DWP Market Review of BSL and Communications Provision for Deaf People


The DWP have published its Market review of British Sign Language and communications provision for people wh are deaf or have a hearing loss.

The conclusions are:

The Communications Market

1. The evidence submitted to the review demonstrates that the communication needs of Deaf people and people with hearing loss, whether adult or child, are complex.

2. Language and communication requirements should be addressed on an individual basis, and those that are required to make provision for deaf people should seek the views of individuals, as to what works best for them. There is no universal approach to addressing these needs and requirements will vary from person to person and across situations.

3. While this review references a range of data sources, it also highlights a lack of comprehensive information about supply and demand, including unmet demand, across the language and communications market as a whole. This makes it harder to identify the scale of demand or unmet demand and has implications for the planning of future service provision, as it is not possible to establish a baseline measure for the current market.

4. Although it is not possible to identify a single universal metric for volume of demand or the scale of unmet demand, the available data sources do give indications of a potential disparity between supply of British Sign Language Interpreters and demand for their services. For example, Census data suggests there are approximately 24,000 people who use British Sign Language as a first language. There are currently 908 registered British Sign Language Interpreters, according to figures produced by the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD).

5. Submissions highlighted the consequences of deaf people not being properly supported, potentially impairing their access to healthcare, education, employment and leisure activities. These included potential examples in healthcare setting where inadequate support may have negative personal impacts for individuals, as well as serious legal implications for healthcare providers; or of deaf children not being provided with the support they need to achieve good outcomes.

6. There were also submissions highlighting examples of good practice in ensuring access. Consideration should be given to how good practice can be replicated more widely.

7. There was a range of evidence submitted to the review which made clear that instances of deaf people and people with hearing loss not being able to access language and communication support may be commonplace. The evidence also highlights geographical variations in the provision of support, and outlines some of the implications in areas where provision is particularly poor.

8. However, there was also evidence of demand not being met due to deaf people simply lacking awareness of the different ways in which communication support could be provided. Awareness of the range of communication support options may be particularly important for deaf young people who are moving into adulthood and employment.

9. Technology offers potential in terms of broadening the range and availability of language and communication support options, but its use needs to be considered and applied appropriately.

10.While the review looked at all forms of language and communication support, it generated a large amount of evidence relating to BSL interpreting. There are a number of specific conclusions worth highlighting in relation to this area, which include the following.:

o There are significant time and financial costs attached to training as a sign language interpreter. The numbers of people registering for entry level qualifications is falling, which will translate into fewer people progressing to a full qualification.

o Agencies, particularly non-specialist agencies, have played an increasing role in the market for BSL interpretation and the review highlights a number of implications associated with this, including agencies not always understanding the specialist nature of BSL interpretation and the addition of agency fees in some cases considerably increasing the expense of interpreter bookings whilst at the same time lowering fees to interpreters. Communication Support Workers

11.There is no agreed occupational definition of a Communication Support Worker’s role, and no minimum level of skills required for an individual to identify as a CSW.(footnote 124)

footnote :123 This is just one estimate available for BSL users and may be an underestimate due to the methodology used within the census

footnote: 124 Since this review was established, the Department for Education has commissioned the National Sensory Impairment Partnership to work with ADEPT to develop such a framework for use in education.

The full report is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/communications-for-people-who-are-deaf-or-have-hearing-loss-market-review


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