The LSC and BSL/English Interpreters

For several years, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) retrospectively paid out legal aid monies to solicitors and barristers for the work they do for their clients who are eligible for Public Funding for legal advice.

Under a new ruling called the Contract Notice of Amendment, Amendments to the General Criminal Contract to be implemented from 31 October 2005 the LSC’s payment of BSL/English Interpeters will changes. The LSC will now cease paying Interpreter fees from 31 October 2005, explaining that:

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 places an obligation on service providers to make reasonable adjustments so that they can assist clients with disabilities. The supplier as service provider is therefore obliged to provide a sign language interpreter for clients who are deaf or hard of hearing, where it would be reasonable to do so. This amendment clarifies that the Commission will no longer pay sign language interpreters� fees except where they go beyond �reasonable adjustments� under the Act.

Amendments to Contract Specification � Part C

Sign language interpreters� fees (except where it would be unreasonable to expect the supplier to make the adjustment under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995)

Appendix 4, p24

�12. The responsibility for providing and paying for sign language interpreters will normally fall on the supplier in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, in which case the fees are considered an administrative overhead and may not be claimed from us. In exceptional cases where the supplier considers it would not be reasonable to make the adjustment, the fees may be claimed from us. Not to incur the disbursement may inhibit the client’s ability to receive assistance. In those exceptional circumstances we consider the expenses to be unusual in their nature and you may therefore apply to the Regional Director for prior authority before the expenditure is incurred. We may refer any such application received to the CDS Policy Team for consideration.�

Appendix 4: p24

This is currently confined to the General Criminal Contract awarded by the LSC to law firms, but we can assume that this ruling will also apply across the board to all publicly funded legal aid work. NB. The LSC will continue to pay for foreign language interpreters� fees.

It appears that Deaf people are going to find it even more difficult to access legal services, as faced with the prospect of having to pay for BSL/English Interpreters, many law firms will just turn them away as prospective clients.

Something needs to be done about this.

Appeals Service

The Appeals Service is crap. Without revealing any names, I went to a tribunal today with a client who was refused Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the middle rate of the care component and the lower rate of the mobility component.

Now, ordinarily we do not represent clients at tribunal, simply because we don’t have the Community Legal Service Quality Mark at Level 3, only at Level 2. But in this case, repeated attempts to request a postponement so that we can gather more evidence and refer to the Free Representation Unit for a representative were not granted, and in the end, they indicated that the decision to postpone would be made at the tribunal hearing.

After it took 2 hours to get there this afternoon for a 3pm hearing, we discovered that the BSL/English Interpreter hadn’t turned up, and the Clerk had been trying to ring both my client and I (even though we’re both Deaf) to tell us that we do not need to attend the hearing as the tribunal panel had decided to consider the decision on the papers submitted. They decided to award the client with MR care and LR mobility. So that was a complete waste of time, even though we’d achieved the desired result.

If the DWP had made the correct decision in the first place, if the Appeals Service had granted a postponement or at least had the common sense to actually contact Deaf people in the correct manner, then it wouldn’t have been such a waste of time! This week was meant to be my catch-up week, but because of the incompetence of the DWP/Appeals Service, I ended up having to give up an afternoon of casework work.

Public Service Interpreting & Translation Conference

A Public Service Interpreting and Translation Conference will be held at the Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh on 19-21 March 2005. The theme of the conference is ‘Breaking Down the Barriers: A Team Effort’.

The conference is said to be of interest to:

? Policy-makers with an interest in social inclusion and equality of access for people from minority and ethnic backgrounds
? People responsible for ensuring the effective delivery of services to multilingual / multi-cultural groups
? People working in public service sectors: legal system and immigration, health care, local government (social work, housing, education, environmental health?), cross-cultural survey work, etc.
? Organisations in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector offering support to minority language groups (including Deaf Communities)
? Public Service Interpreters & Translators (practitioners, trainees and students)
? Sign Language/spoken language Interpreters (practitioners, trainees and students)
? Trainers of public service & sign language interpreters & translators
? Researchers in the fields of interpreting, translating, linguistics, cross-cultural communication and anthropology

Further details available to download: Flyer, Registration Information, and an Application Form