Deaf Relay Interpreters in care proceedings

Further to this post, ThirtyNine Essex Street has published more detail about Re C (A child), a 2014 case that was mentioned in our previous post.

In this case, a deaf couple; the father a BSL user and the mother deaf, had their child taken into care by the local authority who thought they were unfit to take care of their baby daughter and the Court had agreed to the care order. The Court of Appeal allowed their appeals because only BSL/English Interpreters had been provided for the father, when in fact he also needed Deaf Relay Interpreters to ensure “cultural brokerage”.

The court observed:

“18 … Communication between a profoundly deaf individual and professionals for the purpose of assessment and court proceedings involves a sophisticated, and to a degree bespoke, understanding of both the process of such communication and the level and character of the deaf person’s comprehension of the issues which those in the hearing population simply take as commonplace. For a profoundly deaf person, the “commonplace” may not be readily understood or accessible simply because of their inability to be exposed to ordinary communication in the course of their everyday life. What is required is expert and insightful analysis and support from a suitably qualified professional, and the advice this court has in the reports we have, a suitably qualified professional who is themselves deaf, at the very earliest stage.”

Perhaps most importantly, it was noted:-

“31 … The court as an organ of the state, the local authority and CAFCASS must all function now within the terms of the Equality Act 2010. It is simply not an option to fail to afford the right level of regard to an individual who has these unfortunate disabilities.”

This serves as a timely reminder to the Courts, local authorities and CAFCASS of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 when dealing with d/Deaf individuals at every stage of the process, reasonable adjustments where required have to be made in order to ensure that they are treated fairly when decisions are being made about their children.

You can read ThirtyNine Essex Street’s article here (starting on page 7).


Deaf, hubby to Rachel, dad to Corey, Libby and Emily, Solicitor, Lecturer in Legal Practice at University of South Wales, PhD student at University of Leicester.

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