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Archive for March, 2015

26 MarResponse to Minister’s statement about Access to Work

On 12 March the Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper, made a statement laying out the changes he is making to Access to Work. Our Access to Work special interest group responded in a letter.

Whilst we welcome your statement, we are disappointed you will not respond to the Work and Pensions Committee in full before the general election. Whilst you have clearly taken it on board, you have not addressed many of its recommendations.

We agree many of the changes you are making will improve Access to Work for deaf people, in particular the removal of the ’30 hour guidance’. We believe personal budgets will be transformative, providing people are given the right level of grant and the support they need to make it work for them. The sector will have a role in that and is happy to contribute.

We are also glad the service will become increasingly digital. And BSL users will be pleased to know they will soon be able to access it in their own language. We will appreciate confirmation that by ‘digital service’ you mean you will be working towards online accounts. They will make the administration of personal budgets easier for everyone.

We also welcome the fact you are now meeting service standards and would appreciate you sharing the KPIs and outcome data. We are still being told about invoices unpaid and grants not being awarded quickly, so it will be helpful to know what operational improvements have been made and how they are being measured. Read more of this article

25 MarNext Generation Text Service

Deaf Access to Communications (DAC) have issued the following press release:



PRESS RELEASE: 25 March 2015


Ofcom has fined BT £800,000 for failing to provide an improved text-to-voice service between April and September last year. The service, called ‘Next Generation Text Service’, helps users have more natural conversations using speech as well as text and is accessible on devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

In October 2012, Ofcom told all UK landline and mobile phone providers to launch their service by 18 April 2014. However, BT missed this deadline as they encountered technical problems with the sound quality of emergency calls. BT finally launched Next Generation Text on 24 September 2014. As a result of this delay, in June last year, Ofcom opened an investigation into why the improved text relay service was not available as required from April. Ofcom acknowledged that whilst the level of financial harm to consumers was limited, the provision of an improved text relay service was an important requirement, designed to provide people with hearing or speech impairments with equivalent access to phone services. BT had 18 months to meet that requirement and still failed to do so five months after the deadline.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director, said: “The size of the penalty imposed on BT reflects the importance of providing an improved text relay service to its customers with hearing and speech impairments. However, BT has invested significantly in launching the new text relay service, which allows users to have conversations more easily and fluently and on new devices. We welcome the fact the service is now operating successfully”.

BT will pay the £800,000 financial penalty to Ofcom which will then be passed on to HM Treasury.

In addition BT is required to take the following steps:

a) provide the NGTR helpdesk and support facilities for the NGTR service;
b) make and publish on the NGTR website instructional videos for using the NGTR service;
c) hold the proposed “Train the Trainer” events on the accessing and use of the NGTR service; and
d) provide for distribution to end-users, by organisations represented on the NGTR Steering Board, of 500 tablet devices to be used to access the NGTR service by those users.

Additionally, BT has committed to playing its part to deliver a mobile-compatible version of its NGT Lite application for Braille reading equipment users.

Whilst the transfer of the fine from Ofcom to the Treasury is standard procedure, DAC believes that this fine of £800,000 should have been made available to Ofcom to invest in the development of a range of different types of relay services such as Captioned Telephone and Video Relay Services (VRS) in order to meet the accessibility needs of the broad spectrum of deaf people ranging from those who are hard of hearing , deaf people whose speech is understood by hearing callers to those who use British Sign Language.

It is most unfortunate that the UK only has one type of relay service that is regulated by Ofcom whereas in other countries such as the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand, deaf consumers have a choice of relay services.
It is not possible to meet the needs of all deaf people through the provision of a single service such as NGTR – using the fine to leverage change would make a significant difference to deaf people across the UK so DAC hopes that this proposal will be given due consideration by Ofcom.


1. Deaf Access to Communications (DAC) is a Special Interest Group within UK Council on Deafness
2. The UK Council on Deafness is the umbrella body for voluntary organisations working with deaf people in the UK. Our mission is to assist organisations and the sector as a whole to maximise the positive impact they have for deaf people.
3. DAC can be accessed on Facebook and Twitter:
4. The reference to ‘deaf’ comprises deaf, deafblind, deafened and hard of hearing people.


24 MarSupport for NHS England accessible information standard

NHS England has published a report on the consultation process for its accessible information standard.

The report shows wide agreement on the need for the standard and support for its aims and vision. The responses and feedback will inform the final version of the standard, which is due to be published in June 2015.

Jim Edwards, chair of the UK Council on Deafness, said: “We’re glad to see there was a lot of support for the draft standard. Whilst it needs strengthening, it is an excellent basis for an information standard that will make a real difference to deaf people accessing health and social care.

“We are also very encouraged by the way the NHS England has engaged with the deaf community. By listening to and working with individuals and organisations from the beginning, they have avoided many of the problems public services often encounter.

“We look forward to working with NHS England to finalise the standard.”

24 MarSector success as action plan on hearing loss published

The UK Council on Deafness has welcomed the action plan on hearing loss as a great example of collaboration between deaf organisations.

The Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance, chaired by Brian Lamb OBE, was central to developing the plan.

Jim Edwards, chair of the UK Council on Deafness said: “This much needed action plan is the result of a range of organisations working together to serve their communities.

“That cooperation has led to a national focus on the impacts of hearing loss and the needs of those who experience it. Coupled with the planned hearing loss commissioning framework it has the potential to make a real difference.

“This success demonstrates why the UK Council on Deafness has worked over the past year to identify a common purpose for the deaf sector. By pulling together we will make sure deafness is given the focus it needs.”

The plan was published by NHS England and the Department for Health. It was shaped by deaf people, the organisations that work with and for them, Public Health England, other government departments and businesses.

It will help commissioners, Clinical Commissioning Groups, GPs and healthcare providers reduce the negative impacts of hearing loss by promoting prevention, encouraging early diagnosis and improving how services are delivered.

20 MarSelect committee concerned by government action on Access to Work

The chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg MP, has expressed concern about government action on Access to Work.

Dame Anne wrote to the Minister for Disabled People after he told her he wouldn’t be responding formally to their report on Access to Work until after the general election.

Dame Anne was also concerned that he had introduced a cap on Access to Work awards. She said it was directly contrary to the conclusions and recommendations in their report.