DeafPLUS launches BSL helpline

Earlier this year DeafPLUS launched a British Sign Language (BSL) helpline for deaf BSL users. Using internet video platforms (Apple FaceTime & Skype; with potential to expand to others: OovoO, Tango and Google Hangout), the project enables deaf BSL users to access face to face money advice wherever they are in the country.

The project will support people with money and debt problems (deafPLUS are awaiting FCA authorisation). It offers a benefits checking service, which gives clients information on in work and out of work benefits. For debt issues (once authorised), deafPLUS will offer basic generalist level advice and attempt to help clients with any issues that need to dealt with immediately. More complex cases are referred to local advice organisations for face to face advice with a BSL interpreter.

Clients can access the service through a link on the deafPLUS website or by referral from a partner organisation. If there is no adviser available to help the client, a booking system is employed on a first come, first served basis.

The need for this project

Profoundly deaf people leave school with lower than average reading age, and with lower educational attainment in other areas including maths. This can be a cause of poverty / debt and a present barriers to obtaining advice.

There are very few mainstream advice organisations that can immediately respond to the needs of BSL users visiting their offices. The client usually has to visit an advice provider, communicate that they need a BSL interpreter, then wait until the interpreter and advice provider can schedule a session. This often takes a number of weeks, during which the clients advice needs are not being met.

DeafPLUS been delivering information, advice and advocacy services through five drop-in centres (Bath, Whitechapel, Ealing, Birmingham and Farnborough) for over 43 years, and currently deals with around 700 debt and money cases a year. Clients have reported that they’ve moved to areas nearby so they can access the services provided by these centres.

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