David Buxton, the Chief Executive of the British Deaf Association (BDA), says that sign language interpreters and agencies may be asked to reduce their rates in order to save the jobs of deaf people that rely on Access to Work.
Speaking ahead of crucial meetings in May, Mr Buxton said that a range of tactics were under consideration to fight recent changes to the scheme and one involved reducing the cost of employing freelance sign language interpreters.
Members of deaf organisation umbrella body, UKCoD (UK Council on Deafness), will meet on 20th May to formulate a campaign strategy to oppose the changes to how Access to Work pays for interpreters and communication support for deaf workers. Those changes are said to limit choice for deaf people, make it harder to find an interpreter or get a new job. Members of UKCoD include Action on Hearing Loss, BDA and the Association of Sign Language Interpreters.
Another meeting involving leading deaf organisations, just two days later on 22nd May, with officials from the DWP will reveal if demands for change are to be actioned or ignored by the government.
So far, a petition has been created and a Labour MP has raised a motion in parliament that has led to deaf campaigners writing to their local MPs asking for support. So far, 43 MPs have signed the motion.
“I don’t know if sign language interpreters have been in touch with their MPs. 87% of interpreters are freelance and don’t want to change that.” Said Mr Buxton.
“Interpreters need to work with deaf people to find a solutions and get involved in the campaign, we’re not talking not massive reductions in salaries, but a solution that is a best fit for all otherwise deaf people will be out of work because they won’t be able to pay for communication support.”
“They have to understand that if deaf people lose their jobs then interpreters will lose their jobs as well so we have to work together.”
“It also means that interpreting agencies will have to change. We have to create a win-win situation and that’s how we see the situation and that’s what the campaign plan with UKCoD will be about.”
UKCoD, Chaired by Signature Chief Executive Jim Edwards, is taking the lead on coordinating the campaign to reverse the changes to Access to Work. He says that many different organisations are affected by the changes.
“Fortunately we have had David (Buxton) and people at Action on Hearing Loss and a range of organisations saying that this problem feels like it comes from a number of different perspectives” he said.
“It’s not just about sign language interpreters, it’s any form of language and communication support; whether it is as an employer of deaf people or whether its effectively like Signature when we’re interested in the quality standards, NRCPD and registration.”
“It feels like the way that DWP have tried to resolve what they see as a problem in a particular way and there is really consensus views from a range of organisations in the deaf sector who say that this feels like it is broken and maybe we should work together.”
“Therefore that is the call. Will the sector work together in asking the DWP to undertake something of a review? More will unfold in the next two weeks.”
By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor. Andy also volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP
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