Tuesday, 3 November 2009

We are the Champions

Slapped wrist for me. Blogs are supposed to be contemporary and it’s been 3 weeks since my last one. Must try harder!

Big news in the world of The Communication Trust is the announcement of the Communication Champion. Jean Gross is a terrific appointment to the post and is well known to the Trust through her role as Director of Every Child A Chance Trust.

To champion the cause is a massive task. To balance the all children component with the SEN aspects. To reach the general public and the specialist commissioners of services. Where should the Communication Champion focus their efforts? Worth remembering that the voluntary sector proposed the role as a route to having someone ‘on the inside’ who could join up health, education and children’s services (and justice, social services etc.) both at central and local government level. While Jean is independent of government she is nevertheless a government appointment and I suspect that the third sector will be, like me, hoping that she uses that to ensure that we get the same drive for this work from the rest of government that we have seen from DCSF.

Jean though is not alone in her task. She may hold the formal Champion title but the sector has been championing the cause for years and will do so as long as it takes to ensure all children get the services and support that they need. I am regularly struck by how dedicated and focused people are in their pursuit of the cause and our own champions do us proud.

Linda Lascelles, CEO of Afasic, was recently recognised by RCSLT with an Honorary Fellowship for her work championing both the cause and SLTs. As was Katie Clarke, founder and Chair of 1 Voice who has championed the cause of isolated families across the UK who use AAC.

NDCS pulled off the most amazing piece of campaigning through their ‘Sounds Good’ campaign and have ensured that new schools will have good acoustics. Their championing of this cause will support all children who struggle with communication (and those teachers who struggle to get heard in class – reports this week that that there has been a substantial rise in teachers who have ‘industrial injuries’ to their voices!).

And we have lots of celebs who champion the cause for us too. Michael Palin has long championed the cause of stammering with the centre that bears his name. Pictured here with the Trust’s own Cara Evans (a big fan who would not leave the event until she had a picture with Michael even if that meant pushing me pushing in front of Secretary of State to get the shot!) Michael draws on the experiences of his father to speak with a passion and humour about the challenges faced by young people who stammer.

Paul McCartney recently bought a word on I CANs Adopt A Word site and Stephen Fry caused a Twitter storm when he tweeted about his word adoption and championed the cause of young people who struggle to find their own words.

Most of all though I think the best champions that we have, the most powerful advocates for the cause, are the young people themselves. I was moved to tears by the Michael Palin Centre’s DVD. Aimed at teachers this DVD is delivered by and through the stories and experiences of young people who stammer. The tears were not of sympathy or through the ‘aaah’ factor – though the main narrator is a star of children’s tv waiting to happen. But rather the lump in my throat was a reflection of the power and impact of a young person being supported and empowered to tell it how it is.

So we welcome our Communication Champion and look forward to working with her. And as a sector we will continue to champion the cause and rope in celebrities to help us (is it wrong to want David Tenant to take an interest in speech and language??) But most of all, my vision, 11 million young champions with an almighty voice – with that we could change the world.

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