Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Welsh deaf committee: Failing the deaf and half a million others.

Image result for dai lloyd walesFind below minutes from the cross-party committee minutes for welsh deaf and HoH.  We apologise for the very late offering but in their wisdom, the committee did not decide to make welsh people aware (Over 575,000 of them with hearing loss) of what was being discussed in their name, or when meets are held.  None of the participants are voted for by the majority of welsh people with hearing loss, simply because they are never asked.  Yet the Assembly noted rights and inclusion participants.

ATR noted they are still very reluctant to invite grassroots to their meetings to comment,  to raise points of order, or to question what is discussed and agreed in their name.  ATR's complaint of reluctance by those running the committee of failing to engage with deaf or HoH people was actually ignored.  Nothing for us, without us, and that means charities do not get to decide either.  'Open meetings' are an obvious farce and on the face of it, and discriminating who meets are open to.  With one deaf club only being noted.  This ignores the majority with hearing in all Wales, this may be charitable and political democracy, just, not as we know it!  

*  There were inaccurate statements from the NDCS in that they supported BSL in Education when the official line was NOT to!  And the national government won't back it either.

* Another issue was regarding ASLI (BSL) interpreters being subject to monitoring, sadly only in North England when it should be a norm everywhere.  We cannot let BSL terps do whatever they want whenever they feel like it, the current systems are failing deaf people, and as a minority are also lip--speakers that area is non-viable as it stands.

*  There was an interesting suggestion we as rank and file deaf and HoH could be invited to cross-party meetings, but there was a reluctance by the committee to endorse that, citing 'security' concerns?  God forbid they let US in!

Clearly, issues are there, but, not being carried forward or endorsed, rank and file would do that.  Quite a few others would be raising serious concerns about the democracy of these meetings, its pointless waffling and inertia, and the makeup of them.  We should not be prohibited making our feelings known because we aren't e.g. a charity.  Charities do not speak for us and it is time the Welsh Assembly realised they are unrepresentative of our view too.  Any perusal of their membership would clarify that fact.  Given Wales has 575,000 plus with loss Charity is unrepresentative and without a mandate.

ATR feels deaf and HoH individual input would more focus the mids on the applaing state of welsh care and NHS support as well as the almost total lack of representation. Especially as they and not charities are creating the campaigns.  Do we NEED a cross-party committee that only meets once a year? is a talk shop, and never does anything?  Could we not just get 50 people out of the 575,000 that exist here to petition the assembly and get it debated in the chamber in weeks?  Unlike Westminster, we don't need a 100,000 to make a point.  

We cannot leave it to half a dozen BSL people in Cardiff or the random deaf club people who bother to turn up, the last one held had just 9 people in it and they counted the terps in that number.  Not on is it?  It's not 'open', representative, or inclusive, feedback it isn't..


Cross Party Group on Deaf Issues

12th February 2019

Cross Party Group on Deaf Issues Attendees – February 2019

Dai Lloyd AM – Chair
Callum Mclean – Wales Council for Deaf People (Secretariat, Minute taker) Louise McGrath – Wales Council for Deaf People
Daisy Cole – Action on Hearing Loss
Debbie Thomas – National Deaf Children’s Society Jayne Dulson - National Deaf Children’s Society Jonathan Joseph – ABM ULHB Audiology
Nigel Williams – South Wales Cochlear Implant Support Group Anthony Evans
Communication Support
Hilary Maclean – Palantypist 
Rachel Williams – BSL interpreter

Apologies

Michelle Fowler – British Deaf Association Susan Williams – 
ASLI Interpreters  Sami Thorpe – 
ASLI Interpreters Sarah Thomas – Centre of Sign, Sight, Sound 
Andrew Tait – Deafblind Cymru
Matthew Watts – Bridgend County Borough Council Tracey Good – NHS Centre for Equality & Human Rights

Standing Item ‘Access to Health’ on hold until next meeting due to unavailability

Introduction from Daisy Cole.

Chair welcomed all and invited Daisy to begin the first item.
Daisy introduced herself as the new director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, and mentioned a project they were working on alongside the National Deaf Children’s Society regarding social care guidance which they can give an update on to the group as the project continues, adding that a literature review has been done so far, as well as running focus groups as well as working with directors of social services & WLGA.

Jayne commented that they look forward to working together and that they feel Daisy’s background in human rights and equality issues will be useful. Chair invited any questions/comments to which there were none.

ALN Code of Practice

Debbie handed out copies that summarised the information regarding the Additional Learning Reforms in Wales and noted it will come into force in September 2020. Its importance was noted due to the act changing how support will be planned regarding additional learning needs from the age of 0 to 25.

