Posted: Thu 23rd May 2024

Shortfall of British Sign Language interpreters in Wales ‘must be addressed’ says MS

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

North Wales MS and Chair of the Senedd’s Cross Party Group on Deaf Issues, Mark Isherwood, has urged the Welsh Government to act to address the shortfall of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters in Wales.

“The Manager for the Wales Interpretation and Translation Service (WITS) attended the last meeting of the Cross-Party Group on Deaf Issues, which I Chair,” Mr Isherwood noted.

“They highlighted a shortfall of interpreters, especially for emergency and unplanned care, with most requests being pre-planned, and with challenges in finding interpreters with appropriate skills at short notice.”

Mr Isherwood further questioned: “How do you propose to address both this and concerns raised about staff in the Health Service lacking knowledge about how to book interpreters; about a disconnect between staff in the Health Service and WITS, leading to uncertainty about interpreter availability; about deaf individuals receiving appointment letters without clear information on whether an interpreter is booked, causing confusion and uncertainty; and about the lack of awareness in the medical profession about the needs of deafblind individuals?”

In response, Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths MS acknowledged the issue, stating, “We were the first country in the UK to recognise British Sign Language alongside English, Welsh and other languages in its curriculum, and we now need to make sure that we support the increase in the services. It’s very clear that BSL is the first or preferred language of the deaf community, not just in Wales but right across the UK.”

Following the meeting, Mr Isherwood expressed his optimism for change.

“Last month, I was delighted when my proposed British Sign Language (BSL) (Wales) Bill won the Member Bill Ballot. This can now be debated in the Senedd, seeking Members’ agreement to introduce this Bill.

“The barriers that exist for deaf people and their families in education, health, public services, support services and in the workplace need to be removed and this Bill seeks to do just that.” He said.

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