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Restrictions on the level of support available

It seemed there was a change in 2013 in the way Access to Work decided how much financial support a deaf or deafblind person could get for communication support.

This change was from providing

  • financial support for whatever interpreting service the person needed; to
  • a £30,000 interpreter salary if they needed them for 30 hours per week or more.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said this was not a change. The guidance was introduced in June 2011 and had been applied to all new claims. It was then applied to old claims when circumstances changed or they were due for review.

Whilst the salary may seem reasonable, the restriction shows Access to Work doesn’t understand either the sort of support deaf and deafblind people need or how communication professionals work.

A deaf or deafblind person may need a sign language interpreter, a notetaker and a speech to text reporter at different times. A single person can’t do all those jobs.

On top of that, communication professionals usually work part time. They also like to work in different settings so they can improve their skills with greater experience.

Employing someone on a salary is also impractical because the deaf or deafblind person has to do the administration. They have to either use time they should be working or do it in their own time.

These restrictions lead to deaf and deafblind people not being able to do their job because they can’t get the support they need. That can lead to missed promotion, demotion or loss of employment. And the employer loses their talent.

Because of the restriction, Access to Work is going against its own guidance and forcing the use of Communication Support Workers (CSW) instead of sign language interpreters. Whilst they have their place, CSWs cannot provide the same level of translation as fully trained and qualified interpreters.

It’s also a false economy. Often an interpreter or other communication professional has to be called in to redo the work of a CSW, meaning more money spent.

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