She then discussed the code for Wales and described it as a guide to practitioners on how to create support plans for deaf children and young people in future as well as being a guide to practitioners on how to enact said act.

It was also highlighted that some of the things lobbied for have been addressed and listened to, however, they believe there are still changes that need to be made based on the current draft of the ALN code of practice and invited the group as individuals/ organisations to respond to said issues.

They believed the ‘transition’ section of the code could be vastly improved, as it does not currently have much in the way of guidance regarding children and young people transitioning from the education system and into the workplace which they say is an example where young people do not feel confident. Such as further information regarding ‘Access to Work’ in terms of disabled student allowance.

The new practice is weaker than the current code regarding careers advice (as the current code states clearly that a careers advisor must be invited to a review meeting of any individual that has a statement, however, no such statutory obligation exists in the new code, in which young deaf people have asked NDCS to make it a campaign priority due to their concern.

Debbie added that it gives families of children the right to a support plan from birth which was not in place in the past. Previously, statements and support plans were school-based. The role of ALN LO (ALN Lead Officer) was also discussed – adding there would be one in every authority responsible for co-ordinating support plans in early years, however there is currently no emphasis on the people in the role having to work with specialists, which Debbie highlighted is crucial due to deafness being a specialism professionally.

A difference was also noted between the Code of Practice in England and Wales regarding references including teachers of the deaf in which the English code states clearly that where a child is deaf, practitioners must involve a teacher of the deaf in their assessments which NDCS believes is crucial and is not as clear in Wales’ code.

Transport issues were also discussed, as was previously lobbied by NDCS as they believe certain issues have yet to be addressed, which is a clear section of the IDP on transport.  An example  given was that if an individual was placed at school/college away from their home and the cost involved as well as ensuring specialist provision was in place.

Debbie stated they would like to see firmer responsibility regarding local authorities and transport within the code.

Health and education issues were also highlighted. Stating that currently if there is a problem concerning an IDP (support plan) it can be directed to the education tribunal of Wales or speech or language therapy if it is regarding a health provision which could then be taken to the education tribunal Wales, however it is likely for people to be encouraged to go through the NHS complaints however Debbie notes they have been in meetings with health professionals & the Welsh Government who are unclear where certain examples should go in the system which adds further difficulty to any deaf individual hoping to achieve the same thing. It has been noted that clarity is needed regarding said issue as parents may be encouraged to use certain options when needing to complain which may lead to them misunderstanding/ not knowing what they could be missing out on.

Improving health input was also discussed, as there is a form within the code which is to be used by health professionals when giving advice for developing support plans which they Debbie believes could be improved upon, as it currently only gives an opportunity to highlight support they are willing to fund whereas they should have the option to give advice on such things as hearing aids etc.

The Equalities Act was also highlighted, and how it has been mostly unmentioned in the ALN Code which they would find useful if more was added.

Chair invited any questions, to which Jonathan asked if the ALN code paper that was handed out at the meeting could be sent out to the cross-party members via email which Debbie agreed.

Chair added that the process is not ideal, noting the bill’s passage had been scrutinised and was pushed to a vote however the vote was lost and so it was pushed through by the government. They also noted that the two systems of complaining have been problematic for years from the perspective of a GP and an Assembly member as they have attended tribunals in regards to it in which the complaints situation is seen as unsatisfactory and a process that is not ideal.

Jayne added that they are glad to have the support of the chair with the issue in regards to their background in health. She also noted the other transport-related issue in which local authorities have been withdrawing support for transport for children that is within the current legislation.

Debbie mentioned that there were three separate local authorities that have cut transport for learners so far, which they believe is due to it not being a statutory obligation thereby saving costs where possible.

Jayne asked if the group would be prepared to support their response as they do not have any confidence in waiting for alternative legislation but see this as an opportunity to include it within the code, to which the group and chair agreed.

Anthony noted the idea of families learning BSL and the damage that can be caused to deaf children mentally including language deprivation where no compulsory provisions are put in place for learning BSL.

Chair suggested that a proper unofficial campaign could be made, as organisations and individuals. Noting that necessary points should be fed however the responses themselves should be varied as if a number of responses use a similar format/template those responses would only count as one by the government.

Debbie added they would email the ALN code to Callum to share with the group, which could be adapted, changed and have additional points added that would be important to the separate organisation’s needs individually. 

