If you are deaf and working in the UK, are you aware that you are entitled to claim funding from Access to Work to cover costs such as interpreters, speech to text reporters, lipspeakers and other essential access requirements (such as equipment)?
The BDA (British Deaf Association) set up a Facebook group and are commissioning a report due to come out soon on the effectiveness and importance of Access to Work for deaf people. The Access to Work rules and guidelines are often changed and this can lead to confusion, not to mention changes that hamper a deaf person’s chances of keeping their job due to lack of access. It is important that all deaf and deafblind people who use Access to Work are aware of their rights and know that if such changes affect them, there are actions they can take.
For example, there is a website called Deaf AtW, which outlines the complaints procedure and the different steps you can take.
In particular, there is a recent change that is of concern to deaf and deafblind people who use an interpreter for more than 30 hours a week. It is not clear whether these changes also apply to other forms of support such as speech to text reporting or notetakers. In the new guidelines, deaf people are being told that if they use an interpreter for over 30 hours a week, they have to employ one interpreter full time. On the Deaf AtW website, they have outlined why this change is a problem for deaf and deafblind people:
AtW are currently not responding to the issues being raised by Deaf people, just some of which include:
- It isn’t appropriate to employ an interpreter full time – it doesn’t meet the Deaf person’s needs which are to use different interpreters in different situations. AtW own guidance supports this.
- Interpreters won’t work with one Deaf person full time and won’t work at that salary.
- The amount being offered does not come close to the actual cost of employing someone at £30,000 with on costs, including for example pension, training (required for interpreters), etc.
- Employers don’t want to employ additional staff, and so are less likely to recruit or keep Deaf staff.
- The amount being offered is for one full time employed interpreter. But what about sick cover, when two interpreters are needed, when the Deaf person needs to do a long day, work at weekends, etc. And when you add all these extra costs, are AtW actually saving any or much money compared with just having freelance interpreters?
- For some Deaf people the nature of their work means that one interpreter couldn’t safely work with them every day on their own, because it would lead to health problems (Upper Limb Disorder etc.). For example, I work with one Deaf person whose work is unpredictable and very busy, and who often really should have two interpreters for presentations, meetings etc. but can’t get them at such short notice, and can’t afford them with the AtW funding they have. I can do my best for one day, and go home exhausted, making sure the next day my interpreting work is more balanced, but I couldn’t work with him like that every day.
– From Deaf AtW.
DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) need to avoid making unadvised and detrimental changes to the support that deaf people need to carry out their jobs. Deaf people should be consulted before changes are made. If we are to move towards a society that is fully accessible for all, then rather than making changes to things that are essential, the Government should look towards those policies that hinder people’s access, and work on ensuring those policies are taken up by organisations and public services.
If you have been affected by these recent changes to Access to Work – please get in touch and share your experience. What do you think can be done to make the system better?
Lizzie Ward is a deaf journalist, writer, blogger and creative professional. She is working on various writing projects, including writing her first two novels, and editing and writing articles for Deaf Unity. Interested in social networking, social research and breaking down barriers for deaf people, she hopes her work with Deaf Unity will encourage more people to strive for their dreams and push through the barriers within society. She has a keen interest in the Arts, loves to read, and dreams of travelling to far flung places.