People who use British Sign Language (BSL) can now contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) via telephone.
DWP has begun a six month pilot of a service that allows people whose first or only language is BSL to contact DWP about Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance (65+), Disability Living Allowance (under 65) and Access to Work. Following the pilot the Department intends to provide the service via the Crown Commercial Service framework agreement for language services.
The video relay service (VRS), provided by SignVideo, connects the deaf person to a sign language interpreter via a camera on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The hearing person at DWP will be connected to the interpreter via a telephone.
The service will be open to everyone during normal working hours. All someone has to do is click on the hyperlink on the relevant web page and they will be connected.
Jim Edwards, chair of the UK Council on Deafness, said: “The UK Council on Deafness is delighted DWP has taken this step to open up access for deaf people who use BSL. We trust the pilot will be successful and look forward to more government services becoming accessible, as they are in Scotland.
“We are also glad the Department has commissioned one of the companies that has voluntarily agreed to our standards for VRS. It means deaf people can be assured the interpreter will be registered with NRCPD or a member of SASLI, which means they will be properly qualified and follow a code of conduct.”