They also agreed with Anthony and highlighted there was a debate the previous week regarding sign language in which the NDCS reached out to some assembly members supporting the point for being raised, however regarding the ALN bill, it should be argued that the type of support should be available through the act and subsequent code, but believes the local authorities are not preparing for that case. Debbie also informed the group that they have contacted the regional transformation leads regarding the importance if that kind of support and if it can be reassured that it is indeed being prepared for, however there has yet to be any responses.

Chair added that a letter of response could be constructed in their name, which Callum is to create.  Chair invited any further questions/comments to which there was none.

Use of Technology & ‘Open’ Meetings

Callum highlighted in the previous November 2018 meeting, that the possibility of opening future meetings to Deaf individuals not representing organisations was discussed, and how since that meeting such options have been looked into, from ‘advertising’ the group by increasing its online presence as well as technological options that could increase inclusivity such as teleconferencing, however the difficulties were also noted as each person attending the meeting would need to have their name given beforehand for registration and security purposes within government buildings, which could prove difficult when creating an ‘open’ meeting. 

It was noted that one way around would be to take note of all those contacted through networks or those contacted individually and have their names passed to the assembly just in case they attend. Callum opened any comments or additions from the floor on how this could be achieved.

Jayne noted the complexity of the matter, and added that previous ‘open’ meetings were held in Llanelli Deaf Club as well as one meeting in Welsh Government premises.

Callum noted there would need to be a way of achieving the same result however having it less open ended than the meeting in Llanelli Deaf Club, and if the meeting could be spread through our contacts in order for preparations to be made for the next meeting.

Anthony questioned if there was a difference between open meetings taking place annually and having every meeting be open, to which Callum responded stating from their understanding, it was asked in the November 2018 meeting that strict agenda points would still be made in order for the meetings to operate efficiently, however the point made was that there should be representation from individuals and to go from there in regards to future meetings.

Anthony noted they believe that due to the difficulty involving technologies, communication support & invitations, that we as a group could look into 2 open meetings a year – one in South Wales and one in the North. All other meetings in the year could be open to an extent if information of individuals wanting to attend are given beforehand, however the 2 big meetings could be for updating individuals on what the group has been doing over the past year and if there are any particular topics that they would like to bring forward for the next year, to which the Chair noted sounded reasonable and achievable.

The Chair also added that names are vital from a security point of view due to assembly members having to be in attendance and so structure in that manner would need to be looked into. The chair then invited any further questions/comments

Jayne inquired whether an agenda would be set for such meetings and if there would be open forums within the meetings which would allow said individuals to speak outside of the agenda, to which Callum clarified that the usual meetings would still allow individuals to attend where possible in which the agenda would be stuck to strictly, and the one a year meetings would have a portion of time dedicated to an open discussion in which it would need to be put in place beforehand.

PM Mark Russell George then joined the meeting.

Daisy asked if the 2 yearly open meetings would be more of engagement sessions as they believe as organisations within the group, we have a very strategic perspective, and ensuring that any agenda included does not overshadow the individual’s agendas/ discussing anything they would like to bring forward, which would help give perspective as a service user directly.
Jayne added the individuals at the open meetings could discuss particular issues they would like challenged and to give case studies of their experiences.

Louise noted said open meetings should be considered to be held in the evenings rather than daytime, to which the Chair added specifically for meetings in the North, it is likely that half a day would need to be booked likely on a Thursday.

Jayne noted that no time is suitable for all, and if we were to engage with children, young people & parents, the school hours may be easiest due to childcare needs in the evening, and so we would need to be flexible but also ask public opinion on the matter.

Anthony asked if there was enough time left in the meeting to give an update on an issue raised in the previous meeting regarding the regulation of interpreters & a newly established regulation body. They had spoken with the development officer from the NRCPD that morning, in which Action on Hearing Loss’ communication team in Peterborough which have said they are continuing to allow interpreters to be regulated by said new body. Noting this was not in regards to AoHL Cymru, rather the communication team in Peterborough.

They also added that they have fed said info back to AoHL and the NRCPD clarifying that as a group from various charities and governing bodies, we are adamant to see one regulatory body, noting this would not necessarily have to be NRCPD, however, it would seem the best option at the moment due to having 1300 registrants as opposed to the 50 registrants with the new organisation.
It was also asked if an individual from the NRCPD could attend the next meeting to discuss the benefits of one governing body and why it should be the NRCPD.

All agreed that could be added to the next agenda, and that Anthony would email Callum to get in touch with the individual from NRCPD to make the arrangements.

The Chair added that the current problem is they cannot find any written documents that argue sufficiently for one regulatory body, even though it would make sense to do so in that way. The next meeting proposed at the time was for midday on the 21st of May 2019

The meeting was then concluded.

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