality in exams

I am still angry about the debacle over the Equality Bill last week when the Government decided that, actually, you know equality in exams and qualifications for disabled people, isn’t all that important, like.

So angry, that I have created a No.10 Downing Street petition to vent my anger.

If you’re angry too, please add your name as soon as you can to the petition. And tell your friends, families, random acquaintances, pets, etc.

The more people who sign it, the more the Government will realise that they cannot, in the 21st century, get away with denying full access to GCSEs, A Levels and other general qualifications for deaf and other disabled people.

I’m off to find a barracade to chain myself to.

PS The Downing Street website will send you an email to check that you want to sign the petition – so please check your email afterwards!