Holby City

Hello…..hellooooooo *echoes bounced off the empty auditorium*. I won’t be surprised if no-one here to read this. I haven’t flexed my writing skills for a long time which, since I last wrote, have been mainly confined to writing rapid-fire emails in my line of work.

I absolutely agree with the sentiments and the necessity for various orgs and bodies to write in to express their concerns about the latest portrayal of a child being used as an involuntary sign language interpreter in a recent Holby City’s episode surrounding a deaf father undergoing a heart op. It is good to educate the people who made it.

While we are expressing our dismay and horror about how negative this portrayal have turned out to be and bite our nails whether this is laying down precedence and further malpractices, I can see how we can turn this into a useful platform to bolster the case for better and accessible services within the public health services.

After watching a See Hear segment which covered this episode behind the scene, following Memnos Costi and his talented daughter, Kachina. It doesn’t strike to me that the Holby City team have gone about and blithely nailed down this story as a normal everyday theme. I believe they are actually deliberately making a snapshot of what does goes on within our wards which have, unwittingly, provoked a strong debate about it. Of course, this recent episode goes against the grain to our aspirations of what make a good health service. Holby City isn’t a mainly aspirational program as it tackles different issues each week and I am sure we are not the first or last people to complain about their portrayal of different issues.

This shouldn’t be the end. This is gold dust for our campaign for better access to health services as it is all laid out before our own eyes of what can go wrong by not providing an accessible health service. We should lobby the Holby City’s writers to make a follow up story. We should lobby health care professionals showing an example of bad practice. We should lobby to raise awareness of the importance for front line NHS staff to quickly provide the right and appropriate communication support as too often they just don’t do it. We should lobby the commissioners and NHS procurement teams to highlight the dangers of a weak and inefficient supply chain which undermine provision of appropriate qualified sign language interpreters through cost-saving. We can think plenty of scenarios to follow up this episode featuring Memnos and his daughter. Don’t let this golden geese run away from us. Any publicity is good.

Save Deaf Children’s futures – A call to action


Dear members, supporters and friends


We have been asked by Susan Daniels, CEO of the NDCS to help the NDCS Campaign to stop “public service cuts that are stealing deaf children’s futures”. We agree with this campaign for two main reasons:

Firstly, I was recently told that a couple visited a deaf unit in a large mainstream secondary school and was told that the County Council feel there is NO need to provide full time communication support because they consider all the deaf children and young people are able to “cope” with their digital hearing aids or cochlear implants when “listening” to the teachers talking! I was very shocked as this seems to take our deaf children back to how it was 100 years ago!

Secondly, I am the father of little partially deaf boy and have witnessed parents of my son’s deaf friends not fighting for the inclusion of communication support in their child’s SEN statement. They seem to assume that the deaf unit is sufficient for supporting their deaf children, but the unit does not have enough funding either! My wife and I have fought for many months to make sure the school includes specific support in our son’s SEN statement, which has certainly helped my son achieve in his education at a level equal to his hearing peers.

So is this an expensive option? The BDA, NDCS and other organisations have to work together, to fight and safeguarding our deaf children’s future – to ensure they get all the support they need and stop local education authorities reducing their access and support!

Therefore, if you are a parent of a deaf child, a deaf ex-school pupil, or a deaf ex-mainstreamer, or a friend of deaf people experiencing poor educational support and share similar concerns to my own Please go to http://epetitions.direct.gov. uk/petitions/34073 It only takes a few minutes and anyone in the UK can sign the petition! There’s no age limit, so please pass this on to your friends, family and contacts and ask them to sing it and then pass it on too. Your signature –and those of your friends – really will make all the difference.

I understand that the NDCS needs 100,000 signatures to force a debate in the House of Commons about cuts which are leaving deaf children without the support they desperately need. Already, deaf children are twice as likely not to achieve 5 good GCSEs compared to their hearing peers – yet deafness is not a learning disability. A debate will compel ministers to explain what they will do to protect deaf children’s services; similar petitions have generated massive publicity and ultimately changed government policy. Please click on http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/34073 now.

This may be our only chance to force ministers to save deaf children’s futures. Please help the Campaign!

Thank you for your continued support!

Kind regards


PS Remember, the “multiplier effect” – if just 10 people sign the petition and then forward this onto 10 more people who sign the petition and forward it onto 10 more, we could reach the 100,000 target in just 4 steps! So please forward it on now, before it slips your mind. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/34073

In employment, are deaf people at bottom of pecking order

This is my recent contribution I made for the Limping Chicken website.

Limping Chicken logo

Hello! I’m Tony Barlow, an employment consultant with 10 years experience of working in employment for deaf people.

My goal in writing for Limping Chicken is to cover issues relating to employment, jobs, careers, work experience and UNEMPLOYMENT.

Ugh – that word which has cast dark gloomy clouds across this proud but fragile country.

