Monday, 20 February 2017

BSL support: When is it 'unreasonable' ?

E.G.  You have a clinical appointment for a standard 5-minute blood test, or just a flu jab, does this demand a BSL Interpreter is supplied by the NHS or GP provision ?

Image result for deaf people having an injectionThe sheer costs of provision for very short-term support is escalating, in an area that has scant provision to support all deaf who use sign language, currently estimated at 1 BSL Interpreter per 160 sign users nationwide.  

You need to take into account many Interpreters insist on a minimum 2 hour booking fee, to cover distance travel etc.  In essence, a short GP attendance (These days regulated to be UNDER 10 minutes), can cost the NHS anything from £2 to £9 per minute on average, and up to £200 every time.

Since January this year, sheer demand for BSL support for welfare issues has quadrupled, this resulted in 60% of deaf people not getting any support to claim, because the demand for welfare support alone, far outstripped the supply of Interpreters.  None would be able to support the deaf in any other area.   This must mean deaf people who rely on sign language alone will have to be aware there are areas where that support will not be provided, not because of discrimination, but simply because the support isn't available.

The demands for recognition, laws, education,, and access are not taking into account the ability of the BSL systems to deliver.  BSL take up by potential Interpreters has gone down, not up to meet demands.  The Deaf area will be left with a lot of legal rights, but still no access. 2 years ago it was decided via Access To Work areas, that the state would 'cap', (i.e. set a limit to how much support BSL using deaf could claim for).  That cap also inclusive of state demands to investigate how that support was applied, or made more cost effective.  Some quoted £35-40,000 a year in support for deaf sign users, making their access cost more than the job they were in.

Deaf support was suggested as the most expensive disabled support in the UK.  One BSL using law student had £98,000 claimed for 1 years support alone, yet, failed to qualify or work in that field of employment.  The deaf response appears more of the same.  It is of little surprise then the state seriously looks at the viability of some access, and wants supply directed where it is most needed. There is no national program to ensure supply meets demand, there is also the issue of deaf people expressing choices as to who they actually use for support.

It is suggested 60% do NOT use a qualified interpreter,  even when offered, this means obviously, the demand is killed for that amount of sign using people.  Issues like first stated where very short times are for attendance in some areas, then BSL support would not be supplied.  There are obvious areas where it is not actually needed.  Freeing up those areas can allow better support to be applied where the shortages are, until, or as soon as, some sort of regulatory system to ensure Interpreter training is set up properly.  Logic suggests assessment of sign users capabilities needs to be done too, not least to ensure they are getting the support they need.

This means deaf 'preferences' etc have to give way to realities.  It also means the chaotic BSL or Lip-reading approach has to be abandoned in favour of a nationwide 'Communication' system. Such systems can determine what works best for the individual as it seems they do not always choose what works best for themselves, except in a social sense, which leaves them isolated in a work and health sense etc.  The deaf social over life choice is at the root of much.  If we do not address the issues of supply and demand and training, then costs will keep rising and support get even less.  We know from the lip-reading areas, lip-speakers are abandoning people on the ground to concentrate on more lucrative legal work instead. Why support a lip-reader or a signer, for £200 an hour, when you can get up to £500 in a court ? At the end of the day it's your living, you are not a charity to support deaf people, even they charge for services.  


One result was state systems trawling learner classes to get cheap support instead, either that, or the old standby of telling deaf to bring their family to support them for free instead.  There is also the issue of unregulated interpreting areas, freelance areas who are overcharging, or unprofessional, who cannot be regulated either. This seems compounded by a free-for-all in BSL tuition via class and course-work. Another area unregulated, where college courses e.g. have some standard in part, but opposed by Deaf purist groups, and others that work on regional sign approaches, that are arbitrarily adjudged, that costs a lot of money, and deters as many as 54% of trainees from continuing.  Ominously all we are reading are campaigns for more BSL and not the means to make it work.  Deaf insist be it 5 minutes or 5 days their right to support is there, we know, but their terps aren't, something has to give, and it seems 60% of deaf people already use alternatives to Interpreters. The access bank of Mum and Dad.

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