Ominously and because there is a power-struggle going on between the official W.I.T.S. set up which the NHS wants as a central booking translating area, and one-stop system, so all BSL and other translator system are under 'one banner', Deaf and HoH in Wales are struggling to get health support. Some deaf in requesting sign language and other support modes. are being sent a form to fill in personally, to apply for own support, but are prevented access to any direct request to book support themselves, as this is the sole domain of the provider, the NHS itself or the 999 system using W.I.T.S..
It was recently reported free lance BSL interpreters refused to work under the W.I.T.S. system as this prevents them being free agents/self-employed, and see the systems of the NHS/W.I.T.S. colluding to standardise booking and fees, BSL terps are totally opposed to. The ASLI couldn't do it. (W.I.T.S. also supplies the police and other 999 areas, but is now struggling to get BSL terp cooperation to function).
A recent FOI response (Copy kindly sent to ATR by Mr Cedric Moon MBE), it has revealed that since 2016 the number of BSL terps prepared to work under W.I.T.S. has gone from 55 (2016) to 27 (2017). A decrease of over 50%. Mr Moon has also expressed considerable concerns about the tone of the form and the ability of deaf to fill them in properly, it is far from clear why the NHS is sending these forms out, as it is completely random, and seems to vary area by area, and applicant by applicant, its also clearly NOT designed for us because the system refuses to allow us to access booking arrangements.
The other issue being the totally random approach BY deaf and HoH via requests for support. Some will want BSL, some won't, some will want a lip-speaker or a text support and won't get either. They 'might' be getting other than BSL we just don't know. Contact is chaotic as the deaf and HoH approach requests not by official contacts, because no NHS area has one that covers all aspects of deaf communications, and there seems nil interest at all in HoH ones. Deaf are still asking friends, relatives, families, or struggle online to find a viable contact to use that works. The deaf equivalent of the 'bank of Mum and Dad' !
On the face of recent issues it looks as if the NHS intends to attempt to standardise and centralise support areas themselves, to address the costs, but have faced stiff opposition from BSL free-lance interpreters determined to protect their self employed status, and to prevent the NHS blocking their employment by insisting they are with a W.I.T.S. only set up. It is seen as an NHS attempt to lower demand, cut costs, and to restrict the right of free lance support to work in the NHS..
How pointless are NHS access notifications to deaf and HoH ? Some examples below.. (Apologies for the poor reproduction)..
This one was distributed to local deaf clubs but not to all of them. It totally relies on the deaf or HoH person to be carrying it at the time an emergency exists. As readers will note via the bottom right of the image there is no area that includes the text user at all. There is still no guarantee system direct contact will be aware of your need. E.G. Ward staff in Hospitals had no contact on their computers to the hospital's own booking areas, or patient liaison, and no-one knew whose responsibility it was to request support. Deaf were also angry the system was asking who their 'carer' was and would not fill those details in.
This is a mass distributed leaflet, not really aimed at deaf or HoH people, and is about specialised services only, it's only contact point is an e-mail.
The general 'appointment' letters deaf and HoH get to attend a clinical review or assessment, often does not contain a viable local response at all, and access for deaf people often failed to work. The issues seem to be an inability for the system to respond itself or in time for appointments.
E.G. In booking access to the community dentist, a mobile text contact was provided, it meant you could text them, but, there was no ability for THEM to respond with a text to you, so even if your support was there you would not know. This meant a personal visit to the office to confirm, NOT possible if as now your booking office has been closed down locally and moved 43 miles away and NOT a place you are able to visit in person, it has a box number address and uses snail mail to reply.
This system is increasingly being used for hospital visits too. ATR's constant campaign for deaf and HoH to STOP providing their own means of communicating or own families to book appointments is still being resisted by deaf groups. If mass demand was seen we would get what we need, professional support at all times, and neutral. Real empowerment and choice.
Find below a recent response to an FOI request to W.I.T.S. (Many thanks for this to Mr C Moon MBE). Albeit it seems a refusal to comply in most part !
Q1. Could you tell me please how many Sign Language interpreting assignments were carried out in each of the financials 2010/2011 to 2016/2017.
A1. This information cannot be provided as bookings were taken on paper up to May 2015 when the current Booking System went live.
Q2. Could you please tell me how much was paid for these assignments.
A2. No information, as above – Point 1
Q3. Would you please tell me how the assignments were made up in terms of subject, for example health boards, courts etc.
A3. No information, as above – Point 1
Q4. Could you please tell me the same information in relation to the Cardiff and Vales health Board area.
A4. No information, as above – Point 1
Q5. Could please tell me what the same information is for this financial year to date.
A5. 156 requests from 1st April 17 to date.
Q6. Could you please tell me how many sign language interpreters there are on your (WITS) books at the present time.
Q7. Could you please tell me how many sign language interpreters there were on your (WITS) books this time last year.
Q8. Could you please tell me how many of these assignments (Sign language) were the result of Deaf people directly approaching WITS.
A8. Nil, we do not accept assignment direct from ‘service users’
ATR: So why send us forms designed for the NHS not us ?
Q9. How many of these assignments were the result of approaches from other parties, such as statutory authorities or private concerns.
A9. Nil, we do not accept assignment from other parties if they are not a Partner
Q10. How many lip-speaking assignments were undertaken during the same period and at what cost?
A10. Cannot identify due to bookings being booked generically under BSL bookings
ATR: No way to identify lip-reading or text demand as it comes under BSL ? The reason why no demand is seen ?
Q11. How many staff are currently working for WITS?
A11. 11 members of staff