Even if you are currently working, there is a good chance you know someone who is recently unemployed, or has a job which is under threat. Or is sending endless job applications and not getting a bite.

It is hard to avoid that widespread feeling of job insecurity while the economy struggles.

Employers are pruning their staff and surviving staff are being forced to do more work for same money. The fortunate ones with job security are usually your funeral director or a bailiff…..or even that reviled figure of an investment banker.

It’s not easy to feel confident about our future when the news is reeling off reports of rising unemployment levels, benefits being cut back and 300+ applicants chasing after an unskilled job. Furthermore, with 2.7 million looking for work, the competition is intense for an average deaf and/or disabled jobseeker.

If you are currently unemployed, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re feeling quite desperate and are worried about finding meaningful employment these days.

How do I know? Because I am one of them. Hopefully not for long – I am working on setting up a new business relating to employment.

Looking for a job when you are deaf, is in my view, made harder when JobCentres are lacking in Deaf awareness and are poorly equipped to support deaf jobseekers.

They often do not provide equipment or telephone support when you have identified a job worth applying for. In my experience, DWP Call Centre staffs can also be unhelpful when you make a relayed call about a job advert or benefit enquiry.

Disability Employment Advisors are often over stretched and their knowledge of supporting deaf people can be limited.

It wasn’t long ago, when applying for a job was more simple and straightforward, involving sending a CV with a covering letter, or a paper application.

It’s harder for deaf people to navigate their way through a quagmire of psychometric assessments, telephone interviews, time-limited online questionnaires and applications, group interviews and presentations. These need bags of confidence and can be made tougher if skills if English language skills are not one of your strong points.

After 6 months on the dole, a deaf jobseeker can find themselves placed on a Work Programme or Work Choice.

There is no assurance that you will meet an advisor who will understand your barriers and communication needs (except for isolated cases in some areas of the UK, through sheer determination of its local deaf organisations). It can be a postcode lottery.

There appears to be no consistent national framework, which provides an appropriate and consistent support system for deaf people all over the UK.

In recent years, the government – both Labour and Tories – have come up with three main employment programmes: ‘Work Choice’, and ‘Flexible New Deal’ which was subsequently replaced by ‘Work Programme’.

These have created a network of private providers (for example, A4e, Serco, Shaw Trust, Ingeus, Remploy, Working Links, InTraining) looking to win contracts in different regions.

Department of Work and Pensions expect the private providers to ensure their services are accessible. So the contract winners often bring in specialised subcontractors to address their access needs – and that is where Deaf/BSL using employment advisors like me, sometimes working for larger organisations, come in. The buzz words are ‘partnership’ and ‘chain supply’.

The danger of devising these national employment programmes and setting up a network of private providers – without really consulting with the grassroots, deaf organisations and charities on the ground supporting people with needs – is that it becomes “one size fits all.”

There appears to be no genuine quality standard or accountability in place to ensure each provider can cater and meet the varying support requirements of a diverse range of deaf jobseekers. Therefore access becomes more patchy and often an afterthought whenever a deaf jobseeker come to them.

As always, it can fall to the charities and deaf organisations to try their best to plug these gaps for deaf jobseekers.

Not all of them do step forward or can afford to fund long term support until results come in. For instance, the Work Programme is only worthwhile when a jobseeker gets a job and stays in the job for up to 2 years.

With specialised support for deaf job seekers hard to find, most deaf jobseekers will find themselves using mainstream services, where there is little expertise in supporting deaf jobseekers.

While most providers are aware of their duty to provide access, interpreters or other communication tactics, it is not always effective. At the first appointment, not all of them know what to do when faced with a deaf jobseeker. Often, it becomes a learning experience for the (hearing) Employment Adviser.

Deaf awareness is still sorely lacking in large parts – the hearing advisers don’t often know why it is important to use highly qualified BSL interpreters, and how to utilise the Access to Work(ATW) system.

Further, they don’t always know what ATW can cover: job interviews, health & safety solutions (to overcome some employers’ justification in the unsuitability of having a deaf employee in their factory for example), and that some deaf jobseekers need extra support in English writing, especially in job applications, confidence building or to say the right things in job interviews.

Despite the communication support/interpreter being provided or the advisor receiving basic Deaf awareness, the lack of in-depth knowledge and Deaf/hearing cultural differences remains the biggest pitfall. This can create a negative impact on the deaf jobseeker’s journey into employment. In my future blogs, I intend to cover more, in depth, on this subject.

I feel that it is more beneficial for a specialist provider to be brought in (a service with a first-hand knowledge of deaf issues and/or BSL) as they offer empathy and have experience of overcoming the barriers facing the jobseekers.

With specialist support being available nationally, the deaf jobseeker would start to feel confident straight away, knowing they are going to be getting expert advice, be understood and be able to compete for jobs on equal footing, instead of losing hope and motivation before they even get started.

Deaf jobseekers usually are more willing to open up when they are dealing with a Deaf/BSL/CODA specialist provider.

