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.

Access for deaf clients

In the ABA Journal eReport there is an article about the recent American case of United States of America and City of Bismarck, North Dakota (which settled out of court).

It transpires that the position in the USA in relation to lawyers’ duty to provide an interpreter for their clients is similar to that in the UK.

I quote from the article:

A trend common in the UK is the charges of BSL/English interpreters being pased on by law firms with a Legal Help franchise to the certificate of public funding. However, the Legal Services Commission?s current position is that they will not pay the cost of BSL/English Interpreters.
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