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New support in Highland for deaf people to access Council and Health services

12th June 2014

Highland Councillors have welcomed new arrangements put in place to support the deaf people in Highland.

At a meeting of the Council's Community Safety, Public Engagement and Equalities Committee, Cheryl Mechan Highland Council's new British Sign Language Interpreter demonstrated the new BSL interpretation service introduced during a presentation by Rosemary MacKinnon, Highland Council’s Equal Opportunities Officer. The presentation and interpretation was broadcast and recorded on the council’s webcast.

In her presentation Ms Mackinnon gave an update on the change to arrangements for communication support services for the Council and NHS Highland including:

· The employment of a BSL/English interpreter employed in-house by the Council;
· Booking services for communication support taken by Council Service Centre staff at Alness who have undertaken Deaf Awareness training;
· communication support from local freelance interpreters through a procurement framework agreement;
· the Council providing services on behalf of the NHS Highland through contractual arrangements; and
· communications support for related organisations: High Life Highland, Citizen’s Advice Bureaux and Highland Hospice.

Councillor Drew Millar, Chair of the Community Safety, Public Engagement and Equalities Committee said: "I welcome these new services that will help deaf people to access council and health services and I hope that they will continue to take up the support that is available to them. I also welcome the moves that the Council is making to ensure that key forms and information provided by the Council is in accessible and plain English."

Rosemary MacKinnon said: "BSL is a language in its own right and has its own grammar and rules. Bookings arrangements for BSL interpretation of contact with Council staff or services can be organised by through the Council’s Service Centre. Arrangements are also in place with BSL freelance interpreters to supplement the in-house interpreter. The Council also provides boking arrangements on behalf of NHS Highland. Demand is primarily for BSL but the Council has other services available such as note-taking, lip reading and translation of letters."

The Council is raising awareness of the new BSL services through information posters and awareness raising among users and staff partner agencies. Information on Council services is also provided in BSL on the Council’s website.

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