I know, because I’ve seen this for myself.

Tony Barlow is an employment consultant of 10 years with extensive experience of working with private providers, having previously worked for RNID and Dering Employment Services. He is currently living in Derby with a Deaf wife and 2 little girls, and is planning to launch a new employment service soon. He tweets as @Saltbar, and is also a proud geek, online activist and an England rugby fan who, until recently, have stopped teasing the Welsh fans. :-(

PIP – Eligibility criteria

Pardon me for not blogging after such a long time. Also, pardon me for launching straight into a raging subject that have worked up Twitter into a moral outrage and people with disabilities up in arms. Pardon me for quickly putting together this post.

In the light of the current Welfare Reform, currently being brutally pushed through the House of Lords without so much scrutiny and analysis, one of the most contentious aspects of it is to replace Disability Living Allowance with PIP (Personal Independence Payment) for spurious reasons. (I hope I can have the opportunity to explain why later).

Last night, DWP have published the proposed thresholds points to guide the re-assessment part of the new PIP. This can be found here.

Below is taken from Benefits and Work website of how each claimant will be scored.

Continue reading

Gold-plated service

At the behest of Alison Byran of G.O.D.

Apologies for the lengthy break away from blogging. Things have been mad at work, plus an impending new addition to our new family, plus sustained efforts throughout Autumn to renovate the 2nd half of our house in readiness for the new addition. Oh well, life happened!

I started my Xmas holidays early – on 16th Dec – hee hee, Xmas glee! Whilst out Xmas shopping, I had an impromtu shear – haircut – so, as per usual, my hearing aid are taken off. Typically, I am always asked to take them off by the barber and, as per usual, the barber still try to strike up a conversation as if I am a hearing person. Continue reading

Eternal Sunshine of the Cochlear Mind

Gazza, one of the Australian deaf bloggers who inhabits at The Rebuttal, posted a strong critique made by Michael Uniake, which examined the existing medical viewpoint of cochlear implants and highlighting their intransigence leads to an unhealthy legacy on the well-being of the deaf people, at large. One eminent doctor, Dr Bruce Shepherd, made a public statement that cochlear implants is the ONLY route to happiness and becoming a productive member of the society. I feel that insensitive statement will prove extremely unhelpful on the back of the hard work of Deaf professionals and campaigners Continue reading

Signing would greatly improve deaf people’s GP experiences

Deaf people have serious difficulties accessing basic healthcare services and their needs are being ignored.

Thirty per cent of deaf people in the UK are unemployed, permanently sick or disabled, according to the 2009 GP patient survey. This is three times higher than the general population. Fundamental issues lie at the heart of this statistic. Deaf people have serious difficulties accessing basic healthcare services and their needs are being ignored.

At SignHealth we continually hear anecdotal tales of appalling practice in the way deaf people are treated on the NHS, but it’s hard to get the exact detail. Some of our worst fears have been confirmed through a mixture of our own access report, statistics from the GP patient survey and anecdotal evidence.

Deaf people are facing constant difficulty with telephone appointment booking systems, verbal prompts when their doctor is ready to see them, and rarely have a clear understanding of their diagnosis and treatment. We have also found examples of GPs refusing to book interpreters because they cost too much and people not understanding their medication and taking the wrong amount.

Waiting times for interpreters in GP appointments is a massive problem. At the moment many people have to wait weeks to book a sign language interpreter who can make sure the patient and clinician are able to clearly communicate. There is an obvious link between these delays and poorer general health.

Some doctors argue that interpreters are unnecessary because a member of the family can interpret but this has clear confidentiality issues. You only have to hear one story about a deaf parent being given a diagnosis of terminal cancer through the sign language translation of their eight-year-old child to appreciate quite how wrong this is.

We recognise that there are not enough sign language interpreters and bookings can be difficult, but simple technologies are available to help.

We are urging GPs and hospitals to start using the online sign language interpreting service SignTranslate. This means that deaf people can have same day appointments with their doctor connecting via a remote interpreter at the click of a mouse.

There is also a strong cost-saving argument to solving these communication problems. Bad communication means deaf people have to see their GP on many more occasions than their hearing peers. Estimates put the number of additional appointments made by deaf people at around 625,000. With an average appointment costing £25, this equates to £15.6m each year. Research to date suggests that spending a fraction of this on making services more accessible will save the NHS millions.

The GP patient survey shows that deaf people are still the most misunderstood patient group. We can see that deafness has a profound impact on people’s wellbeing and general contribution to society and this is significantly worse than other minority groups.

At SignHealth we’re committed to highlighting these inequalities and bringing about improvements. Later this year, we’ll be leading a collaborative study into the health of deaf people. This will be the largest piece of research ever carried out in this field and we urge deaf people to register now on www.iwantbetterhealth.org.uk to bring about the changes that are so desperately needed. •

Steve Powell is chief executive of SignHealth, the healthcare charity for deaf people

Source: The Guardian