DV: Tell the MoJ what you think of its interpreting contract…

Recently the excellent DeafHope team (Domestic Violence (DV) service supporting Deaf women experiencing or who have experienced DV) published a BSL (British Sign Language) clip asking people to take part in the Home Office (and Ministry of Justice) consultation on Domestic Violence.

As the video points out Deaf people can suffer worse from the journey by a lack of access to services. It may take them more time to be referred to the DeafHope service which is specialist. Deaf women can often be turned away from a refuge due a lack of Deaf access equipment (such as vibrating fire alarms, flashing light doorbells). Booking of interpreters may be refused from services such as police, courts, local DV service, CAB, housing, council services and social servies. Social workers may display a complete lack of Deaf awareness in how Deaf women communicate and relate to their children. This has sometimes also resulted in care proceedings and in the worst cases, children being taken away from parents.

One of the main issues is the MoJ (Ministry of Justice) contract for interpreting, which was the trigger for starting this blog some 6 years ago, and it has been awful. In that time we’ve seen a spoken language agency take the whole contract on and fail miserably. Cases adjourned, quality of service reduced and a reduction in fees (which has exacerbated the first two issues mentioned).

At least in the second generation contract BSL was taken out of the main contract and put in the “non-spoken” languages part although I think the damage has been done and I’ve seen nothing to suggest any improvements. Due to the reduction in fees, court interpreting which should attract the best now (generally) lures in the newly qualified and less experienced. Deaf professionals have reported incidents of seeing appalling interpreting where their clients do not understand the court proceedings.

With relation to DV this can lead to cases being adjourned, leaving Deaf people at a disadvantage waiting for their case to be heard. Perpetrators have benefited from this or have claimed not to understand the interpreter, resulting in getting charges dropped. Deaf women and men should not have to receive a lesser service from the departments that the Home Office and Ministry of Justice oversee, resulting in society level discrimination. We might not be able to wave magic wands but interpreters and Deaf people… (or any friend of Deaf people), have your say and respond to the consultation¬†before 31st May. Scroll down, click on the blue box and if you want to respond in relation to Deaf people only you can click “Supporting victims with specific needs”.

It is an irony that one MoJ contract is affecting vital services for Deaf people experiencing DV and that the Home Office (and MoJ) has initiated this consultation. Tell them so please.

The fight for rights continues…

Anyone with any link to the Deaf community in the UK can not fail to have noticed the activity surrounding the 10 year anniversary of the official recognition of BSL by the British government. The BDA held a live webcast on the 19th March. Discussions were frantically being had all over Facebook and Twitter.
There was a lot of campaign work which happened to get official recognition. That activity seemed to tail off as if the work was now done though in reality everyone knew this was just one step towards getting full recognition of Deaf rights in the form of full access to services, bilingual education and employment.
Over the last few years since budget cuts affected services on the ground it seems there has been a real sense of apathy in the deaf community. Often the first to notice failings in services, interpreters have been frustrated for years at a lack of interpreters in medical settings and social services. After that courts and police forces suffered at the hands of a large monopoly contract, the repurcussions of which are still in effect. The point is, interpreters see the lack of interpreters daily, not just because working conditions change but they pick up the pieces when they are finally booked.
Lately, there has been an attitude of ‘I didn’t get an interpreter the last time I went to the doctor, it happens all the time now’. What happened to righteous anger?
Well there’s nothing like an anniversary to take stock and look back at what has happened. Many are saying not much. That was the time to galvanise forces, to get a plan together and to take action. It seems that this anniversary will be the impetus now to renew efforts. There was a parliamentary reception, attended by BDA, RAD and Signature, held on the day of the anniversary of the recognition. 50 MPs so far, at the time of writing, have signed an early day motion for the government to report on its efforts and identify the barriers still in existence for BSL users.
In Scotland there have been complaints that throughout discussions on the BSL bill by parliament, the proposed act is becoming weaker and weaker. In England we watch with interest. There may be a BSL Act yet.
With more Deaf people empowered by technology than ever before it could be the perfect time. Recently a new group was set up on Facebook to campaign for a BSL Act in England.
Let’s hope more resources can be found to increase campaigning efforts and that the whole community comes out fighting. Now is the time for less sign and more action.
Get your MP to sign the motion now.