Should deaf people have a say in the way services for deaf people are run? A resounding yes was the answer from Edinburgh’s Finance and Resource Committee on 1st December.
Current provider Deaf Action had raised issues at the previous committee meeting in November when the recommendation had been made to approve the appointment of three private sector organisations, to a framework agreement for British Sign Language interpretation to help deaf people access health and social care services. They felt that the way the specification had been developed without meaningful consultation with deaf people didn’t recognise the nuances of delivering effective British Sign Language interpretation.
The issues are complex, and you can watch the deputations on the links below. Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council (EVOC) were asked to add our perspective following the initial debate. While not experts in the specifics of the service, we recognised a number of fundamental issues with the broad processes involved, largely the failure to give deaf people the chance to feed into the way services for deaf people are delivered, and the lack of a robust Equalities and Rights Impact Assessment.
Given the level of vulnerability of this group of service users, the barriers they face in accessing health and social care services, and the implications for health inequalities we felt contributing this debate was particularly pertinent. Health inequalities is a consistent problem, but it’s not always easy to identify measures that might make a real difference. Doing everything to make sure that barriers faced by deaf people are reduced should certainly be a top priority.
We recognise the position council officers are in, with massively reduced resources and colleagues regularly leaving at short notice. This process had definitely suffered from staff fluctuations, and the services had not been commissioned under the health and social care framework, where meaningful involvement of service users is becoming standard. It is hard to admit mistakes and agree to start over, and it’s to the credit of all involved that there was an openness to doing just this. While council officers were keen to be clear that the process was legal and correct, they readily admitted that there were elements which could be much improved, and that these being done better might have a fundamental impact on the quality of service provided.
Following an amendment proposed by Green Councillor Gavin Corbett, committee members took the welcome decision to recognise the shortcomings of the current specification and recommend that the commissioning process is repeated, this time putting service users at the very centre. EVOC look forward to being a part of this and helping to make sure that it is an exemplar of coproduction.
We still have some way to go, especially as regards procurement practices, but this decision is a sign of how far commissioning processes have come. We have reached a point where it seems shocking that deaf people wouldn’t be involved in helping to design the way their services are run. Not too long ago this would have been par for the course.
See the deputations and subsequent debate here https://edinburgh.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/213721/0/0/start_time/1234000.
The initial conversation on 3rd November can be viewed here https://edinburgh.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/213720/0/0/start_time/554000