Posted: Sun 26th May 2024

Calls to address shortfall of British Sign Language Interpreters in Wales for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

A North Wales Member of the Senedd has called on the Welsh Government to address the shortfall of British Sign Language interpreters in Wales.

Conservative MS and Chair of the Senedd’s Cross Party Group on Deaf Issues, Mark Isherwood, said that access to public services for deaf British Sign Language signers is “being held back by the lack of provision of BSL interpreters”.

Mr Isherwood raised the subject in a recent meeting of the Welsh Parliament with the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice.

He said: “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, highlighting 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.

“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?”

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice, Lesley Griffiths said: “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.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Isherwood said: “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.”

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