Swansea resident Kelsey Brookes, 13 and Barry resident Dan Downton, 12, have been elected to the Welsh Youth Parliament.
Dan, Kelsey and the six other deaf young candidates were mentored and supported through the application process by the National Deaf Children’s Society and Swansea-based Talking Hands Deaf Children, Young People and Family Services, two of the 18 partner organisations of the Welsh Youth Parliament. Dan and Kelsey emerged as the winners once the votes were counted.
Kelsey underwent surgery for a disease called cholesteatoma, which required the removal of her hearing bones. She has now lost most of the hearing in her left ear. Dan has profound hearing loss in one ear and moderate in the other. He wears two hearing aids and uses a radio aid to help him at school.
Dan lives in Barry with his parents Claire and Matt. He attends St Cyres school in Penarth, which has a hearing resource base. Kelsey lives in Swansea with her parents Gemma and Karl. She attends Pontarddulais Comprehensive, where she uses strategies such as placement and non-verbal cues to help her.
The National Deaf Children’s Society and Talking Hands will now work together to support Dan and Kelsey through their two-year tenure in the 60-strong parliament.
The two charities want to see the interests of Wales’s 2,500 deaf children and young people represented in the Welsh Youth Parliament, which was first convened in 2018, with the support of the Senedd, to raise awareness of issues affecting young people and call for change.
“I didn’t expect it, but I’m really excited to be joining the Welsh Youth Parliament. I’m also excited to be working with the National Deaf Children’s Society. One of my main issues is for all deaf children to have as much help at school as I have. Thank you to everyone who voted for me.”
“I’m very honoured to have been chosen as an advocate for children who face challenges through loss of hearing. I’d like people to see that hearing loss does not define them and that goals are achievable when you believe in them.”
Claire Berwick, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Participation Activism Officer, said:
“Congratulations to Dan and Kelsey. It’s vitally important that Wales’s 2,500 deaf young people have representatives in the Welsh Youth Parliament, to raise their concerns and fight for positive change.
“Deaf young people often lag behind their hearing classmates at school due to a lack of support and are disproportionally affected by isolation, loneliness and a lack of career opportunities.
“We hope that by having Dan and Kelsey in the Welsh Youth Parliament, these and other issues can be addressed. There’s absolutely no reason why deaf young people shouldn’t be aiming as high as their hearing peers.”
Cathie Robins-Talbot, Chairperson of Talking Hands, added:
“The Youth Parliament is an opportunity that allows deaf young people to be involved as equals, to express their views on what is happening in Wales and how this affects them.
“Talking Hands is passionate about deaf young people being involved in the decision-making process, understanding they have power to make change and working together to raise issues that affect all young people’s lives in Wales.
“We wish Kelsey and Dan well as they set off on a journey of learning, sharing and awareness raising. Having been involved in the first Welsh Youth Parliament, we know they will become empowered, make lifelong friends and make changes to policy in Wales”.
National Deaf Children’s Society – https://ndcs.org.uk