There are nine million deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the UK. Out of that – according to the British Deaf Association (BDA) – there are 100,000 Deaf people whose first language is BSL.
Which means that there are many more hearing people supporting deaf and hard-of-hearing people, including 800 BSL interpreters in the UK. Just like this man, who stands before me giving me a voice-over, these people provide an invaluable service.
Before April 1st, 2013, if a deaf person went to see a doctor and asked for a BSL interpreter to accompany him, the Primary Care Trust (PCT) would pay the interpreter’s fee. After that, the PCTs got replaced with Client Commissioning Groups (CCGs), where [NHS] funds got handed over to people who didn’t know the first thing about deaf access, and couldn’t see the point of BSL interpreters.
So I get to miss out on the interpreter, and as a parent to a disabled child I also miss access to vital information causing both my child and I to suffer – twice the barrier – and I can’t carry out my responsibilities. And you know how with CCGs the commissioning of public [healthcare] services go into decline, and the private services burgeon. The fact that the private services will do anything to persuade the CCGs to commission them, and rob me of an interpreter, prove that they are about profit not people [rapturous applause].
Deaf people are among the first to be made redundant. They rely on interpreters or other communication support, causing employers to see them as hard work and expensive. So of ourse, employers view making them redundant as saving money twice. And it is much, much harder for deaf people to get back into work for that reason.
These are just two examples of how deaf people suffer from the cuts. I see my time is now up so I’d like to say thankyou for watching. [Applause]
Melissa Mostyn addressing a 1,000-strong mainstream audience in BSL at the People’s Assembly, Westminster Central Hall, 22nd June 2013
UPDATE: A new People’s Assembly March is being organized for 20th June 2015 in response to the Conservstives’ re-election. To find out more, see The People’s Assembly website.