Trainee interpreters will not assess deaf PIP claimants
Trainee interpreters will no longer be used in PIP assessments for members of the deaf community.
Assessments for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) sees claimants assessed on their ability to carry out different tasks, with a sign-language interpreter required for people who are deaf.
On occasion, trainee interpreters were made available.
Outsourcing company Capita, who carry out the assessments on behalf of the Department for Communities, has announced it will now be providing NRCPD-registered sign language interpreters.
It follows pressure on the Department from the deaf community and SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon.
“I have been in touch with a number of PIP claimants who have been put on a reduced amount or turned down for this benefit based on assessments carried out with trainee interpreters; a factor which they believe was critical in the decision making process," said Mrs Mallon.
"The provision of registered and fully qualified sign language interpreters is a welcomed step but it is long overdue. I am calling on the Department for Communities to now offer the option of a reassessment with a registered interpreter to all claimants who had assessments carried out by trainees."
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, a spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: "The Department has been contacted by Nichola Mallon MLA on this matter this week. We are considering the matter and will respond to her as soon as practicable."
Mrs Mallon welcomed confirmation from the Department it was looking at a video relay service for deaf people, which would allow for sign-language interpretation via video link.
The video-link sign language interpretation service has already been deployed in parts of the private and public sectors, including by the Department for Work & Pensions, and banks HSBC and First Trust.
Mrs Mallon added the changes were a "small victory" and her party would continue to push to "ensure the needs and dignity of all vulnerable claimants are at the centre".
The announcement was also welcomed by Terry Riley OBE, chair of the British Deaf Association (BDA).
"We are very pleased to hear that Capita have listened to the concerns of the BDA and the deaf community and as a consequence they will be taking a proactive approach to ensure that Deaf people have full access to appropriately qualified sign language interpreters at all PIP assessments, and taking steps to start ensuring that all stages are accessible in British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language," he said.
PIP was first introduced in 2013, and has been phasing out Disability Living Allowance as the benefit for people with long-term health conditions or disbailities.
Assessments score claimants points based on their ability to carry out different tasks.
Since its introduction the scheme has faced criticism for the manner in which the assessments have been carried out.
Belfast Telegraph Digital