Signature welcomes Work and Pensions Committee recognition of sign language interpreting as a special case

Signature has welcomed the Work and Pensions Committee’s recommendation that sign language interpreting be recognised as a special case by Access to Work.

The report of the Committee’s inquiry into the scheme, published this morning, says guidance on employing a support worker should not apply to sign language interpreting.

The guidance, which has become known as ‘the 30 hour rule’, stated a ‘support worker’ required for more than 30 hours a week would be funded on the basis of an annual salary rather than by the hour.

As the report recognises, the application of the guidance to sign language interpreting demonstrated a lack of understanding of how it is provided and used. It led to people being unable to get the support they needed because the funding did not reflect the market rate.

Jim Edwards, chief executive of Signature, said: “For the thousands of deaf people whose first or only language is British Sign Language (BSL), interpreters are a necessity. Without them they are cut off from co-workers, unable to access the day-to-day life of the workplace.

“The Committee has recognised the substantial gap in Access to Work’s understanding of sign language interpreting. It’s something we and our partners across the sector have been explaining to them for the past year.

“As well as the funding offered being below the market rate, the approach ignored the fact people need different support at different times. On one occasion they might need a sign language interpreter, on another a speech to text reporter.

“And very few sign language interpreters want to work full time in one setting. A variety of work helps them to develop new skills and improve the ones they already have, which benefits the people who rely on their services.

“We therefore think the Committee’s recommendation is a very sensible one. It reflects the fact sign language interpreting is a professional skill that is required by many deaf people on an ongoing basis.

“But we think Access to Work should go further. Everyone’s needs should be assessed on a case by case basis to make sure the right decisions are made, rather than setting an arbitrary limit to funding.

“If the government is serious about helping all disabled people fulfil their potential, it will invest in Access to Work and  award support solely based on need.”

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