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The BDA's BSL Audit: what should do the Welsh Government do next?

The British Deaf Association (BDA) published its audit of the Welsh Government's policies and approaches against the five commitments of their BSL Charter on 14 February 2023.

The BDA recommends the following:
  • A BSL Act in Wales giving sign language communities and Deaf people full citizenship in cultural, social and political contexts;
  • Restructure Deaf education with a national BSL plan;
  • Ensure hearing people and families of Deaf children can learn BSL;
  • Put BSL/English interpreting on a statutory footing;
  • To establish a BSL working group; 
  • Collect statistics relating to the socio-economic situation of BSL users; and
  • Create a Facebook group to gather evidence from the Deaf community.
The ball is now in the Welsh Government's court. Progress has already been made with the appointment of a Disability and BSL Policy Manager in Government, who is tasked with implementing the BDA's recommendations.

In terms of next steps, while the Government has made clear that the Disability Rights Taskforce, particularly its Access to Services Working Group, will consider the BDA's report, more is required.  Following the BDA's recommendation for a BSL working group to be established, I suggest that a steering group is set up consisting of Welsh Deaf BSL users, with invited representative of the Deaf community across Wales, with representation of the north, south, west and east.

The purpose of the steering group would be to work out a way forward to implement the BDA’s recommendations on behalf of the Welsh Government. At the first meeting, a chair should be appointed.  The steering group could produce a plan which could include the establishment of a BSL council or committee (or similar) which will oversee the implementation of the recommendations. 

If such a council or committee is set up, a chair would again need to be appointed, which could be a similar arrangement to that of the BSL Advisory Board in England, whereby Craig Crowley is to be co-chair with a senior civil servant.  The steering group could transition into the BSL council, or perhaps the Welsh Government would prefer to appoint council members by way of an application process, similar to the BSL Advisory Board recruitment process under the BSL Act 2022.

The remit of the BSL council would be the three main themes of the BDA's audit report: Full Citizenship, Education and Interpreters and Translators (see Figure 1), and a working group could be set up for each theme.  At that level, representatives from the sector could be required to work out an action plan with and on behalf of the BSL council on how to implement the BDA's recommendations under that particular theme. Members of the BSL council could volunteer to become chair of each working group.

The Welsh Government would need to commit funds for the steering group, BSL council and working groups to cover the cost of BSL/English Interpreters, administrative support and translations into BSL, English and Welsh as needed.  A website on the website would also be needed to act as a focal point of the BSL council's work and be a central resource.

The BSL could work out a reporting process for each working group for progress reports etc. which can also be published on the website.

It remains to be seen what the Welsh Government decides to do.


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